'There is so much aching love in this book, such pain and beauty. Behold, and rejoice.' - Tim Winton, author of Cloudstreet
Was he thinking, do I have to be this kind of boy to survive? Is this what being a boy is?
As a boy growing up on the south coast of England, Howard Cunnell's sense of self was dominated by his father's absence. Now, years later, he is a father, and his daughter is becoming his son.
Starting with his own childhood in the Sussex beachlands, Howard tells the story of the years of self-destruction that defined his young adulthood and the escape he found in reading and the natural world. Still he felt compelled to destroy the relationships that mattered to him.
Saved by love and responsibility, Cunnell charts his journey from anger to compassion, as his daughter Jay realizes he is a boy, and a son.
Most of all, this is a story about love - its necessity and fragility, and its unequalled capacity to enable us to be who we are.
Deeply thoughtful, searingly honest and exquisitely lyrical, Fathers and Sons is an exploration of fatherhood, masculinity, authenticity and family.
Howard Cunnell has a Ph.D. from the University of London, and was previously a Leverhulme Fellow at the University of Sussex. He is the editor of Jack Kerouac's On the Road: The Original Scroll, which the New York Times described as 'the living version for our time'. A former professional scuba-diving instructor, he lives in London with his wife and children.
There is so much aching love in this book, such pain and beauty.
Behold, and rejoice
Tim Winton, author of Cloudstreet
This book tells the story of how family is made. It tells it frankly, unexpectedly and in such a way that both family and expectations are rewritten and renewed. I couldn't put it down. Bold, brave, beautiful - much more than biology. This is life itself.
Jackie Kay, author of Red Dust Road
A miracle of a book: sad, wise, strong and hopeful, its depiction of parenthood will stay with me for a long time
Sunjeev Sahota, author of The Year of the Runaways
Fathers and Sons is a beautiful, moving, and marvellously honest book. I relished its resolutely masculine point of view, especially on such a subject, and the tenderness and sensuality with which Cunnell depicts child-rearing.
Kate Clanchy, author of Antigona and Me
With Fathers & Sons, Howard Cunnell rips himself apart and reminds us what true artists do with all the mistakes they've ever made. They turn them into art. Dazzling and memorable, here is a strong and moving mosaic depicting the wayward mystery of our souls
Austin Collings, author of The Myth of Brilliant Summers
Howard Cunnell has forged from the most painful of raw materials a modern masterpiece of fiction. . . The lonelieness of a boy who never knew his father, Jason, who in turn became a father to Jay, a boy trapped in the wrong female body. Their journeys are rendered in prose as exquisite as the spaces of sea, sun and freedom Cunnell always chased for salvation and worked so hard to describe, finally finding himself and that redemption in the gift that was denied to him: being a father to a son
Cathi Unsworth, author of Weirdo
Cunnell's memoir Father and Sons explores what it is to come from a family, what it is to start one, and what it is to raise one. It explores what we do to each other within that embrace, bad and good, and what we can do better, even while we fail. Cunnell's memoir is cast in light, and water, and bodies. It is a memoir burnished with love and goodwill. It will leave you watching the world differently
Naomi Wood, author of Mrs. Hemingway
A riveting work, remarkable and beautifully written, Fathers & Sons takes you to utterly unexpected places.
Chris Salewicz, Redemption Song: The Definitive Biography of Joe Strummer
Jumping with beautiful compression through decades, handsomely written, honest and deeply moving, Cunnell's remarkable memoir is a work of guts, grit, and love.
Richard House, author of The Kills
I admire Cunnell's eye, his precise notation of light and water, whether in Mexico or Brixton, and the emotional commitment of his book. There is a resilience here that is on intimate terms with powerlessness.
Agonisingly beautiful and honest. One man's uncompromising testament to love.
Sarah Winman, author of When God Was A Rabbit
Spell-binding, life force of a memoir . . . For this book is all kinds of exceptional: an urgent, agonising exploration of fatherhood, masculinity and family; a testament to the power of the written word to reach out to us in dark times; and, above all, a hymn to the "shaping axe" of human love: motherly love, sibling love, erotic love, and ultimately, the transcending love of a father for a child, his in all but biology. And how, fragile as it may sometimes seem, that love can conquer a whole sea of strife.
The Bookseller - Caroline Sanderson
Fathers & Sons will be one of 2017's most memorable memoirs . . . Concise and beautifully written, it is an unforgettable exploration of fatherhood, masculinity and family
Truly heart-stopping writing: a unique and hard-won perspective unfolded in lucid and unforgettable prose
This tender yet hard-boiled memoir is a searing exploration of parenting and gender-creation.Cunnell deserves the accolades he will receive for his book's painterly, masculine honesty
It is one of the most good-hearted, big-souled books I've read, a memoir about what it means to be a man, but more importantly what it means to be a parent. I don't cry easily, but I read the final pages through a luminous wash of tears.
Guardian - Alex Preston