My Father’s Daughter: Memories of an Australian childhood
by Sheila Fitzpatrick
Melbourne University Press, $27.99 pb, 260 pp
Even the cover design of Sheila Fitzpatrick’s memoir gave me something to ponder. The title, which signals the father–daughter story, is linked with an engaging seaside photograph of the two of them. The father’s swimming trunks and the daughter’s bathing cap have an authentic 1940s look. Add to that a bland subtitle, Memories of an Australian Childhood, and the tough confrontations of the text may come as a surprise.
The subtitle is misleading in more than one way. Sheila Fitzpatrick’s childhood in Melbourne, brilliantly evoked, ends halfway through the book. Next come Melbourne University; the first steps in her distinguished career as an internationally respected historian; friends and lovers in a time of social and sexual freedom; friction with both parents, unresolved; then the ‘Escape’ from Australia and postgraduate years at Oxford, followed by the author’s first period of study in Russia.