Crime Literary Fiction

A Good Father – Catherine Talbot

12 February 2020
A Good Father Book Cover A Good Father
Catherine Talbot
Literary Fiction
Penguin Books
April 23, 2020

"When I hit her, which isn't often, I am careful not to go too deep around her cheekbones because her cheekbones are a great feature of hers." Des is a good husband, a good father - a good man. He encourages his wife's artistic endeavours. He holds down a well-paid, if unfulfilling, job. He is manager of his sons' Under-11s football team. He reads bedtime stories to his children every night. But appearances can be deceptive, and behind closed doors secrets threaten to ruin everything. Des is afraid... He is afraid of the world encroaching on his family. Afraid of past mistakes catching up on him. Afraid of losing control. Des is master of his home, and he must maintain his authority over it - and everyone in it - at all costs.


An unsettling family drama that illustrates the destructive nature of jealousy, selfishness and a crushing dominance on everything in a home and family. A Good Father is well crafted and draws the complexity of human relationships and how damaged personalities can wreak havoc on those around them.

The story is told through Des’ eyes over two timeframes – 1995 and 2017. Firstly how he met, wooed and developed his relationship with his future wife Jenny. Amongst other challenges, he had to win Jenny away from her then-boyfriend Jerome. There is an insight into his mental reasoning as Des is continually trying to resolve his impulsive and often negative tendencies, to something approaching acceptable behaviour, but how long can that last.

The second timeframe starts with Des being a good father, coaching his boys, Joey and Mickey in their football team, and how he plays the snatch and grab and tickle game with his daughter, Maeve. He’s not such a good husband though, as we hear how he hit his wife and twists it to provide a rational explanation. He loves his wife but he fears her relationships with other men in work or as friends will result in them stealing her away. Perhaps because he won Jenny in that manner, the possibility now resides as a festering dread that someone else will do that to him. As the story progresses we see the cracks widen with jealousy and obsession, and his control on the family starts exerting increasing harmful influence. From the opening line of the novel, we know there is a fatalistic ending.

“By the end of next summer, before the kids go back to school, I will kill my family.”

It’s impossible to empathise with Des, although that’s a plus point, however, I also found it difficult to empathise with Jenny, and maybe that’s a more difficult position to accept. I believe the structure of the book should have been told either in the third person, or the first person with both Des and Jenny providing a voice, especially as Jenny is involved throughout the story and could provide the other perspective or a more accurate account of background and events. The ending of this book broke my heart and it was so well written that I need brain bleach to get rid of the images. Utterly heartbreaking!

I think many readers will relish this story and I would recommend it – a solid 4 star read. I would like to thank Penguin Books and NetGalley for providing me with a free ARC copy of the book in return for an honest review.

Peter Donnelly

Founder of The Reading Desk, supporting readers, authors, publishers and book industry. Top Reviewer on Amazon, Goodreads, and NetGalley

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