Samuel Goldbloom AM (1919- 1999) was a well-known peace activist in Australia. After the Second World War he became a prominent member of the Australian Labor Party and was a founding member of the Congress for International Cooperation and Disarmament. Goldbloom was a secret and loyal member of the Communist party and remained uncritical and loyal to the cause of the Soviet Union even as the excesses and antisemitism of the Stalinist regime became public and colleagues became progressively more critical. My Father’s Shadow is a well written and thoughtful memoir written by his eldest daughter, now a resident of Castlemaine, Sandra Goldbloom Zurbo.

The book explores the impact Sam Goldbloom had on his daughter politically, where for much of her life she was “in his shadow”. Her father’s political activities meant that as an adolescent, Zurbo had a range of experiences including attending peace conferences in Indonesia, dancing with President Sukarno, meeting with the African American singer Paul Robeson and falling asleep while listening to a tedious speech by President Krushchev in Russia.

At home, Sam Goldbloom was a difficult, demanding and sometimes violent father. One of the themes of the book explores how sons and daughters in these family situations deal with the mixed messages that come from parents – loving and kind and brutal and punitive. Zurbo, who writes in detail about her father’s dying days ends by saying that after all, she knew that she loved him and he loved her.

As a former child protection worker having seen many children deal with the impact of physical and emotional abuse it was heartening for me to read of the many years of therapy that enabled Zurbo to come out from her father’s shadow. The book is well worth reading for those interested in the left wing politics and peace activities of the Cold war era, and even more interesting for those who want to explore the impact on children of living in family environments where parental messages oscillate between love, generosity, caring and fun and punishment, humiliation and violence.

Listen to a fascinating interview with Sandra Goldbloom Zurbo on a Hepburn Community Radio podcast of the Second Thursday Monthly Book Review where these issues were explored with the author. You can listen to the podcast here.

Signed copies of the book can be purchased at Paradise Books. 

Lesley Hewitt is a Daylesford resident and an elected Councillor for Birch ward. She has a book review program on Hepburn Community Radio on the Second Thursday of every month.