Douglas Galbraith: my son, my son

I’m not big on the idea of misery memoirs. But my son, my son, novelist Douglas Galbraith’s account of the abduction of his two young sons by his Japanese wife, would seem to be a very different animal to the celebrity ghost-written “I had a tough childhood, me” stuff you pass at airports on the way to getting a newspaper. For one thing the contrast between the deeply upsetting central event and the controlled, and even wry, manner that the author writes in is remarkable, with episodes like the local police turning up at the house and being openly disinterested in the crime having the tone of a black comedy, and for another Galbraith doesn’t stop with his own ordeal but is able to successfully use it as a jump-off point for a number of fascinating meditations on societal and cultural dysfunction, using biblical, historical, political and even art history reference points. He’s clearly traumatised and angry, and justifiably so – the already pretty toothless international treaty relating to the return of children taken across borders by one parent without the other’s consent has no traction in Japan, which means that Galbraith hasn’t seen his sons in nearly ten years – but he avoids self-pity, and frames his predicament within the context of a modern world where deceit and betrayal have become accepted modes of conduct, in both the personal and the political. Galbraith’s gifts as a writer help make all this potentially depressing material highly readable, and even compelling: the sections in which he finally abandons the expensive and futile legal process to assert his parental rights and instead resorts to artful subterfuge in order to re-establish contact with his family are as gripping as a thriller. While it would possibly be instructive to hear his wife’s side of the story (Galbraith makes no secret of his loathing for her and doesn’t speculate on any part he might have played in the breakdown of their relationship), my son, my son stands as a deeply felt and unusually penetrating exploration of a personal catastrophe.


2 responses to “Douglas Galbraith: my son, my son

  1. Mary Jo Marchnight

    How richly the patriarchy conceives its inheritance! Valerie Solanas read it right! The weak, the pitiful male, calls out for sympathy – but demands revenge. Only the like-minded will respond thus.

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