A poignant memoir of recovery and reflection after a life-changing stroke, by a winner of the National Book Critics Circle Award.
In June 2011, just days before his 69th birthday, Jonathan Raban was sitting down to dinner with his daughter when he found he couldn’t move his knife to his plate. He was immediately rushed to the hospital where doctors concluded that he had suffered a massive hemorrhagic stroke, paralyzing the right side of his body. Once he became stable, Raban embarked on an extended stay at a rehabilitation center where he became acquainted with, and struggled to accept the limitations of, his new body—learning how to walk again and climb stairs, attempting to bathe and dress himself, and rethinking how to write and even read.
Woven into these pages is an account of a second battle, one that his own father faced in the trenches during World War II. With intimate letters that his parents exchanged at the time, Raban places the budding love of two young people within the tumultuous landscape of the war’s various theatres, from blood-soaked streets in Anzio to the munition-strewn beaches of Dunkirk. Moving between narratives, his and theirs, Raban artfully explores the human capacity to adapt to trauma, as well as the warmth, strength, and humor that persist despite it. The result is Father and Son, a powerful story of mourning, yes, but also one of resilience.
“A world war fought on three fronts by a young artillery officer; a courtship, marriage and forced separation in a hesitant, old-fashioned English style; a sudden, devastating upheaval in the author’s own life—Jonathan Raban deploys the skills of an accomplished novelist to braid these elements into a beautiful, compelling memoir drawn from his parents’ wartime love letters. He is a master, as he has shown in his legendary travel writing, of summoning place and people with vivid economy. Haunting, Father and Son is an exquisite, sometimes lunatic tension between powerful emotions and carnage on one side, and on the other, the conventional codes of what must remain unsaid. This, Raban’s final work, is a gorgeous achievement.” —Ian McEwan, author of Lessons