Welcome to Eureka Street

back to site


The sins of our fathers

  • 08 December 2023
  Sandra Goldbloom Zurbo, My Father’s Shadow – A Memoir, Monash University Publishing   My Father’s Shadow tells of a daughter’s search for the reality of her father. It ends in her acceptance that that he was more than she could understand but not less than she could love. Part of the context of Sandra Goldbloom Zurbo’s memoir is also the ever-shifting relationship between religion, ideology and culture.

Samuel Goldbloom was the son of a Jewish father and mother. He left home at 14, found work and by the time his daughter was born was heavily involved as an activist in peace organisations, moratorium marches and conferences. He was consequently monitored by Australian security. In the Russian revolution and the Soviet regime, he saw the future of the world.

In his relationship with Sandra, who accepted and admired him for his political passion, he was punitive and demanding. Her childhood was enlivened by the hospitality offered to radical visitors like North Korean delegates to a Peace Conference, participation in demonstrations and overseas delegations. Samuel Goldbloom was withholding about his earlier life, and the stories he told about himself were often contradictory or unlikely. Sandra moved away from his view of the world but grew close to him in the illness of his later years. The book is the fruit of her frustrating but ultimately rewarding search for his mind and heart.

My Father’s Shadow is beautifully constructed and written. Its mixture of chronological and thematic organization matches the layers of memory recovered in its telling. It is like a three-dimensional jigsaw puzzle in which perfectly formed and elegant stories from different times and places are juxtaposed and tested for fit, so forming a pattern of meaning that is never closed.  The writer has a gift for noticing small details rich in symbolism which illuminate a diverse world. 

The theme that holds the book together in its searching, its passion, honesty and bravery, is the desire to understand and perhaps heal a woman’s relationship to her father marked by his brutality to her as a child, his constant deflection, and his economy with the truth. It was marked also by her admiration of his public commitment, by fascination with the world he opened, anger at his failings, her abiding desire to win his love and esteem, and finally by her acceptance of a life not fully understood either by her father or herself embodied in her refusal