Our Father Who Wasn't There (Scribe 2010)

Our Father Who Wasn't There is less about the real man and more about Carlin’s deep longing for him. Such a search is a shell game, ever elusive, impossible to win, but a loving and beautifully written tribute nonetheless.’ADAIR JONES, COURIER MAIL

Can a memoir begin without memories? Can a father be invented? When David Carlin was only six months old, his father, Brian, died. It was the 1960s in isolated Western Australia, a place in which emotions were discreetly veiled, women did not attend funerals — and suicide was a sin. Brian became a mysteriously absent figure in David’s family story, hardly spoken of again.

As an adult, David yearns to conjure up his father, to uncover what led to his death at his own hand. Gradually, he begins to piece together Brian’s story from the faltering memories of friends and relatives, and from the voices and incidents that emerge from Brian’s medical records. Into the inevitable gaps that remain, David cannot help but stray with his own imaginings.

Through David, Brian’s story starts to fill out — up rise the hessian walls of his childhood house on the edge of the wheat belt during the Depression, the outposts of heady undergraduate bohemia in late-1940s Perth, and Brian’s happily married life with a brilliant and loving young wife, and an equally brilliant career. But, in among it all, there also rises a darkness — a damaging undertow of electric-shock therapy, insulin comas, and whispered wartime events.

In this masterfully rendered memoir, David moves like a ghost through time and place, deftly weaving a story from what he has always known, and from all that he will never know.

Our father who wasn't there

Scribe Publications

Melbourne, Australia




‘An ingenious and insightful memoir … It’s a brilliant set-up, because Carlin’s moving story centres on the search for another who had to exist, logically, but of whom he had no memory: his father,Brian.’

STEPHEN ROMEI, The Weekend Australian

Factual research is blended seamlessly with the vivid imaginings of a lyrical and compassionate storyteller … This courageous and insightful book will resonate strongly.’


‘In an act of great empathy and imagination, David Carlin both creates a father, and fully illuminates the experience of fatherlessness.’


‘The delight of this book is in how Carlin adjusts the perspective to help or hinder the interpretation of truth… I consider a memoir a cumulative narrative that ultimately proffers some revelation or illumination and this one does so with such a delightful concluding whimper it could almost be a bang.’

JEREMY FISHER, Sydney Morning Herald

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