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March 18, 2019


#Ireland John McGahern

by N@ncy



  1. The Observer hailed John McGahern  as
  2. “the greatest living Irish novelist” before his death in 2006.
  3. The Guardian described him as
  4. arguably the most important Irish novelist since Samuel Beckett”.
  5. I never heard of John McGahern! (1934-2006)
  6. McGahern had a very challenging life, moving schools repeatedly
  7. – often for no good reason
  8. – losing his mother to cancer when he was 10 yrs old (1944)
  9. — growing up with an absentee father
  10. — enduring physical, emotional, psychological abuse
  11. at the hands of his policeman father.


  1. Memoir is an autobiographical account of
  2. the childhood of Irish writer John McGahern.
  3. It recalls his formative years in Leitrim, Ireland
  4. …,the death of his beloved mother Susan and
  5. …his relationship with his dark and enigmatic father.


  1. McGahern’s father visited the family
  2. from the  Garda barracks only once a month.
  3. All 7 children were afraid of him.
  4. His father was very mercurial.
  5. He would go from ignoring a child…to beating him.
  6. McGahern while writing this book kept farther from himself
  7. …and closer to what happened.
  8. This was at times difficult to read
  9. …how a parent could be so cruel.


  1. The turning point in McGahern’s life was the death of his mother.
  2. “She was gone to where I could not follow.
  3. Early childhood (3-15 yr)  is described for the first 60% of the book.
  4. Once McGahern reaches the age of 19….and could stand up
  5. to his father physically…the book  took on a combustive tone.
  6. The father’s  domination of the family was now being challenged.
  7. Best quote: page  273
  8. Father speaking to McGahern: “What is your aim?”
  9. McGahern: “To write well, to write truly and well about
  10. …fellows like yourself.”


Last thoughts:

  1. This book has a rhythm that connects the images in the prose.
  2. It is well written with intelligence and feeling.
  3. There are sections of the book filled with emotional intensity.
  4. The writer takes you into his private world.
  5. The Irish rural country lanes
  6. …gave McGahern a sense of peace
  7. So the memoir begins with a 3 year old boy
  8. …walking with his beloved mother.
  9. So the memoir ends the man reflecting
  10. on those rare moments of childhood security.
  11. “…I know she has been with me all my life.”
  12. I was surprised how much I liked this book!
  13. John McGahern is an Irish novelist that deserves
  14. …to be on more reading lists.
  15. #VeryTouching


Read more from Ireland, non-fiction
8 Comments Post a comment
  1. Mar 18 2019

    I had planned to read Amongst Women this year but time ran out – saving it for summer instead.


    • Mar 19 2019

      McGahern is a writer I found in G. Dawe’s Essays on Modern Irish Writing.
      I think I’ll start with The Barracks.
      McGahern was indeed ‘Amongst Women” five sisters and of course his beloved mother.
      Thanks for you comment!


  2. Michael
    Mar 19 2019

    Sounds like a powerful memoir, from a talented writer. Nice review –


    • Mar 19 2019

      This is a great book to learn more about the author.
      ….because if influnced his writing in so many ways!
      How do you survive a Irish abusive childhood…and stll
      turn out to be a great writer?
      Thanks for you comment!

      Liked by 1 person


Trackbacks & Pingbacks

  1. #TBR Update 06.08.2019 | NancyElin
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  4. #NonficNov: Week 1 Year in Non-Fiction | NancyElin

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