“Daddy” (2020) by Emma Cline

Short story collection, published by Chatto & Windus, an imprint of Vintage, September 2020, paperback edition, 266 pages. ISBN: 978-1-784-74371-0.
Daddy | Prose & Paper

Emma Cline’s stories have been published in The Paris Review, The New Yorker, and Granta. She got a major book deal for The Girls (2016) and won prizes for her writing. And a while ago, her first book was all over Bookstagram, which is how I heard of her.

While The Girls is still sitting on my bookshelf, unread, I recently decided to read her short story collection Daddy – perfect for the commute to work. It “examines masculinity, male power and broken relationships, while revealing […] those moments of misunderstanding that can have life-changing consequences,” according to the blurb.

That is exactly what the book is about. And yet, I have no idea what each of the ten stories actually are about. As much as I like her style of writing, I am not particularly excited about the characters’ and stories’ vagueness. In their review, one Goodreads user described the stories as “unfocussed,” and I find the expression quite fitting.

It is neither the story nor the characters that I found memorable, it is the excellent writing. The stories in Daddy only give a glimpse into the lives of the characters, and they lacked substance. There is no character development, no growth, no learning, no apparent message. Funnily enough, in an interview, Cline said that she actually did not want to write with any kind of message.

So I guess she did achieve what she set out to do. It’s just that I personally do like stories that give me something to think about, which this collection didn’t do. Maybe I am missing the point? Anyway, I do think they have a lot of potential to be developed into actual stories, novels maybe, or a TV series.

If you want to know more about the book, I recommend watching this YouTube clip where Cline answers a handful of questions about the collection: