walkitout (walkitout) wrote,
walkitout
walkitout

_The Dead Fathers Club_, Matt Haig

For BPL book club.

Eleven year old Philip Noble's dad died recently in a tragic car accident -- the brakes went out crossing a bridge. The police brought the bad news to Philip's mum. Then dear old dad returns, in the form of a ghost demanding revenge for his murder. He fingers Alan Noble, dad's brother, Philip's uncle and mum's new suitor.

The usual trappings appear in the play, complete with: a couple of friends who get him into trouble, not entirely successfully, a girlfriend who attempts to drown herself, a play-within-a-play (in this case, a DVD movie within a novel). The uncle alternates between casual brutality and attempts at making nice (buying a PS2 for Philip). Philip, an eleven year old, makes a lot more sense agonizing over what he's about to do than Hamlet does in the original. Wait: did I fail to mention this is based on Hamlet? I did? Or that Philip is nicknamed "Helmet" because unlike his compatriots he was circumcised (recently, too)?

I don't much care for Hamlet. Not the play. Not the character. At least we don't have a soliloquy to a skull (altho we do get Philip musing about how nice it would be to just die). I quite liked the poisoned drink that mum had to be saved from (Philip spiked a whisky with ethanol -- I'm thinking Philip wasn't doing great in class, altho he is only eleven).

By the end, Philip doesn't really know which end is up. And neither does the reader, which is probably unsatisfying, if I could bring myself to care. Me, I just kind of wish that any of the many people who had bothered to talk to Philip about his dad's death could have come up with a bit more programmatic language about how he might be feeling. Philip waffles between saying what he thinks other people are expecting, echoing and not saying anything at all. If you don't bring the right stuff to a conversation with Philip, you're not going to get anywhere. Oh, well.

Was Mr. Fairview attempting to burn down the garage himself? Was he auditing crooked books? Was Alan crooked? Inquiring minds would like to know, but strongly suspect I'd have to go reread Hamlet to decipher the clues. It'll be interesting to see what the group makes of this.

ETA: Oh, god. I missed the fish named Gertrude reference.

ETAYA: Geez. Leah = Ophelia I got. I missed the sound-alike. Leah's brother is named . . . Dane. Dumping Leah = get thee to a nunnery Ophelia. Polonius definitely = Fairview.
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