A Dublin Girl: Growing up in the 1930s

A Dublin Girl: Growing up in the 1930s

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by Elaine Crowley
     
 

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Elaine Crowley's mother had two ambitions: To be "on the pig's back" (out of debt and with some money to spare) and to have a private house. Meanwhile, she lives with her husband and three children in one room in a Dublin tenement over a shop, sharing a bathroom on the landing with the neighbors. Elaine is the eldest, her charming, handsome father's pet, and also an…  See more details below

Overview

Elaine Crowley's mother had two ambitions: To be "on the pig's back" (out of debt and with some money to spare) and to have a private house. Meanwhile, she lives with her husband and three children in one room in a Dublin tenement over a shop, sharing a bathroom on the landing with the neighbors. Elaine is the eldest, her charming, handsome father's pet, and also an observer: of the crowded streets of the district in which the children play; of Iveagh market; of her mother's visits to the local money-lender; of the nuns at school, the same one her mother and grandmother went to. She is also the innocent witness to her father's infidelity, a participant in her mother's effort to end the affair and the terrified observer of her father's brutal beating of her mother. She gets her first job at age fourteen in order to support the family as her beloved father succumbs to TB, the plague that haunts the district. And finally, ironically, both her mother's wishes come true.

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Editorial Reviews

Library Journal
In this powerful memoir, Crowley, the author of seven novels published in England, tells the story of her working-class family's descent into poverty as her father succumbed to tuberculosis and her mother remained in denial about the seriousness of his condition. She also presents a vivid picture of tenement life in Ireland's capital in the years leading up to World War II. In a work reminiscent of Betty Smith's A Tree Grows in Brooklyn (1943) and Frank McCourt's Angela's Ashes (LJ 8/96), Crowley deftly imitates the oral storyteller's art through the use of short, staccato sentences and fragments. While the memoir (originally published abroad as Cowslips and Chainies) recounts the narrator's own coming of age, a major focus is her much-adored father, a 20th-century Everyman whose weaknesses and strengths combine to manifest the universal human condition. Highly recommended for all public libraries.Denise J. Stankovics, Rockville P.L., Vernon, Ct.
Booknews
Crowley writes a memoir of her tumultuous childhood growing up in Dublin, the daughter of a fierce and contradictory mother and a handsome, philandering, confused father. First published in 1996 in Ireland by The Lilliput Press Ltd. Annotation c. by Book News, Inc., Portland, Or.
The Boston Globe
[A] wonderful memoir filled with the sights, sounds, and smells of a Dublin that is gone forever.
Kirkus Reviews
This memoir of a Dublin girlhood is well written but lacks immediacy. Novelist Crowley (The Ways of Women, 1993, etc.) matter-of- factly recounts her growing up in the slums of Dublin, from an inner-city tenement to a project house outside the center of the city. Hunger does not figureher father has a steady job as a hearse driver, but it is Crowley's mother's determination that provides for her family, as she sometimes visits the pawnbroker or the moneylender. It is hard not to draw comparisons between Crowley's Dublin and Frank McCourt's Limerick. Both authors recount 1930s childhoods in the slums of Irish cities under the specter of tuberculosis. As firstborn children, Crowley and McCourt were both expected early in adolescence to share in the responsibility for their family's support. McCourt's success, however, is hard to follow. Crowley's writing is adequate, but it is by no means as vivid as McCourt's. She keeps her readers at a distance, rather than involving them in the action. What does stand out in Crowley's narrative is her unwavering love for her father and, at least in childhood, her lack of compassion for her mother, who in typical Irish fashion is the backbone of her family. Her father's affair with a younger woman almost causes him to leave the family. However, the prevailing social code of the time is stunning: Crowley's mother reveals the affair to the young woman's aunt, thus putting a stop to her husband's plans. Her mother's forbearance of her husband's unfaithfulness and the beating he gives her upon learning she has thwarted his escape would appear saintly to any reader, but Crowley faults her mother for not being forgiving enough. Her father is doomed,though, and ends up with tuberculosis. A childhood affectingly told, though without sufficient intimacy.

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Product Details

ISBN-13:
9781569471128
Publisher:
Soho Press, Incorporated
Publication date:
02/15/1998
Pages:
172
Product dimensions:
5.80(w) x 9.12(h) x 0.78(d)

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