Lucy Fricke’s Daughters is the second V&Q Books launch title I’ve reviewed in a week. Each is very different from the other, yet both are concerned with families and how they shape us. Whereas Sandra Hoffmann’s Paula was a moving piece of cathartic autofiction, Daughters is a road novel with a sharply comic edge which sees two best friends brought face-to-face with their long absent fathers.
Our fathers had never been reliable. The more we learned about them, the less we knew
In the final stages of cancer, Martha’s father wants her to drive him to Switzerland to die. Quite a favour to ask given he’s been largely absent from her life for thirty years. There’s only one person who can help her with this miserable task so she calls Betty, her oldest friend, who has her own father issues. These two middle-aged women – one desperate to start a family before it’s too late, the other a blocked writer leading a rackety life travelling while renting out her Berlin flat to tourists – set out on the oddest of road trips with Kurt in the back seat. Then, after spending what’s to be his last night in a hotel which fails to live up to its internet billing, Kurt gets a phone call. It seems there’s unfinished business with his first love and he’s determined to finish it. Perhaps, Kurt hasn’t done with life yet after all. Left in charge of his ancient, beloved VW Golf, Betty and Martha take off on their own journey of discovery until Kurt calls his daughter back to him. As their paths diverge, Betty decides it’s time to get to the bottom of the mystery surrounding her stepfather.
In this life, you need someone who will help you make your getaway, no matter how safe things may seem right now
Fricke unfolds her story through Betty’s often sardonic voice, a brittle exterior covering a well of hurt accumulated over decades, softening her tone a little as revelations are made. There are hints of a car accident that has compounded the damage done to both her and Martha by their fatherless childhoods and their angry mothers. By the end of their journey, which begins in Berlin and ends in Greece, secrets will have been uncovered and illusions shattered but there are hopes of redemption and recovery. What begins as an entertaining, snarkily narrated road novel turns into something more sober along the way and is all the better for it. If this is a sample of what’s on offer, I’m looking forward to seeing what other goodies V&Q Books have in store.
V&Q Books: Berlin 2020 9783863912567 203 pages Paperback