In This Dark House by Louise Kehoe

What makes another life fascinating enough to commit it to paper? I know that memoirs are all the rage these days and I have read a few and this once did not disappoint. In This Dark House was the winner of a National Jewish Book Award and uniformly praised by critics who called it “well constructed and beautifully written, has an emotional honesty which generates its own kind of lasting truth” (Susie Harris, The Times Literary Supplement) and a “heartbreaking story…astonishing enough on its own, but her riveting luminous prose style transforms it into a triumphantly beautiful and moving work of art.” (Booklist)

Louise Kehoe was born in England in 1949, the youngest of four children. Her father, Berthold Lubetkin, was a well known architect who had been born in Czarist Russia  and her mother, Margaret Church, was born in England and met Berthold as an architecture student.

Kehoe recounts her childhood living at World’s End, a remote house in Upper Killington, England. A practicing Communist, Louise’s father is intellectual and emotionally remote. One might say he’s actually abusive- he withholds and doles out praise like a dictator.  Kehoe’s mother does her best to moderate, but her loyalty is to her husband and her children, although she clearly loves them, come a distant second.

What Kehoe doesn’t know until her father’s death (at nearly 90) is that he is harbouring a horrible secret and the beauty of this book is that Kehoe, despite the barren emotional landscape of her youth, cares enough to search it out. Uncovered, the secret opens a door wide into her father’s life and makes him much more sympathetic. And, of course, Kehoe is able to forgive him which she does eloquently and with love.

A beautiful book.

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