Books

Ghosts of evening rendezvous with dad

DADDY'S GIRL by Charlotte Vale Allen

Mark Czarnecki November 3 1980
Books

Ghosts of evening rendezvous with dad

DADDY'S GIRL by Charlotte Vale Allen

Mark Czarnecki November 3 1980

Ghosts of evening rendezvous with dad

DADDY'S GIRL by Charlotte Vale Allen

(McClelland & Stewart, $14.95)

Charlotte Vale Allen’s father seduced her when she was seven years old. Too afraid to confide in a tyrannical mother who considered her a troublemaker, frantic for any demonstration of affection no matter how loathsome and tempted despite her disgust by hush money which she spent on potato chips and new pads of shiny paper, Allen was coerced into sex without intercourse for the next 10 years. Unable to vent her hatred on its source she turned it on herself. She used the backs of spoons and the sides of toasters as mirrors when brushing her hair so she wouldn’t have to face her real self, convinced she was physically repulsive. After each evening with Daddy she scrubbed the imagined dirt from her

skin until it tore. When she finally felt strong enough to reject him he said: “You’ll be back. I know you. Next time you want five or ten bucks, you’ll be back.”

Allen never went back, realizing that if she did she would probably kill him. Instead she struggled with the demons he had bequeathed her. A vital factor in this exorcism was writing: Allen has published a dozen novels and her attempt to commit Daddy to paper,begun in the year of his death, 1970, has finally resulted in Daddy's Girl. The two dangers inherent in recounting such a horrific tale—excessive sentimentality and detached clinical analysis—have been skilfully avoided. Her re-creation of nights at home with Daddy—Tuesdays and Thursdays, her mother out playing bingo, her brothers asleep, the glow of her father’s cigarette as he lay in bed waiting—is stunningly vivid. Some incidents border on pathetic farce: on her first date with a boy she liked, timidly urged to “move over a little closer,” she automatically bent over him to perform fellatio before realizing what she was doing. In the end only a schoolteacher’s loving friendship preserved her sanity and her capacity for expressing any gentle emotions at all.

Allen frequently frames her narrative with later events, especially those involving her relationship with her own daughter. Constantly afraid that she herself will turn out like her mother, Allen tends to moralize the hard-won success of her present life. Although these observations have clearly been important to her, they lessen the impact of her story—the book in itself is sufficient proof of her quietly heroic liberation from her tormented past. Against all odds, Daddy’s girl lived to bury Daddy’s ghost. Mark Czarnecki