My Father's House


254 pages
ISBN 0-385-25141-6
DDC C813'





Reviewed by Claude A. Guldner

Claude A. Guldner is a professor of family studies at the University of


This is a very touching and moving book. Sylvia Fraser recounts the story of growing up as a victim of incest. Her father violated her from as early as she can verbally remember and probably before. What makes the book so gripping is that the author writes about the full context of her life in bold print and then when she is being used by her father the writing changes to italics. As Fraser begins to dissociate these traumatic experiences this writing style of using two types of print confronts the reader with the split that takes place within the child and later adolescent and adult.

The author develops her story from her earliest memories of living in Hamilton, Ontario, in her “father’s house.” Her father is the head of the house and it is obvious that he views all around him as his possessions. As the author grew older she gradually started to split herself into the good girl who was a dutiful daughter, who did well in school, was popular with her peers, and even became a school cheerleader. The other part of her was the part that was involved with her father at his command. At first it was rubbing against her body, then her performing fellatio upon him, and later as she entered into puberty he penetrated her. As she became an adolescent she was unable to maintain ongoing relationships with boys because she was so frightened of intimacy which might turn to any sexual behaviour — sex had been allocated to her split-off self, not her everyday social self.

As a later teen she left home for university and maintained a relationship with a boyfriend who finally became her husband. He was kind and understanding and yet she could not really connect with him. She left him for an affair with an older man, parent of one of her early girlfriends. Finally, through confronting herself in various ways, Fraser recognized that there was a part of herself that she had blocked from conscious awareness. Through therapy she got in touch with this and finally integrated it into her central core of self.

This book is different from many accounts of incest in the style of writing. The author is a highly successful Canadian writer, and this literary style is evident in her autobiography. It is a book that one will not want to put down once it is started, even when the topic makes you angry, upset, sad, and ultimately at peace. This is a book for professionals of all types, but it is foremost a book for all adults, for it confronts us with the tragedy of this crime upon its victims.



Fraser, Sylvia, “My Father's House,” Canadian Book Review Annual Online, accessed June 23, 2024,