After more than a decade out of print, my 1998 memoir My Father’s House: In Search of a Lost Past officially comes into existence today as a self-published e-book. It’s available at Amazon, iBooks, Kobo and other outlets at £3.99 ($6.99). My Father’s House is my most personal book, and a book that I’ve always been particularly proud of, so I’m really pleased that 21st century has given me the opportunity to re-introduce it to a new generation of readers.
Here is the book description:
In 1995 Matthew Carr returned to Guyana in the Caribbean, where his parents’ marriage had broken up nearly thirty years before, in order to investigate the mysterious death of his father Bill Carr in 1991. A popular and charismatic English lecturer, a lover of DH Lawrence, Shakespeare and Matthew Arnold, and a left-wing political activist with a strong public presence in West Indian politics, Bill Carr was also a violent alcoholic who beat his wife and children, and whose alcohol-induced mayhem forced his family to return to England without him in 1967.
In the ensuing decades little was known of the life he led in a country whose single claim to international fame in all that period was the ‘Jonestown massacre.’ Apart from a single visit to England a few years before his death, Bill Carr had, it seemed, cut himself off from his family and his country and chosen to live a life of exile with a new family in his adopted country. His son’s decision to return to Guyana for the first time since 1967 was partly prompted by the confused circumstances that preceded his father’s death, in which he seemed to express a wish to return to his native land.
What began as an exploration of a lost West Indies childhood in Jamaica and Guyana and an investigation of his father’s chaotic and contradictory personality, became a compelling and extraordinary journey into the racial politics and history of the Caribbean, and Guyana in particular. Why did so many people remember Bill Carr so well when his family remembered him so badly? Why had his father cut himself off from his family so completely and so brutally? Why had he wanted to return? What caused his death?
Alternating between meetings with his father’s friends, colleagues, enemies and family members, Carr sets out to answer these questions and reconcile their memories with those of his family. The result is a striking combination of family history, travelogue, and colonial history that recalls Malcolm Lowry, Graham Greene and Joseph Conrad, in which the story of Bill Carr’s steep descent into masochistic self-destruction mirrors the collapse of Guyana under the post-colonial dictatorship of Forbes Burnham.
And here are some reviews that it received at the time:
‘ Bill Carr embodied all the idealism and sickness of the colonial mind and his son’s narrative is a monumental exploration of the paradoxes of Empire. It is written as if from the pen of a novelist, superbly plotted with a marvellous sense of the intricacies of character and a panoramic view of British and colonial history. Matthew Carr has made astonishing art of his father’s wreckage.’ David Dabydeen, The Times
‘Matthew Carr embarks, literally, on a journey in search of his father. His book combines the skills of a gifted travel writer, a novelist and a biographer. The result is a high-class creation that unfolds with the excitement of a detective story.’
Richard Gott, The Independent
‘ …almost impossible to categorize. A personal biography, it reads at times as a socio-political history and at others as a gripping novel.’ The Times
‘ …an honest and decently written memoir, and Carr junior’s motive in writing it is exemplary.’ The Mail on Sunday
And here is a review that the e-book has just been posted on Amazon:
My Father’s House is a deeply affecting, fluent and insightful meditation on memory, family, and personal identity. It reminded me a great deal of John Irving’s wonderfully melancholic novel about childhood memory, Until I Find You. In both books, the main character goes on a journey to try and discover the truth of childhood memory, and make sense of the contradictions and gaps in their personal history. Along the way, they are forced to contront the flawed humanity of their loved ones, and the positive and negative ways in which their parents continue to shape their sense of identity. As such, My Father’s House unfolds as part travel log, part mystery, part philosophical meditation, part auto-ethnography. Either way, it is brutally honest, beautifully written, and deeply engaging. I was genuinely moved by its eloquence, its tenderness and its profound insight into the fragilities of human relationships. The final chapter provided a particularly satisfying end to a wonderful narrative that will have universal appeal. It’s one of the best books I have read in recent times. Buy it. Read it, and prepare to be moved.