A breakthrough novel of suburban loneliness and subversion—“her style, spare and singular, cuts through the decades like a scalpel” (Rachel Cooke, The Observer)
Bourgeois housewife Ruth Whiting is “paralysed by triviality,” measuring out her days in coffee mornings, glasses of sherry, and bridge parties—routines that barely disturb the solitude of her existence. Her husband spends his weeknights in town; their daughter, eighteen-year-old Angela, is at Oxford; and their sons are at boarding school. Then Angela accidentally falls pregnant, and Ruth must keep her own past from repeating itself.
First published in 1958, Daddy’s Gone A-Hunting shocked critics with its “feminine rage” (New York Times). It captures the suffocation of a repressive marriage and the desperate longing for connection between a mother and daughter who must join forces in a man’s world.
Penelope Mortimer(1918–1999) was the author of nine novels; one collection of short stories; two volumes of memoir, the Whitbread Prize-winning About Time and About Time Too; and a biography of the Queen Mother. Her screenwriting credits include the script for Otto Preminger’s Bunny Lake is Missing (1964), which she co-wrote with her then husband John Mortimer. She was also a film critic for The Observer.
"Penelope Mortimer’s 64-year-old novel is a powerful argument for letting women choose when and whether they become a parent . . . With Daddy’s Gone a-Hunting, she steps lightly into a sparse and immensely tricky genre, the literature of parental regret . . . Reading Mortimer, I was reminded again and again of Merritt Tierce’s 2021 New York Times essay—published decades after Daddy’s Gone a-Hunting was written—outlining what getting pregnant at 19 had cost her. 'My personhood was erased,' she wrote, 'and overwritten with MOTHER before I even knew who I was.'"
– Sophie Gilbert, The Atlantic
"Originally published in 1958, a full decade before abortion was legalized in the U.K., the book is as salient a study of the disparate views and persistent inequities around reproductive health care for present-day U.S. readers as it is illuminating of midcentury English attitudes and conditions. A wry dissection of domestic despair and affluent ennui and a topical introduction to Mortimer's body of literary work."
– Kirkus (starred review)
“Mortimer peels several layers of skin off the subjects of motherhood, marriage, and monogamy.”
– Nick Hornby, The Believer
“Better dialogue, more deftly characterized individuals or a prose style more precise and firm is not often encountered in modern fiction. Mrs. Mortimer is impressively expert.”
– Orville Prescott, New York Times
“A clinical dissection of life among the well-heeled . . . Layer after layer, the social fabric is stripped, to reveal the pitiable spiritual nullity it conceals . . . Unlike most satirists, Mrs. Mortimer, for all her ruthlessness, never gets ice in the heart. Her victims never degenerate into abstract Aunt Sallies: to the bitter end they remain live, suffering individuals . . . Mrs. Mortimer is a moralist who attains her ends without preaching a sermon: and that, I suspect, is one definition of a good novelist. With brilliant formal economy, sharp characterisation, and a few neatly ironic symbols, she diagnoses our modern spiritual malaise in terms of the individual. It is a remarkable and deeply disturbing achievement.”