Dadland by Keggie Carew
(Chatto & Windus (UK), Grove Atlantic (US), 2017)


by Keggie Carew

Melding memoir, biography, history, travel and urgent story-telling, Dadland takes us on an unforgettable journey. As her octogenarian father’s mind dissolves into dementia, Keggie Carew uncovers a story whose facts could hardly survive in fiction. Tom Carew was a SOE officer in a special unit of the British Army, called the Jedburghs, who parachuted into occupied enemy territory to raise local resistance and carry out sabotage, first in WW2 with the maquis in France, and then into Burma, working to liberate the country with Ang San (Suu Kui’s father). Keggie’s lens is at once intimate and personal but it pans out to a global perspective, into the shadier areas of British history and beyond. The narrative continues through a century, to the present day, woven with fragments and snapshots of a family history that, though unusual, speaks to us all.

Tom Carew was a rule breaker and a maverick. Dadland is his daughter’s road to truth and attempt at reconciliation. It is a manhunt. In which she finds a technicolour life caught in the web of a slowly unravelling mind. Written with great fluidity, blazing with love and intelligence, this is a deeply human work that defies genre.


OH THIS BOOK. Beautiful and fierce and brave. Memory and war and family and loss and, well, wow”
- Helen MacDonald
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 much-missed dad"”
- 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 Carew 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. ”
- Iain Sinclair
Dadland is a wonderful, haunting and beautifully written memoir unlike any other I have ever read. While it is the journey of one man's life, with his wartime triumphs, post-war disappointments and eventual decline into dementia, it is also the voyage of his daughter as she tries to reclaim the father lost to her and unravel the past she never knew. 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. An absolutely stunning book. ”
- James Holland, Historian, author and co-founder and Programme Director of Chalke Valley History Festival
Dadland is Keggie Carew's compelling attempt to understand her charismatic, unconventional father.”
- Charlotte Heathcote, Daily Express, 2016 books to watch
It is quite wonderful. I find it hard to easily summarise my feelings about it: one thing that surprised me is the amount of military history I so easily and avidly learned from it. But what a remarkable man Tom Carew is, and what a sad, sad but uplifting and utterly human story: at times shocking and enraging, at times funny and delightful, at times jaw-droppingly heroic and humbling. I can completely see why you all believe in it so profoundly. It is beautifully, painfully real. Non-fiction doing everything it does best.”
- Caroline Sanderson, The Bookseller
[Dadland] is such a spectacularly good book.”
- Kate Figes, author and Books Editor for YOU Magazine
I'm intrigued by this one, a journey by the author in search of a father who is losing his memory and whose early life - in the wartime SOE and afterwards - is much more surprising than she thought.”
- Andrew Holgate, Sunday Times, 'The books we can't wait to read in 2016'
I loved Dadland for its tenderness, humour and candour. It has begun to open the door for me to what may well lie ahead in my life, in so many of our lives, in terms of ageing parents. And it has also taught me something deeply moving about tolerance, and about love”
- Robert MacFarlane
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 me, more about daughters, more about love, family, sheds, diaries, an inquisitive mind and peeing in plastic bottles. I loved it.”
- Rachel Joyce