Daddy, We Hardly Knew You

by Germaine Greer.Knopf, $19.95. After the death of her father, Ms. Greer undertook to trace his early activities, about which she knew little that seemed consistent or even plausible. Ancestorhunting can be a tiresome subject to all except the hunter, but Ms. Greer’s investigations are far from tiresome, partly because she has no hesitation in converting molehill annoyances into mountainous obstacles, but principally because the story that she gradually unearths is decidedly strange. It describes certain peculiarities of Australian society, allows for discussion of the siege of Malta in the Second World War, and reveals, rather touchingly, the author’s abiding resentment of parents who neither understood nor appreciated her scholarly and literary achievements. Unmasking Daddy is a fairly harmless revenge for that indignity.