...[an] extraordinary blend of personal memoir, biography, and World War II military history ... Dadland brings to mind Helen MacDonald's H is for Hawk in the way it soars off in surprising directions, teaches you things you didn't know, and ambushes your emotions. It's a similarly fierce and unconventional book that defies categorization to explore mortality, loss, life decisions and influences through a daughter's intense bond with her father ... Carew puts her father's larger-than-life heroism in perspective by interspersing vividly intense war scenes with glimpses of his increasingly disoriented later years and frequently hilarious flashbacks to her childhood ... beguiling, de-mythologizing homage as an irrepressible firebrand.
Carew juxtaposes deep and recent past with ease, nesting the intimate into the political. She ranges from her father’s friendship with William Colby — the CIA head who died in a 1996 canoeing accident that many considered suspicious — to hilariously misguided capers ... Her father laughs hard and weeps often, for his lost past, his lost self — a bereavement we all recognize, or will. Part memoir, part biography, part military history, Dadland is also a lovingly unconventional elegy for a generation.
Dadland is part family memoir, part history book, and is compelling and moving from start to finish ... She brings the wartime sections to life by drawing on a remarkable facility for description ... There’s a risk, in a book that aims for a general readership, that the historical sections will weigh the narrative down, but Carew leavens them with flashbacks to her unusual childhood, research into her complex family history and incidents — often comic, sometimes heartbreakingly poignant — from her father’s later life ... [a] funny, fascinating and unflinching tribute.
Dadland uncovers Tom’s adventures in war, but these long, detailed passages of history-writing are framed by Keggie’s memories of family life, both glorious and painful, and by more recent tales of her father’s erratic behaviour ... Even though everything in it has interest, her book should have been shorter. But it’s full of tenderness, and her writing is nimble and handles emotion well ... 'I’ve been in thrall to Dad too many years,' she writes. '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.' With the publication of this original, moving book, she has succeeded.
...[a] captivating debut memoir ... Carew is as vicious in her portrayal of this possessive, controlling stepmother as she is empathetic to her father’s loss of his adventuresome past and, more tragically, sense of identity. A tender evocation of an extraordinary life.
Carew’s evocative blend of biography and memoir maintains a warmly clear-eyed tone while taking the full measure of dysfunctional and disappointed lives. Even the scenes of Tom succumbing to Alzheimer’s have a dotty charm. This is a scintillating portrait of Britain’s Greatest Generation at war and uneasy peace.