Prequel to O’Carroll’s Agnes Browne trilogy (The Granny, 200, etc.).
Agnes Browne was the plucky Dublin housewife who became a widow in the early 1960s and raised her six children through hard work, good luck, and loyal friends. But widowhood came late in her life, and O’Carroll now takes us farther back to show us the unusual family Agnes came from—on her mother Connie’s side at least. Connie Parker-Wills was the daughter of a wealthy Protestant industrialist who ran the iron foundry where Agnes’s father Bosco Reddin worked. But when Connie fell in love with Bosco and announced her intention to marry him, she was briskly disinherited and thrown out of the Parker-Wills home. She and Bosco lived happily in tightened circumstances with Agnes and their second daughter Dolly until Bosco (a labor organizer) was killed in a riot during a strike. Agnes then took on the responsibilities of looking after her increasingly feebleminded mother and rather wild sister (eventually sent to juvenile detention for shoplifting). She was supported through all of this by her classmate and best friend Marion Delaney, who helps Agnes open a produce stall in the Moore Street market and encourages Dolly to emigrate to Canada and get a new start. The best thing that happens to Agnes is meeting Redser Browne, a cheerful, handsome scamp of a man who loves her almost as much as he loves gambling and drink. Hopeless as a provider, Redser is still devoted, warmhearted, and charming—and soon he and Agnes are arranging a wedding (with Agnes several months pregnant). Connie Reddin’s one desire is to see Agnes married in the same bridal dress that she and her mother wore, but priests in the 1950s were strict about who could wear white. Can Agnes charm her way?
Likable, yet a disappointment: an awkward story that seems patched together from spare bits of the previous trilogy.