`Me and Mine' does what it says on the tin - it is a warm-hearted memoir of a family who, one by one, emigrated from rural Ireland to London in the 1950s. It was a time when landladies could, quite legally, advertise rooms to let with `NO DOGS, NO BLACKS, NO IRISH', yet still they came, swelling the building sites, pubs and dance-halls of London with their exuberance and zest for life.
Anna May Mangan paints a spot-on portrait of her family that perfectly captures the period. Her family members come to life through her witty writing and she doesn't pull her punches at all - she talks of her father's love of gardening and his petty thieving from his employers with equal affection and devastating honesty. This is no saccharine tale - life was tough for Irish immigrants, some of whom were barely literate, and the female members of her family had a particularly hard time of it. Not only did most of them marry feckless wastrels, but one by one they succumbed to cancer and neither Anna May nor her sister have been spared this particular genetic inheritance.
But if it was a malignant fairy who cursed the Mangan women with this cruel disease, two good fairies countered the curse by bestowing on them the gifts of humour and courage. It is these qualities that shine through the book and which, as much as the excellence of the writing, make it a cracking good read.