For some reason I had it in my mind that Euphoria by Lily King was a first novel, so I went online to see if she had published a second. Much to my delight I found that she had published not one, but three novels previously of which I was unaware. Choices! Choices! I promptly ordered one at random, safe in the knowledge that anything she had written would be great. I was right, Father of the Rain (if the cover was to believed) had wonderful reviews, but a difficult subject matter, namely alcoholism.
Daley’s father is an alcoholic, but it’s the era of Nixon and no one really talks or cares about alcoholism, particularly when the person involved is so much fun. Gardiner starts his drinking at 5pm each night, which is viewed as perfectly normal in his social setting and stops only when he goes to bed or passes out. He’s a complex man with many endearing qualities but above all else he’s Daley’s father, which means that she loves him unconditionally. When her mother leaves, Daley goes with her and their relationship irrevocably shifts, although she remains very much a part of her father’s life.
Spanning several decades Father of the Rain explores Daley’s challenging relationship with her father and how despite the difficulties and her desire to break away, he somehow manages to hold her in his thrall and at points stalls her life completely.
I would imagine that this could be a difficult book to read if you have someone close to you suffering from this disease, but for the rest of us it’s an interesting novel. There’s not the sensationalism about alcoholism in this novel that there is in so many TV dramas, largely because Gardiner is high functioning. Daley as a character is well written and King effortlessly transitions us through the decades, the unchanging nature of Gardiner’s disease, the town in which he lives and his social circle, whilst allowing Daley to stand apart, representing change and a more forward looking future.
Of her two novels, Euphoria still holds a special place in my affections and is without a doubt one of my favorite novels of the last few years. If you could only choose one of King’s books, then it wouldn’t be Father of the Rain, but thankfully life isn’t like that. You can have your cake, eat it and go for another slice!
I’m off to buy a couple more novels.