‘An intelligent insight into a nightmare scenario’ – My Son, My Son by Douglas Gilbraith

In December 2003 writer Douglas Galbraith travelled from his home in Scotland to London in order to undertake research into a novel he was writing. He returned several days later to find that his wife, Tomako, has kidnapped their two children and taken them to her home country of Japan.

Slowly the truth emerges and Galbraith realises that his wife had meticulously planned the kidnapping of their children Satomi (aged 6) and Makoto (aged 3).  He searches their house and discovers that most photos of his children, along with their clothes and toys have also been taken. Later while reading the local paper he learns that most of the contents of their house are up for sale.

It takes time for Galbraith to establish contact with his wife and even then it is only done through deceit and slight of hand. Not being a deceitful person such actions initially cause him some distress. But his children are involved so Galbraith decides that he has no other option and he poses as a researcher from his wife’s old university in England.

Later his rouse is discovered and his wife files for a divorce. Through the law courts Douglas Galbraith learns why his wife kidnapped their children. It basically came down to two reasons, the first is that “a) she felt like it, b) because of the poor quality of sushi in the local Tesco. ”

My Son, My Son is not an easy read and will unsettle many people. Feminists will not be amused by its understandable leanings in favour of the husband in cases of child abduction. People who argue for a multicultural society in which everyone can live together in peace and harmony will not feel comfortable with its findings. Rapacious lawyers feel the full force of Galbraith’s wrath. While those of a religious bent will find their fundamentalists views severely castigated.

He pours scorn upon The Hague Convention on the Civil Aspects of International Child Abduction, the main aim of which is to secure the prompt return of wrongfully removed children and to secure rights of custody and access across the borders of signatory states. Galbraith says of The Convention “A sizeable part of it consists of liberal western wish fulfilment” and “the required words are spoken, the required gestures enacted by the publicly faithful, despite knowing there is nothing really there.” The Japanese Parliament only began legalising The Hague Convention in late 2011.

This story of abduction could quite easily have degenerated into a populist weepy, a cry on your shoulder appeal to the general public. Instead what we have is an intelligent insight into a nightmare scenario which the author likens only to a bereavement.

Galbraith also touches on the area of the right of children before the law. He examines the standing of children in society citing the Bible and the story of Abraham and Isaac right the way modern instances of the child abuse, child circumcision and murder.

My Son, My Son is a forensic study into the actions of child abduction. It is told in a cold dispassionate style, but under the surface lies a tale of heartache and red hot rage at the author’s impotency before the law. He knows he’s in the right yet can do nothing to regain custody of his beloved children.

The memoir is written with two audiences in mind. This first is Douglas Galbraith’s children whom he hopes will somehow get to read this book. Galbraith is fearful that his children will grow to forget him and that they will have heard their mother’s version of events. He’s written My Son, My Son to explain to them his side of the story. The second audience for the book is us, the general readership.

Any Cop?: It has been estimated that there are over 10,000 children of dual citizenship living in Japan who cannot see their foreign parent.  My Son, My Son is the story of two such children and the fight their father takes in order to regain custody of them. An excellent read I can highly recommend.

Joe Phelan

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