The Good Father explores the nature of fatherhood and the bonds between fathers and their children in a gripping story of love, betrayal and adultery.
When Peter Wright's father dies he leaves his entire fortune to Peter's best friend Jack. Over a few weeks in the summer of 1959 the consequences of the old man's legacy seriously affect three men’s lives, Jack, who has brought up his three children alone since his wife was killed, Wright's solicitor Harry, who is trying to rebuild his relationship with his estranged son Guy, and Peter himself, whose friendship with Jack is threatened by his father's death and the terrible secrets he has kept since his return from the Japanese POW camps.The Good Father explores the nature of fatherhood and the bonds between fathers and their children in a gripping story of love, betrayal and adultery.
Hope came to the funeral. I noticed her as I followed the coffin through the church porch, where I had to pause whilst the bearers shifted their load discreetly on their shoulders. Standing at the back of the church, she turned to me and smiled that delicate schoolgirl’s smile of hers, lowering her eyes almost at once, not expecting me to respond perhaps, possibly believing that smiling was some breach of funeral etiquette. And maybe it was, but I smiled all the same, although she didn’t see me. No one saw me because my father’s coffin blocked the congregation’s view of my face. For those few seconds, as the undertaker’s men synchronised themselves and Hope lowered her eyes from her brief, shy smile, I thought how lovely she was; if I were poetical I would say that my heart seemed to expand a little, that I felt suddenly generous and good and hopeful. As the bearers began their slow progress up the aisle, I made my face solemn again.
We sang ‘I Vow to Thee My Country’ and ‘Jerusalem’ and ‘The Lord’s My Shepherd’, hymns my father had chosen years ago, planning for his death well in advance, as he planned everything. There were not many mourners. Dr Walker was there of course, Mrs Hall, Mr Hall, a few of the neighbours my father so despised. I had informed cousins whom he had not seen for years and I have never met, but they declined to attend, citing ill-health and old age. So I stood in the front pew alone. The wreath of white chrysanthemums that graced the dark coffin filled the air with its peppery scent, and the bright cubes of light from the stained-glass window were cast at my feet as I sang the hymns and said the prayers, all the time thinking that if I turned around I would see Hope, her head bowed to her hymn book. I thought I could hear her voice above all the others, sweet and clear, singing the too-familiar words of lambs and green pastures; I thought too that I could feel her eyes on me, her soft, concerned gaze. How wrong it would be to turn around, what a bad impression I would give of myself, a man who couldn’t concentrate on his grief, on the solemnity of the occasion, but glanced about the church like a tourist. But it would have only been a glance. And although I longed to, I didn’t. I was as well-behaved as ever in my father’s presence. I was right and proper and straight-backed, and I sang not too quietly, not too loudly but clearly and with my head raised so that I looked straight at the window that shed its coloured light at my feet, the window that depicted the Good Shepherd, a benign and sadly smiling Christ, pale and blond and tender as Hope herself.
The vicar, the congregation and I followed the coffin out into the graveyard. The sun shone and the sky was a rare, beautiful blue, the blue one only ever sees in England in springtime. Earlier, the verger had cut the grass around the old graves and there was a neatness and tidiness about the place, enhanced by the daffodils that grew beneath the sticky-budded chestnut trees and along the gravel path. The gravel whitened my shoes and felt sharp beneath their thin soles, making me think of penances and returning my mind to the funeral lunch. Mrs Hall had prepared a tongue and salads, bread and butter and a fruit cake. Too much food, as though she was expecting hungry hordes of mourners and not just this sad little gathering. I thought she knew my father better.
Marion Husband is a compassionate and compelling writer exploring the complexities of human nature with great empathy. Her debut novel The Boy I Love, the first in the three part The Boy I Love Trilogy, won the Andrea Badenoch Fiction Award and The Blackwell Prize. Her other novels include The Good Father and Say You Love Me. She is married with two grown-up children and teaches creative writing.