Polly Devlin grew up in County Tyrone, on the shores of Lough Neagh, in the fifties -- but it might as well have been another time and place altogether. In this memoir she describes in witty, spontaneous and idiosyncratic prose her life as one of seven siblings in a Catholic family in Northern Ireland. 'A brooding, evocative study of Irish childhood, of the strong bonds of love and jealousy that sisters especially feel, the guilt-ridden pressures of religion, the magical countryside, the eccentric villagers. A hauntingly lovely work ...beautifully written with poetic intensity which seems to encapsulate the Irish character with all its wit and bitterness and gift for words' HOMES AND GARDENS
- Format: Paperback
- Pages: 192 pages
- Publisher: Little, Brown Book Group
- Publication Date: 04/12/2003
- Category: Autobiography: general
- ISBN: 9781844080441
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Review by starbox
While there are umpteen childhood memoirs of tough upbringings in underprivileged parts of the world, this is not to be compared.In a highly intelligent and beautiful work, Devlin recalls her early years in Ardmore, Co. Tyrone. It's not full of anecdotes - not a lot really happens, her family are relatively comfortably off and are kind to their six children.But Devlin considers such matters as family dynamics:'We were all of us often shaken by premonitory turns, which had their genesis in the exemplary foreknowledge of our lives given to us by the sister ahead in time and space. Whatever one did, the sister ahead had already done; wherever one went, a sister had been there; whatever one learnt, a sister knew; whatever one experienced, a sister had first felt. We shared so much, yet in our guarded inner lives we were defensively on our own- perhaps dreaming the same dreams or labouring under the same anxieties but rarely confiding in each other since such confidences always became confessions and were a matter of the finest timing and conjunction of moods.'The influence of the Catholic Church, the feelings of inferiority for not being Protestant, violence and drunkenness -Devlin considers these aspects of her life. She compares her youth with that of other Catholics elsewhere: when her aunt, a nun and headmistress in California, sends her yearbooks from her school, Devlin observes:'I gazed at their sunny golden faces, at their luxuriantly open expressions bearing so unguardedly down on the camera, and wondered how such expressions had been arrived at. The minds behind them, I thought, had not had to learn that they were worthless like chaff in the wind...these girls did not wait helplessly for life to arrive...they walked towards it.'Beautiful exploration of what it means to be Irish.