Particular, Penguin, £16.99
Memoir-writing is enjoying a renaissance. A new approach to the traditional dissection of familial relationships was sparked by the success of Helen Macdonald’s award-winning H is for Hawk. Adam Mars-Jones’s meandering memoir paints an affectionate but slightly dispassionate portrait of his father, a distinguished high court judge.
His father’s career was defined by a series of high profile victories including a case against Bond creator Ian Fleming who was accused of plagiarism, but his battle with dementia proved unwinnable. While some might find it jarring that Adam Mars-Jones places himself so centrally in the narrative, it spawns one of the most moving passages where he describes coming out to his homophobic father.
Mars-Jones Senior attempts to reason his 23-year-old son out of his sexuality, but eventually becomes a supporter of gay rights. His son finds the shift disconcerting and exasperating, almost as if his father were trying too hard to make amends for his past bigotry: “Dad had to go too far” he sighs.
The problem with Kid Gloves is that it skirts round the book’s central relationship. Mars-Jones avoids linear narrative, flitting between his father’s Welsh upbringing and his own struggles when he lost a partner to Aids. The result is a fragmented portrait of a once brilliant man, which, although fluently written and often entertaining, ultimately leaves the reader cold.