fathers and sons - a memoir

Dazzlingly beautiful

Financial Times

Something special
Evening Standard

All kinds of exceptional
Sunday Express

Big souled

Big hearted
Big Issue

Deeply affecting
Literary Review

A classic
Book blast



fathers & sons - a memoir by howard cunnell


Austin Collings

Deeply Moving
Richard House

This is life itself
Jackie Kay

A miracle of a book
Sunjeev Sahota

Chris Salewicz

A modern masterpiece
Cathi Unsworth

Essential reading
Sarah Winman

Behold, and rejoice
Tim Winton


'In a publishing year packed with brilliant writing, nothing stopped my heart quite like Howard Cunnell’s Fathers and Sons. A fragmentary but utterly lucid multigenerational memoir in which the experience of fatherhood and the demands of masculinity are delicately parsed from all possible angles, it stood out for me for the extraordinary quality of Cunnell’s prose: glancing, agile, heartsore, preternaturally perceptive and above all, tender. A unique, and uniquely beautiful, book.'

Melissa Harrison, Financial Times Books of the Year


There is so much aching love in this book, such pain and beauty. Behold, and rejoice.

Tim Winton


Dazzlingly beautiful...this is truly heart-stopping writing: a unique and hard-won perspective unfolded in lucid and unforgettable prose.

Financial Times


There's something special about the writing...A superb book about a man, his emotions, his family, a father who disappeared - and a son who appeared.

William Leith, Evening Standard.


One of the most good-hearted, big-souled books I’ve read.

The Guardian


In a little over 200 pages, this book manages to be all kinds of exceptional: an urgent, agonising exploration of fatherhood, masculinity and family and a testament to the power of the written word to reach out to us in dark times. Above all, it is a hymn to the "shaping axe" of human love.

Sunday Express


Artfully written, a meditation as much as a memoir, the fragments of his life presented with a novelist’s eye for detail and language. Images of brightness, of sun and shadow, make a prism of the book. Narrow ideas of what makes a father, what makes a son, are opened out into a rainbow of possibilities.

New Statesman


The clarity of its lovingly drawn characters and landscapes mark it out as the work of a word-worshipping novelist. There is nothing prosaic about this memoir, it's immensely moving. Any parents struggling with the psychological challenge of a trans teenager would benefit enormously from reading this bighearted book.

The Big Issue


This is a mesmerising exploration of love, parenthood, identity and gender, written with great sensitivity and honesty.



Deeply affecting; there are some things stronger than blood.

Literary Review

Essential reading. Agonisingly beautiful and honest. One man's uncompromising testament to love.

Sarah Winman


This book tells the story of how family is made. It tells it frankly, unexpectedly and in such a way that both family and expectations are rewritten and renewed. I couldn't put it down. Bold, brave, beautiful - much more than biology. This is life itself.

Jackie Kay


I admire Cunnell's eye, his precise notation of light and water, whether in Mexico or Brixton, and the emotional commitment of his book. There is a resilience here that is on intimate terms with powerlessness.

Adam Mars-Jones


This tender yet hard-boiled memoir is a searing exploration of parenting and gender-creation?Cunnell deserves the accolades he will receive for his book's painterly, masculine honesty.

Socialist Review


A miracle of a book: sad, wise, strong and hopeful.

Sunjeev Sahota


Jumping with beautiful compression through decades, handsomely written, honest and deeply moving, Cunnell's remarkable memoir is a work of guts, grit, and love.

Richard House


Awe-struck. Muscular, poetic, and just bursting with love.

Emylia Hall


Cunnell has succeeded in writing a deeply felt, intimate, honest and restrained memoir in lucid prose. As he explores masculinity and the family, he pays homage to the master of writing by omission, “Papa” Hemingway, whose “iceberg theory” is worth reiterating: Write about what you know, but don’t write all that you know; grace comes from understatement; create feelings from the fewest details needed; forget the flamboyant. Fathers & Sons is a memorable and manly classic.



A modern masterpiece.

Cathi Unsworth


Father & Sons explores what it is to come from a family, what it is to start one, and what it is to raise one. It explores what we do to each other within that embrace, bad and good, and what we can do better, even while we fail. Cunnell's memoir is cast in light, and water, and bodies. It is a memoir burnished with love and goodwill. It will leave you watching the world differently.

Naomi Wood


A beautiful, moving, and marvelously honest book. I relished its resolutely masculine point of view, especially on such a subject, and the tenderness and sensuality with which Cunnell depicts child-rearing.

Kate Clanchy


Fathers & Sons, Howard Cunnell’s remarkable and beautifully written book, opens up layer upon layer of the perils, and bliss, of domestic and familial existence and its historical precedents. Like a representative of the unconscious, Fathers & Sons is set in Cunnell’s familiar watery world: a detective on a global stage, he plumbs the depths of his own psyche to discover extraordinary revelations. A riveting work, Fathers & Sons takes you to utterly unexpected places.

Chris Salewicz


With Father & Sons, Howard Cunnell reminds us what true artists do with all the mistakes they've ever made. They turn them into art. Dazzling and memorable, here is a strong and moving mosaic depicting the wayward mystery of our souls.

Austin Collings