"I’ve been in thrall to Dad too many years. It’s been hard to grow out of the need to impress. Be more fearless. Be wilder. Be braver. Be different. Think differently. Surprise! I knew Dad was out of the ordinary and I wanted to be too. He disliked authority and taught me, by default, to distrust it as well. Dad’s response to pretty much everything was usually different to everyone else’s response. Rules were there not just to be broken but to pit yourself against, to outwit. It was an intellectual exercise for him. He thought nothing of allowing us to duck out of school for a day if there was something better on. He had no respect for anything if it clashed with common sense: his, that is. On one occasion, I must have been about twelve or thirteen, I skived off to go riding. The next day, on the bus into school some- thing (the sly way Dad had licked the envelope?) made me open the sick note he’d written to my teacher. One sentence. It said: ‘I am sorry Keggie was not at school yesterday, she had a bad hangover.’ Of course I was furious. I suppose the question is, Did he know I would open it?"
Keggie Carew DADLAND
As Dad slowly leaves us, I try to haul him back - from the bottom of cardboard boxes and forgotten trunks; from letters buried in desks; from books I previously had not known about; from photographs I am unfamiliar with; from diaries never meant for my eyes. I am the manic charity-shop rummager rifling through old clothes. I don’t know why I have taken on this task; as it is I’ve been under the gravitational pull of his influence far too long. Except that suddenly I want to make some sense of it all. It’s not just Dad I want to stick back together again. This is an exorcism. And a ghost hunt. Rebuild him. Rebuild me.
All words, photographs and artwork on this site © Copyright Keggie Carew. The above text may not be used in any other context either in part or in whole without the express written consent of the author. © Copyright Keggie Carew. 2016 All Rights Reserved
Keggie Carew grew up under the spell of an unorthodox father. An undercover guerrilla agent during the Second World War, in peacetime he lived on his wits and dazzling charm. But these were not always enough to sustain a family.
As his memory began to fail, Keggie embarked on a quest to unravel his story once and for all. Dadland is that journey. It takes us into shadowy corners of history, a madcap English childhood, the poignant breakdown of a family, the corridors of dementia and beyond.
Dadland won the Costa Biography Award 2016.
COSTA BIOGRAPHY WINNER 2016
Published by Chatto & Windus (UK) July 2016; Vintage (UK), January 2016; Grove Atlantic (USA); March 2017.
SUNDAY TIMES TOP TEN BESTSELLER
Nick Hornby's pick in Best Holiday Reads 2017 in The Guardian and Observer
D A D L A N D
"Carew’s memoir about her father follows a winding, extraordinary path through the thickets of dementia and the jungles of Burma – a thrilling, bloody, educative history of Churchill’s Special Operations Executive (AKA the Ministry of Ungentlemanly Warfare) in the second world war combined ingeniously with a tender, moving, funny portrait of the author’s father." Nick Hornby
“A very moving story, very mature, very visual book. A stand out, stand alone piece of work because it was so unusual. For me it had the magic ingredient: it had beautiful prose, beautiful, smooth, readable, accessible prose and it was utterly hilarious. The most unconventional biography I have ever read.”
Mary Loudon, Costa Biography judge 2016
"Keggie Carew’s Dadland … gripped from beginning to end." Philippe Sands, Financial Times
“A mesmerising performance by a natural storyteller gifted with the most seductive material possible, in the wild and wonderful life of her exasperating Irish father. Pain and annoyance is transmuted into pure narrative gold, as Keggie interrogates the legend of this wartime adventurer and the bitter comedy of his domestic relationships and his late decline. A brave, risk taking tale that alarms, delights and moves. As soon as you come to the end, you want to start again, to see if those things really happened.”
"How lovely to discover a book that makes one seize friends by the lapels and implore them, 'Read this'... wonderful" Valerie Grove, Literary Review
"Mixes intimate memoir, biography, history and detective story: this is a shape-shifting hybrid that meditates on the nature of time and identity… Keggie Carew deftly switches between different layers of the past and different tones… a vivid kaleidoscope" Nicci Gerrard, Observer
"Compelling and moving from start to finish... Carew’s funny, fascinating and unflinching tribute to her father is a portrait of a complex man: not just a war hero but a flawed husband; not just a Jedburgh but her incorrigible and much-missed dad" - Melissa Harrison, Financial Times
"OH THIS BOOK. Beautiful and fierce and brave. Memory and war and family and loss and, well, wow."
"I was so absorbed and moved by Dadland I haven't been able to read anything else. It is beautifully written -- deft and funny and so tender -- but I have also come away knowing more about history, more about dementia, more about men, more about daughters, more about love, family, sheds, diaries, an inquisitive mind and peeing in plastic bottles. I loved it. I really did." Rachel Joyce
“A wonderful, haunting and beautifully written memoir unlike anything I have ever read ... I found myself laughing out loud at times and, at others, unable to hold back the tears. It is a profoundly rewarding and life-affirming book of many layers and a deeply moving homage to that extraordinary generation who lived, loved and fought through the Second World War.” James Holland
“The best new book I have read this year.” Dave Hepworth
"Continually interesting and often moving... The fruits of her research into her father’s war and espionage contacts are fascinating, but the real success of the book is the understanding the author acquires of the waywardness of experience, and of the complexity of family relationships"
Allan Massie, The Scotsman
“… this one really is something special ... an amazing read: touching, absorbing and altogether the kind of book I love and press (no doubt irritatingly) onto friends and family – and now you, dear reader… One of the things I loved about this book was the very real humanity of the people involved. They are far from perfect, in fact this is a seriously dysfunctional family, but they are remarkable.”
The National Archives
"Utterly remarkable, and beautifully evoked… Dadland is a completely riveting, deeply poignant “manhunt” for which I predict great things." Bookseller
“The author captures the flavour of every scene she describes, from her great grandfather in Egypt cuckolded by the Prince Of Wales, to her grandfather, a groom in Ireland, marrying a young widow from the big house, to her father’s three marriages featuring a glorious villain– The Stepmother.” The Tablet
"Keggie turns spy on her father. She is on a “ghost hunt”… What she uncovers is an extraordinary gift for any memoirist… fascinating" The Sunday Times
"A fascinating mix of military history and family memoir studded with photographs… It’s one woman’s attempt to put her father’s role in history on the page, at the same time as his own recollections of it diminish" The Times
""As Dad was losing his past... I was trying to retrieve it," Keggie writes... With the publication of this original, moving book, she has succeeded" Paul Laity, Guardian
“The facts are golden (cameos from fake SAS men, CIA directors, quasi-evil stepmothers) but from them she could not have made something more oustandingly good.” Esquire magazine
“Beautiful, nostalgic, moving, shocking, swashbuckling, and simply unputdownable, this is the memoir we all want to write” Family Tree Magazine
"The effect of these various voices is a shifting, multi-layered and utterly absorbing narrative... I cant recommend it more strongly." The Oldie
"A beautifully written, funny and tender ode to an adventurous, occasionally frustrating, man who lived life at full tilt" Good Housekeeping
"It's now commonplace to say that sad memoirs are ultimately redemptive, but Dadland is the real McCoy. It is a rich and stunning achievement, a feat of imagination that sews together many parallel true stories. Above all, it is a labour of shining daughterly love" Caroline Sanderson, Sunday Express
“Threaded with forgiveness and a fine comic glitter, this is no tragedy.” The Sunday Telegraph
"A fascinating mix of military history and family memoir studded with photographs… It’s one woman’s attempt to put her father’s role in history on the page, at the same time as his own recollections of it diminish" Cathy Rentzenbrink, The Times (Saturday Review)
“… this is no misery memoir: when the 85-year-old Carew falls down a flight of stairs, he goes automatically into a parachute roll, emerging unscathed to enjoy the incredulity of bystanders. And even after his death, one last, stranger-than-fiction episode remained: a fitting final twist to an extraordinary life, and a sui generis debut.” The Lady
“…. As Tom’s life falls apart memory by memory, Keggie is picking it up again and her storytelling is spell-binding. Effortlessly readable, this is a delight combining laughter - and tears, yes, quite a few of those.
“… The beauty and boldness of this memoir - piece together from pictures, letters, diaries, cuttings and military archives - is in its healing honesty about the complex, flawed character of Tom, and his daughter’s unbroken spirit in the aftermath of her father’s derring-do and deep family damage.” Saga Magazine