About the book…
The stories in Emma Cline’s stunning first collection consider the dark corners of human experience, exploring the fault lines of power between men and women, parents and children, past and present. A man travels to his son’s school to deal with the fallout of a violent attack and to make sure his son will not lose his college place. But what exactly has his son done? And who is to blame? A young woman trying to make it in LA, working in a clothes shop while taking acting classes, turns to a riskier way of making money but will be forced to confront the danger of the game she’s playing. And a family coming together for Christmas struggle to skate over the lingering darkness caused by the very ordinary brutality of a troubled husband and father.
These outstanding stories examine masculinity, male power and broken relationships, while revealing – with astonishing insight and clarity – those moments of misunderstanding that can have life-changing consequences. And there is an unexpected violence, ever-present but unseen, in the depiction of the complicated interactions between men and women, and families. Subtle, sophisticated and displaying an extraordinary understanding of human behaviour, these stories are unforgettable.
My thoughts on Daddy by Emma Cline…
After being blown away by The Girls, I’ve been waiting a long time to read something new from Emma Cline. Then Daddy came along and I felt a little bit nervous about picking it up. Why the nerves? If it didn’t live up to expectations, it might tarnish my memories of reading The Girls. This might seem strange. But, it’s something that has happened before when I’ve felt ‘let down’ by an author. Plus, they were short stories. Even though I enjoy these, they can be hit and miss – what if there were more misses than hits?
Thankfully, my worries were unjustified. Just like The Girls, Daddy was hard to put down. It was so well written, each story a snapshot of another, generally off-kilter world. I was drawn into each one, and a few I didn’t want to leave, even though the subject matter wasn’t alway pleasant or comfortable to read.
The first of these worlds was the first story in the book, ‘What Can You Do with a General’. In it, a father describes a family get together. He is so detached as he talks about how dysfunctional they are. It’s both sad and scary as he wonders why his children have turned out the way they have at the same time as not being able to acknowledge the damage he may have done to them growing up.
Los Angeles was another. A hopeful young actress, Alice, who decides life will be easier if she takes some risks to earn some quick money. Avoiding spoilers, I’ll just say things don’t turn out quite as she’d planned. I was amazed at how quickly I started to like Alice, and worry for her.
I didn’t like Kayla, the central character in The Nanny, though I did like this story. in it, a Nanny to a rich and famous man becomes embroiled in a scandal. Rather than shame, there is a sense of pride in what she has done. And opportunity. It is a slightly sly look at the world of celebrity culture and how you can become famous for not much at all.
Finally, there was Marion, which I had already read when it was published in the Paris Review. I loved Marion then and I really enjoyed it this second time. It is a flash back to The Girls, a story of young women exploring life and their sexuality in the fluid world of the 60s/70s. For those who haven’t read any Emma Cline, it’s a good place to start.
And, while – for me – not every story was as strong as the ones I’ve highlighted here, this is a really solid collection. One I’d recommend to anyone who enjoys short stories, or want an introduction to Emma Cline.