I’ve just finished reading Dear Lupin having heard extracts read out on BBC Radio 4. I loved the reference to Pooter from the classic Diary of a Nobody and had to get hold of my own copy. I consumed it quickly, drawn into the claustrophobic world of Roger Mortimer and touched to the core by his love, forgiveness and constancy for his wayward, hapless son, Charlie.
This is a world of the British upper class (definitely not the middle class as both Charlie and his father insist). Names are dropped that you wonder about: is that the famous Hislops? The circles that the Mortimers move in are full of gin-drinking, hunting, antique-dealing, banking, posh toff divorcees and Brigadiers and heiresses. Theirs is a closed world of public school, Oxbridge, the Turf Club and drink driving.
This is a story, a real life account, of a father-son relationship. The book is made up of a series of letters written by Roger Mortimer (a POW after capture at Dunkirk and racing correspondent for the Sunday Times) to his son Charlie, whose addiction to booze, drugs and shifty living continually exasperates him.
Mortimer comes from the generation of stiff-upper lip that this class of Brits is renowned for, a man who should not be able to express his emotions for his son, to his son. A son who has endured Eton and a brief stint in the army. A son who is decidedly anti-establishment, lurching from one odd-job to another, from one stint in hospital to another. But these letters, written regularly and persistently over thirty odd years, demonstrate this father’s steadfast love for his son with wit, self-deprecation and a gritty determination. To have all this recorded in print is precious. And, looking back at these letters that miraculously survived across continents and London boroughs, Charlie knows it. This book is a testament to that.