The Dead Fathers Club

by Matt Haig

{ 2007 | Viking Adult | 336 pgs }

Several years ago I read a brief description of The Dead Fathers Club that went something like this: “Eleven-year-old Philip Noble receives a visit from the ghost of his father, who died in a car accident. But the ghost says it wasn’t an accident – it was murder. He introduces Philip to the Dead Fathers Club.” It also said something about Hamlet, and somehow I got it in my head that the ghost of Old Hamlet (you know, Hamlet’s murdered father) would be involved.

Actually, the book is a retelling of Hamlet itself, set in modern-day England. And it’s narrated by Philip, written with all the insight and grammatical prowess of an eleven-year-old. It wasn’t what I expected, and I’m not sure whether I liked it or not. Yes, it had a suitably vague ending, and Philip’s hesitation to exact the revenge demanded by his father is believable (maybe even more so than Hamlet’s). But…but. I can’t quite put my finger on it – I wasn’t awed by the book. Maybe it was the narration. I don’t like kids, so reading from a kid’s perspective (particularly when said kid did not use punctuation at all) got old.

That being said, I have been motivated to re-read both Hamlet and Rosencrantz & Guildenstern Are Dead. In an interview with Penguin, the author of The Dead Fathers Club said he doesn’t think you need to be familiar with Shakespeare’s Hamlet or to have recently read it. I disagree, based on this review by someone who I’m guessing has never read Hamlet

Anyway, I think it’s worth a go if you like Hamlet. And if you don’t mind odd narration. Then again, if you haven’t read Rosencrantz & Guildenstern Are Dead, I definitely recommend that before The Dead Fathers Club. Just my preference.

Buy The Dead Fathers Club on Amazon