Into the Book


Having enjoyed the film Life With Father for many years, I was delighted to pick up a used copy of the book that inspired it.  Unlike the movie, which is one continuous storyline, the book is made up of a series of short vignettes depicting the life of the Day family in the 1890s, particularly the very characteristic Mr. Day.  The stories are written affectionately and humorously from the perspective of the oldest son, Clarence Day, and are based on true stories from his youth.

Father, the central character of every story, is what makes us fall in love with Day’s accounts.  He is strict, strong-willed, and with very particular ideas of how things should be run, and yet he’s sincerely affectionate towards his wife and sons.  Nearly every story in the book depicts some account of Father protesting — with great gusto and character — the servants, the townspeople, sickness, holidays, and the general inability of things to reach his standards, which to him, are perfectly reasonable.  Through it all, his family only finds him more lovable.

As is noted in the afterword, the book is a refreshing picture of structured and caring family life in our current culture of fractured, dysfunctional families.  Clarence remarks at one point how he was shocked at discovering that some of his friends’ parents actually yelled at each other.  Mr. Day is far from perfect, but he is a loving father, who wants the best for his children, and he loves his wife so much that he doesn’t know what to do without her when she’s ill or traveling.  While he may be a comical character at times, he is also a strong one, and the affection of Clarence towards him is evident in the writing.

There are some mild feminist overtones in some of the stories, when relating how Mrs. Day subtly gets money from her husband, and especially when talking about her trip with some friends, from which she comes back a little more independent.  It’s mild, though, and most of what we see of her is a caring and capable wife and mother.

There is some very mild occasional language in the book, all used by Father.   Only a few d words and maybe an h word or two, used to express Father’s intense personality and decided ideas.  There may be some smoking, but other than that no content.

Day’s writing is easy and humorous and gives a picture of the characters and the turn-of-the-century lifestyle that is not soon forgotten.  His tales of everyday life in the Day family, and of the loveable Mr. Day, are endearing and will capture the reader’s heart with their charm, humor, and reminders of a sweeter time gone by.

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Published on 3 October, 2012. Last updated on

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