Strong, original, wrenching account of growing up out of wedlock in a small Irish town, by memoirist (Home Before Night, 1980) and playwright (Da) Leonard.
Leonard writes with an elegant Irish accent, and his evocation of place is uncanny. Like Flann O'Brien, he writes about the town of Dalkey a great deal, often with a marvelous sense of humor. (Priests especially rouse him to outstanding efforts.) Irony and farce are everywhere, along with a calm, unblinking acceptance of human nature. His mother's periodic alcoholism (coinciding with the Christmas season) is a powerful, fully faced moment, and the dogged pursuit of sexual congress is an ongoing obbligato that evokes Dylan Thomas and a world long gone. ("I'm Protestant,'' says one promising lass, having deduced his Catholicism, and walks off with a smile; another girl's dying father struggles out of bed to investigate.) The bedrock is Leonard's long, hard, Horatio Alger climb from the ultimate obscurity of unwanted bastardy. From success in school exams and the start of a civil-service career (which represents as much success as he and his family could ever reasonably expect), Leonard struggles forward via tiny, hilarious, amateur provincial theater groups, drunk on whatever writer he is reading at the moment. All the while, his ambiguous origins (even as a child he is known by two names) mark him, as such things do in small communities. He makes it anyway.
Powerful, funny, and moving: an effortless series of incidents full of droll wisdom.