DADDY by Janet Inglis


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A first novel about the pain of growing up in a broken family that is determinedly shocking, relentlessly readable, and often as adolescent as its protagonist. Olivia Beckett is 14, with the body of a voluptuous woman and the scars of a wounded child. Her parents, acrimoniously divorced, are each involved in new relationships and barely aware of their daughter's unhappy existence moving back and forth between their homes in North London. No one, it seems, wants Olivia. Then comes Nick, her mother's raunchy, rough-edged new boyfriend, who is all too aware of the girl's nubile vulnerability. Olivia, raw and aching from her father's abandonment and her mother's neglect, quickly succumbs to Nick's caresses like a starving animal, offering the author myriad opportunities for over-the-top (and every other position) sex scenes. In between comes some wince-inducing writing: After her father's marriage to wicked stepmother Althea, Nick drives Olivia home and attempts to comfort her: ""She wept, burying her face against his designer shirt. She had a great ache, in her belly, in her heart. She had lost her father."" (Then comes a sex scene.) A lot of this sounds like the diary entries of a perpetually horny and self-pitying teen -- which, of course, Olivia is, but the author, we assume, is not. The sex-with-a-father-figure motif would work much better if the explicit details didn't so totally overwhelm the plot; you have to wonder whether the theme was conceived just to accommodate the sex, and that's too bad, because the book, like Olivia, obviously wants to be more than just a titillating ride. It just doesn't want it enough. Nonetheless, Inglis does manage to convey the destructive yet irresistible power of erotic obsession and, more profoundly, the loneliness, confusion, and sense of displacement that leaves children flailing in divorce's wake.

Pub Date: Aug. 15th, 1994
Page count: 496pp
Publisher: Pocket Books/Paramount