ON US THY POOR CHILDREN by Robert Cranny

ON US THY POOR CHILDREN

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KIRKUS REVIEW

Autobiographical fiction, honestly felt if unevenly dramatized, focusing on the Guiney family of post-war Dalkey in Ireland. The family is poor, resolute, and fatally flawed: the father, a baker, is the hardest working of men--but he also drinks, gambles, and thinks only of himself; he's so proud and petulant, in fact, that he refuses a bequest of land down in Wicklow. And father Guiney's pride ultimately will prevent his extremely bright eldest son, Paul, from going to secondary school (which, in Ireland at the time, is private schooling). So Paul instead gets a job working for the Guinness brewery. But, though a brewery job is the best possible spot for uneducated lads, he soon leaves it in disgust, emigrating to England instead. . . while younger brother Jackie (the narrator) has it even rougher: unable to pass the Guinness qualifying exam, he's all at sea. And when Paul--frustrated to the point of suicidal depression--returns home from England and promptly disposes of himself into the sea one stormy night, Jackie vows to escape all this, to leave for America. Debut-novelist Cranny enters into these memories intensely: ""All the hearts showed themselves vaguely to each other, and they sensed the pain, and they all walked around it denying it."" And the dreary, severe family situation is convincingly evoked. Still, the narrative never accumulates much shape or momentum, leaving this a series of effectively bruised reminiscences rather than a fully involving novel.

Pub Date: Feb. 19th, 1981
Publisher: Dial