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Memoir [Kindle Edition]

John McGahern
4.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (18 customer reviews)

Print List Price: £9.99
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Book Description

'As wise and compelling a book as any of his elegiac and graceful novels.' David Mitchell

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.

'Long before Frank McCourt made an entire industry out of twinkly eyed accounts of the poverty and institutionalised brutality of mid-twentieth-century rural Ireland, John McGahern, Ireland's greatest living novelist, had already shone wise and unsparing light on this same world ... Memoir is the full, unadorned story of his childhood and adolescence in Leitrim ... His finest book yet.' Stephanie Merritt, Observer

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

'I have admired, even loved, John McGahern's work since his first novel ... Memoir strips the skin off his fiction as he faces a desperate early life with great force and tenderness.' Melvyn Bragg

Product Description


"'Ireland's greatest living novelist.' Observer"

Book Description

John McGahern's astounding memoir of his childhood, his mother's death, his father's anger and violence, and the beginnings of the dream of becoming a writer, described by Hilary Mantel as 'a glowing masterpiece.'

Product details

  • Format: Kindle Edition
  • File Size: 416 KB
  • Print Length: 288 pages
  • Publisher: Faber & Faber Non Fiction (19 Feb. 2009)
  • Sold by: Amazon Media EU S.à r.l.
  • Language: English
  • ASIN: B002RI91N0
  • Text-to-Speech: Enabled
  • X-Ray:
  • Word Wise: Not Enabled
  • Average Customer Review: 4.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (18 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: #54,729 Paid in Kindle Store (See Top 100 Paid in Kindle Store)
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Customer Reviews

4.8 out of 5 stars
4.8 out of 5 stars
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
76 of 77 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Vivid map of author's unique terrain 13 Dec. 2005
If you are already familiar with the novels and short stories of John McGahern then not much of this will come as a surprise: the overbearing father; the mother’s death; the recurrent allure of Oakport.
But this compelling autobiography is far more than a journey over old ground: in ordering and expanding those elements he has used in his fiction, McGahern has finally given us a vivid, comprehensive map of his unique terrain. It can be read and enjoyed in its own right but there is an additional pleasure in seeing the scattered pieces of his fiction assembling themselves into a single coherent shape.
McGahern’s relationship with his brutal father dominates the book but this is no howl of rage or score-settling: the son examines his father as far as he is able (and there is a pleasure for the reader in the precision of that examination) but by the end seems to accept there is only so much he can understand. And despite the strong shadow his father casts, joy is interwoven throughout the account, in his relationship with his mother, in his capacity for delight in the familiar landscape (even when carrying out the many tasks imposed on him by his father) and in the moments of stolen solitariness in the boat at Oakport which prefigure his becoming a writer.
Shorn of sentimentality or pseudo-poeticism, John McGahern’s Memoir feels like the culmination of his writing life. I cannot recommend it highly enough.
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31 of 31 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The master has passed 7 April 2006
By Gareth Smyth VINE VOICE
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
The master has passed and we must learn to go on without him.
He once wrote the writer's task was "to look after his sentences, nothing more". And so it is. But his sentences were always lost in the reality he touched - often painful, sometimes beautiful. He was unfailingly brave.
Memoir maybe confirms things we already knew, or things we once glimpsed, in his life and in ours, for sure in mine. It's an account of his childhood, the non-fictional version of his fiction - as if these terms made any sense with regard to his work.
As it turns out, he was tidying up before he would pass. And now he's gone.
Thank you, John McGahern, for everything.
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27 of 27 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars an evocative and wistful delight 1 April 2006
By MrPower
I have read that, sadly, John McGahern has recently died. I spent most of Boxing Day 05 reading this book, in virtually one shot as I could hardly bear to put it down, it was such a delight to read. It is beautifully written and tells the story of the author's Irish childhood and of how it placed him intellectually and emotionally as an adult in the larger world. It reads honestly, his love for his mother is intensely moving, the writing is rhythmical and measured. It made me cry, but my tears were unusual, because they were not drawn from easy sentimentality or from pity. I felt grateful to the author for sharing an emotionally lucid and truthful recollection of his early life which drew me into his family in his world, so far from my own.
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10 of 10 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Wonderful writing 23 Feb. 2007
Ireland has been blessed with many brilliant writers over the years and John McGahern is up there with the very best. Beautifully written, I found the pages that dealt with the death of his mother some of the most moving that I have read and the passage often comes back to me. Also interesting to see that so many of the themes he uses in his other books have their roots in his own upbringing.
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19 of 21 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A living masterpiece 16 April 2006
A great book. It's rich in detail about that part of Ireland (Co. Leitrim) in the 40s and 50s and McGahern's prose transports the reader to the characters, fields, noises and streets of those days. His love for his mother is told with poetic feeling and is unbearably moving in parts not least when they revisit the vacant house after her funeral. He's just as effective in capturing the shift in power in the relationship he has with his brutish father. The other characters of family and friends are clearly drawn as is the role of the Catholic church in McGahern's life. Perhaps he is too fleeting in last quarter about his adult life but there may have not been enough time. Wonderful.
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16 of 18 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The beauty is in the truth 10 May 2008
John McGahern's Memoir (like his life) is dominated by the figure of his father - a tyrant, unpredictably violent and charming by turn. I longed for the boy to grow up and and achieve his independence, but this too is threatened and harassed by the pull of his father. One aspect which disturbs him greatly is that he can find no explanation:

"I knew him better by then than I knew any living person, and yet I had never felt I understood him, so changeable was he, so violent, so self-absorbed, so many-faced. If it is impossible to know oneself, since we cannot see ourselves as we are seen, then it may be almost as difficult to understand those close to us, whether that closeness be of enmity or love or their fluctuating tides. We may have an enormous store of experience and knowledge, psychological and otherwise, but we cannot see fully because we are too close, still too involved."

The father is also a representation for the authoritarian, over-bearing parental Irish state, whose political and religious authorities, the forces of law and order and the educational establishment all form part of the same controlling force - one the Stazi would have been proud of!

"Much has been written about the collusion of Church and State to bring about an Irish society that was childish, repressive and sectarian, and this narrative hardly suggest otherwise. People, especially young people, will find ways around a foolish system, and difficulty can often serve to sharpen desire, but many who could not were damaged or were driven into damaged lives."

Perhaps most damaging and damning is the fact that no one would even say a word against the father, even in private, never mind take a stand to prevent him abusing his children.
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars A must read!
A book that everybody should read. I read lots of McGahern's books but with this one I understand all his other books. A deep book which makes you to think again and again.
Published 22 days ago by Sommerled
5.0 out of 5 stars Excellent Memoir
One of the very best memoirs I have ever read. McGahern's beautifully nuanced writing draws you into the world of 1950/60's Leitrim, with its inhabitants, its fields, streams,... Read more
Published 1 month ago by Sabina
4.0 out of 5 stars Four Stars
A very enjoyable book and beautifully written. A good description of country life.
Published 3 months ago by Golfmad
5.0 out of 5 stars Memoir
This is a truly great life story. John McGahern seems to touch our very soul with his plain and simple way of writing that comes straight from the heart to the pen.
Published 4 months ago by Dorothea Jean Hutchinson
5.0 out of 5 stars Five Stars
Item as described
Published 6 months ago by mrs imelda kincella
5.0 out of 5 stars Words can't do justice...phenomenal!
I simply could not put this book down. The way it is written is beautiful. How McGahern describes his wonderful 'beloved' mother will leave you in bits. Read more
Published 9 months ago by poppy96
5.0 out of 5 stars Brilliant
I've been meaning to read this for quite some time. A brilliant book with a hard edge that at times makes for an uncomfortable reading journey, but McGahern's sharp and honest... Read more
Published on 3 April 2013 by Edward Power
5.0 out of 5 stars Must read
A delghtful book. Brings rural Ireland to life and makes the mundane magical. The story lives on after you have read the last word. Read more
Published on 14 Dec. 2012 by Moya Goatley
5.0 out of 5 stars A beautiful book
whether you were brought up in Ireland in the 50's or the 70's, this book reflects the culture and atmosphere of the country over this period. Read more
Published on 9 Dec. 2011 by DJ Powwow
3.0 out of 5 stars lightly paced
This book was chosen by a member of our bookclub. We had just finished reading Russell Brand's My Booky Wook, and you couldn't have 2 books so different from eacy other. Read more
Published on 12 July 2011 by aimoir
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