Daddy by Emma Cline

I battle with reviewing short story collections – there’s usually a standout or two and the rest are simply okay. Rarely does a whole collection shine or fail.

So, what comes to mind when reflecting on Emma Cline’s collection, Daddy? It lacked. It lacked substance, resolution, and guts.

The idea behind each of the ten stories was promising – a father in damage control at his son’s school after his son commits a violent act; a disgraced book editor working on the biography of a pompous billionaire; a nanny shunned after a brief affair with her celebrity employer. The common theme is entitled white men behaving normally badly.

Do I need to read more stories with this theme? No, not really.

The stories are described as ‘subtle’ – perhaps too much so. Each revolves around a significant but unspecified incident. My suspicion is that Cline wanted to illustrate how the characters’ lives might have taken a different path were it not for the one incident. But there is little ownership in any of the characters’ reflections or contemplations, and I was left wondering what was the point of it all.

The really frustrating thing about this collection was that at the beginning of each story, Cline had my full attention. The premise, the quandary, or as one reviewer described, the ‘modern humiliations’, were interesting but the stories all ended abruptly, without resolution, and offered no new insights.

All that said, I think back to Cline’s debut, The Girls, and know that it’s not unreasonable to expect something more, something better from her in the future (also, did I moz her?! 😧).


The counter was cluttered – John’s secretary, Margaret, had dropped off a plate of Rocky Road fudge covered in Saran wrap, and old clients had sent a tin of macadamia nuts and a basket of fig spreads that would join the fig spreads from years past, dusty and unopened in the pantry.

6 responses

  1. “Do I need to read more stories with this theme? No, not really.”
    This is exactly how I feel about too many of the contemporary novels that come my way.
    My patience is wearing thin.

  2. Hmm, I had this on hold at the library but maybe I should cancel that. I enjoyed The Girls well enough, but thought it overrated. Is there one story worth trying to get a taste of the whole?

  3. I enjoyed but didn’t love The Girls so I feel confident passing on this one. Do we need stories that explain men to us? Hasn’t that already been a significant feature of the English literature?

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