Title: The Dead Fathers Club
Author: Matt Haig
Philip Noble is an eleven-year-old in crisis. His pub landlord father has died in a road accident, and his mother is succumbing to the greasy charms of her dead husband’s brother, Uncle Alan. The remaining certainties of Philip’s life crumble away when his father’s ghost appears in the pub and declares Uncle Alan murdered him.
Arming himself with weapons from the school chemistry cupboard, Philip vows to carry out the ghost’s relentless demands for revenge. But can the words of a ghost be trusted any more than the lies of the living?
A modern re-telling of Shakespeare’s Hamlet, The Dead Fathers Club manages to be both sweet, funny and emotional. Told my little Philip, only 11 years old, means we are seeing everything through his eyes – and he’s not the most reliable narrator. We’re never quite sure if certain opinions of his are truthful or a figment of his imagination and grief at losing his dad. This adds an extra element of interest to the story and certainly mirrors Shakespeare’s original play, where we’re never quite sure of Hamlet’s state of mind because he is the one recounting events to the audience (/reader).
Matt Haig finds some great ways to tie in the source material with this modern take, and that added to my enjoyment. I felt sorry for Philip, but at times I wanted to shout at him to take a step back and really think about what he was actually doing, but as a young child in the throes of grief, we can forgive him for struggling. However, can we forgive the adults around him for seemingly not properly picking up on his disturbed mental state? Or is this another result of only reading things the way Philip perceives them to be?
The style of writing, with a lack of apostrophes and other punctuation, serves to constantly remind the reader that this is the perspective of a young boy, and though it’s an easy novel to race through, because of the way it’s written I did find it frustrating to read sometimes. That, and also the fact that you can see where things are swiftly heading, and it doesn’t look good. Sometimes I felt that Philip seemed a little too naive for an 11 year old, but I’m definitely not knowledgeable on this subject. Overall I thought this was an entertaining read with added emotion.