In My Father's Den (2004)
- Summaries (3)
A disillusioned war journalist's return home is blighted when he becomes implicated in the mysterious disappearance of a teenage girl he has befriended.
Paul, a prize-winning war journalist, returns to his remote New Zealand hometown due to the death of his father, battle-scarred and world-weary. For the discontented sixteen-year-old Celia he opens up a world she has only dreamed of. She actively pursues a friendship with him, fascinated by his cynicism and experience of the world beyond her small-town existence. But many, including the members of both their families, frown upon the friendship and when Celia goes missing, Paul becomes the increasingly loathed and persecuted prime suspect in her disappearance. As the violent and urgent truth gradually emerges, Paul is forced to confront the family tragedy and betrayal that he ran from as a youth, and to face the grievous consequences of silence and secrecy that has surrounded his entire adult life.
When his father dies, Paul Prior, a world-renowned war photographer returns home from Europe, for the first time in seventeen years, to an isolated landlocked town in New Zealand. His arrival stuns his brother, Andrew, a local ostrich farmer. The two siblings, worlds apart, barely recognise each other. Andrew, a God-fearing man, pressures a reluctant Paul into staying to help sort out the sale of their father's cottage and the adjoining orchard. Paul visits the now dilapidated property and re-discovers the old den tucked away in the equipment shed. It belonged to his father, Jeff, who had secretly harboured a love of wine, literature and free thinking philosophy. When Paul as a child had accidentally stumbled upon this wondrous, book-lined universe, he had been included in his father's secret, promising never to tell anyone about it. Once he starts cleaning up the property, Paul surprises sixteen-year-old Celia in the secret den. She has been using the derelict hide-away as a private haven to write her stories and to fuel her dream of escaping her small town and living in Europe. Paul insists she leave, unaware that she is the daughter of his ex-teenage-lover, Jackie, (now the local butcher) and could be his daughter. Paul is persuaded, by his former principal, to take up a temporary relief position at the local high school teaching English. Celia is one of his students. Recognising something of himself in her passion for writing, thirst for knowledge and experience of the world, he now welcomes her visits at the cottage. It isn't long however, before their growing friendship comes under scrutiny from a judgmental Andrew and an envious Jackie. The two are forbidden from seeing each other in private. Despite the dire warnings, Celia and Paul continue to meet secretly. And then, in the middle of winter, Celia goes missing. It is assumed that she has run away and that Paul was the last to see her. He denies knowing her whereabouts. When Jackie discovers a packed suitcase beneath Celia's bed, along with a passport, a more sinister fate seems likely and the police enquiry becomes more urgent. Paul, now concerned for Celia, admits he knows she wanted to go to Spain, making him promise not to tell a soul. In a town he once called home, Paul is blamed for the disappearance of young Celia. He faces not only mounting suspicions and violent threats within the township itself, but his own wavering doubts about his involvement with Celia. As the harrowing and urgent truth gradually emerges, Paul is forced to confront the family tragedy and betrayal that he ran from as a youth, and to face the grievous consequences of silence and secrecy that has surrounded his entire adult life.
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