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Memoir by John McGahern
Published by Faber in 2005

This is the story of John McGahern's childhood; of his mother's death, his father's anger and bafflement, and his own discovery of literature and his ambition to become a writer. At the heart of the book is an unembarrassed homage by a loving son to a woman who protected him and his sisters from his father's unpredictable moods. His memory of walks with her in the lanes near their rural home, of her naming flowers for him and of his joy in her presence, is recovered with great lyrical tact. The account of her courageous endurance of illness - with almost no support from her policeman husband, who was living in his barracks - is unsentimental and unforgettable. McGahern describes an adolescence dancing attendance on a secretive, brutal and mercurial man who had only spasms of affection to give his bereft children. Often he reasoned with them by using his fists. McGahern's description of the fields and quiet roads of Co. Leitrim catches the subtle beauties of an often poor landscape of hill and bog.

The memoir is also a great portrait of Ireland in the 1940s and 50s, a time of frugal comfort but also of low expectation and depression for many people in a country that seemed to have no future. It ends with McGahern’s return to live in Leitrim with his wife and the death of his father, difficult to the last.

‘Memoir is a book to stand supreme in the Irish canon as an example of autobiography without egotism.’
Declan Kiberd, Irish Times

‘In a tremendously distinguished career, he has never written more movingly, or with a sharper eye.’
Andrew Motion, The Guardian

‘This is also the story of a boy finding a way out of the limits of his life through words. The elation in his discovery of books is tangible. When his father, in old age, asks him accusingly: 'What is your aim?', McGahern replies: 'To write well, to write truly and well about fellows like yourself.' In this, his finest book yet, he has done so with understanding and compassion.’
Stephanie Merritt, The Observer

John McGahern was born in 1934 and died on March 30th, 2006.
Amongst Women was shortlisted for the Booker prize in 1990.

By the same author
Amongst Women
The Barracks
Collected Stories
The Dark
Getting Through
High Ground
The Leavetaking

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