Bibliofemme Bookclub An Irish Bookclub

January 10, 2012

Memoir by John McGahern

Filed under: Bookclub Books,Irish,Biography — The Historian @ 3:07 pm
Memoir Book Cover Memoir
John McGahern
Biography, Irish

Meeting: 14th December 2006

Sometimes bookclub books are chosen carefully; sometimes they occur by default. Memoir is one of the serendipitous accidents. A last minute trip to the bookshop before the last bookclub resulted me being unable to get seven copies of my book of choice. At the last minute, I saw a stack of Memoir and, as it’s been on my Must Read list since it was published, I gathered my half dozen plus one and crossed my fingers that no one had read it. Memoir is the unvarnished account of McGahern’s childhood which, as the Writer pointed out, stretches from his birth until his parents’ death. His beloved schoolteacher mother died while he was still a young boy and the description of his loss is something that few readers will be able to read without being moved. The happy childhood that he enjoyed while she was still alive is vividly depicted; their walks to school, the flowers, hedgerows and landscape that she loved; their shared dream of McGahern becoming a priest and celebrating mass for her.

Then there is his father. An overbearing bully of a man for whom outward appearances were more important than treating his family in a decent manner, McGahern depicts him as a man very much of his time. He beat and ill-treated his children, didn’t visit his wife before she died, picked arguments with all about him. McGahern writes of those experiences in a very matter of fact way, never invoking victimhood, and instead looking to understand his father’s actions. Memoir is the story of the making of a writer and all his childhood experiences are grist to that mill. The writing is carefully wrought, beautifully considered and the Ireland that McGahern invokes is very much the land that my generation grew up in during the 1970s and early 1980s, both its community spirit and narrow mindedness. A wonderful book. 4/5 The Historian


Score awarded by Bibliofemme: 4 out of 5

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