Alice Pung is a talented writer and it’s understandable why she has won prizes for her books. In this memoir, Her Father’s Daughter, she cleverly uses third person point of view to talk about herself and the relationship she has with her father. She also has an interesting writing style and manages to find unusual metaphors to describe life events.
Initially I found Alice’s father overbearing, controlling and manipulative. However as the book progresses and more of his motives and history are revealed, I became more sympathetic to his attitudes. Alice’s mother doesn’t play a big role in the account, except in supporting her husband.
The book doesn’t always make for pleasant reading as Alice describes her father’s experiences in Cambodia during the time of the Khmer Rouge. Reading an almost firsthand account is quite distressing. Again Alice has been clever and left this until about half way through the book when you have made emotional connections and are curious about what really happened. The chronology of this book was sometimes difficult to follow because of these flash-backs, but it didn’t distract from the story.
This is an insightful book on many levels – the relationship between a father and daughter, the effect of post-traumatic stress, growing up as a migrant in Australia, navigating cultural norms, seeking independence as an adult child and more.
Overall, a perceptive and well-written memoir.