My Son, My Son a Sad, Wise Novel

In My Son, My Son, Howard Spring takes the Biblical tale of King David’s painful relationship with his beloved, despicable son Absalom and sets it in early 20th century England.

Novelist William Essex narrates the story. Having grown up poor, Essex determines that his son, Oliver, will have everything he missed as a child.

Essex’s Irish immigrant friend Dermot O’Riorden wants to see his son, Rory, fulfill his own youthful dream of being an Irish freedom fighter.

Both men come to regret having gotten their wishes.

Like the Old Testament story, Spring’s novel is a twisted tale seeped in sex, narcissism, and violence related in a matter-of-fact tone. The title makes Oliver’s fate clear. The awful fascination of the novel is watching how others react to the golden-haired schemer.

In retrospect, William sees Oliver’s duplicity and scheming. He never, however, seems aware that this son takes after him. Oliver’s flaws are his father’s flaws writ large.

Nellie Essex senses that and pities her husband while grieving for her son. Perhaps that’s why Oliver respects his mother and despises his father.

Masterpiece Theatre aired a superb adaptation of the novel, but the novel is just as fine seen on the screen of your imagination.

My Son, My Son
By Howard Spring
Grosset & Dunlap, 1938
649 pages
1938 bestseller # 3
My Grade: A
© 2008 Linda Gorton Aragoni

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Linda G. Aragoni

I make big ideas simple for learners. In eight sentences, 34 words, I taught teens and adults to write competently. Now I'm writing guides to turn willing volunteers into great nursing home visitors.

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