LIGHT OF OTHER DAYS by Pauline Bracken


A Dublin Childhood
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Cheerful sketches of a ’40s and ’50s girlhood in coastal Blackrock, on the southeast of Dublin, evoked by the author as a once-fashionable watering place retaining traces of its former elegance. In 14 chapters organized by subject (“Blackrock,” “Home,” “Religion,” “Food,” “Music,” “Christmas,” etc.) Bracken traces her youth, spent from age five onward at a rambling home called “Rosemount” with five brothers and sisters, parents, and assorted domestic help. The center of home is the kitchen, provisioned with a giant Aga cooker that kept it “permanently warm.” Another leading presence is Bracken’s father, Charles Edward Kelly, founder and illustrator of the Dublin Opinion, an organ of political humor. Bracken, herself now a journalist, provides a palpable sense of him as a working artist; his proximity to the national broadcasting service brought him into the orbit of musicians and writers, who often visited them. Her anecdotes and details effectively build a sense of milieu, though this is more a lighit social detailing than a probing personal history. Recollections of childhood pranks underscore the family’s playfulness and intimacy. The kitchen, for instance, offered “superb laboratory conditions” for doctoring report cards: “My sister was a highly skilled counterfeiter and she used Polar White, a kitchen bleach, to whiten out the offending figures, and a variety of inks for matching. Great care was taken not to wrinkle the paper, working with cotton wool and tweezers.” Bracken also reports undertaking hesitantly the drowning of kittens from the family cat’s frequent litters; the role of illness and death in the general culture; the importance of the Catholic Church to her people; and the “otherness” of the Protestants who shared their world. Sentimental but not wretched; uneventfully sweet description of a passing generation.

Pub Date: Sept. 1st, 1998
ISBN: 1-85635-032-0
Page count: 144pp
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15th, 1998