Sunday, 12 January 2014

Dear Lupin - Letters to a Wayward Son - Book Review

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"Dear Lupin" is the collection of delightfully witty and wry letters sent to Mortimer Jr. from his ever exasperated father Roger, a racing pundit for the Sunday Times. Chronicling the various scrapes and escapades Charlie finds himself in, Roger is always a source of sound advice, humorous anecdotes and world weary remonstrations in the vain attempt to keep his errant son in check.

 Much of this stems from the generation gap between father and son, with Charlie more at leisure to peruse the fruits of life more flagrantly than his father would like. Holidaying with deplorable friends or else dabbling in drink and drugs is at odds with the more mundane chagrins of Roger's life, including dull acquaintances at dinner parties, the excessive drinking habits of Charlie's' mother and the ever salient fact of growing old. 

"I had a bad and painful attack of gout last week and now I have a throat infection and am partially deaf. Getting old is revolting and I hate it."

  Roger Mortimer's letters never failed to make me grin with delight as he litters his correspondence with random digressions and stories of oddball relatives, the exploits of a family pet or the death count of a nearby car accident. Despite the numerous allusions to his disappointment towards Charlie's foibles and shortcomings, including many a failed (or lack thereof) attempt at respectability, Roger's affection for his son is never in doubt. As Charlie flits erractically from one job to the other, Roger is the steadfast guardian, never failing to be the constant in his son's life.

Surprisingly, Dear Lupin doesn't include replies from Charlie (or Lupin, the moniker handed to him by his father after the erstwhile son in Diary of a Nobody). Instead Charlie provides small footnotes letting us know what points in his life Roger is alluding to. These too are a small source of laughter, as Charlie plays the part of the hapless, wayward son with real life panache. The collection also incorporates a handy go to list of people and places mentioned throughout the correspondence.

Dear Lupin is a unique, heartwarming vignette of the relationship between a father and son spanning from the late 1960s onwards. Not only are we granted an intimate look at one family's idiosyncratic life, but also the social context in general. Roger Mortimer has a wonderfully acerbic and eloquent way of writing, infusing Dear Lupin with a sepia toned melancholy for the lost art of letter writing.

Note: Dear Lupin is just one of three collections of letters from Roger Mortimer, with Dear Jane: My Father's Life and Letters and Dear Lumpy: Letters to a Disobedient Daughter the two remaining installments in this familial saga of correspondence.


  1. Hey! I just saw your comment on Laura (style and sushi) blog and the tartan scarf is from ASOS!

  2. I loved this book. I read it this time last year and the humour pulled me through a particularly difficult job. I think I liked that it was just letters from the witty Roger rather than seeing a correspondence between the two.

    Have you read Dear Lumpy: Letters to a Disobedient Daughter? It's his letters to Charlie's younger sister. I think Dear Jane will be out soon too.

    1. I'm glad you found comfort from this - I can see why. It's heartfelt for its candid humour and the affection is clearly there on Roger's part.

      I have yet to read the others in the series, but definitely will. Roger Mortimer is brilliant!