A DUBLIN GIRL: Growing Up in the 1930s by Elaine Crowley

A DUBLIN GIRL: Growing Up in the 1930s

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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 figure--her 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.

Pub Date: Feb. 25th, 1998
Page count: 172pp
Publisher: Soho