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Customer Review

on 23 April 2016
Peter Gray is a horse veterinarian and has published ten books on the nurturing, care and physiology and psychology of horses. Now he turns to his native Ireland for a memoir about his beginnings - and with that a lot about Ireland, both mythology/magic aspects, the history and the political struggles, but most of all it is about family and how being involved in Ireland shapes a future and a state of mind, ‘a memoir about a different Irish family whose sufferings are equally tragic - four dead babies, eldest son killed in an air crash. For all the good things about Ireland, the church and the courts can still ruin people’s lives and that’s what my book is about. Especially if aided by a sociopath.’

Peter’s writing is casual and warm and laced with humor and wisdom in equal amounts. He opens his book with a description of a first meeting at age fourteen, and rather than summarize that, his words are quotes here: ‘It’s the spring of 1955 and I know someone called G M is coming to meet my sister Alice, they’re in the Girl Guides together. Alice is a year older than me, dark haired and brown eyed, at school with nuns in Eccles Street. We get on okay. But, heading for the gate, I’m consumed by a creepy sensation. Something or someone is telling me I’m going to marry this person.’
It is this sort of lilting thought and dialogue that makes this book such a joy to read. Peter provides a map of where he is going (or has been) in this synopsis: ‘Writing a memoir is a personal and somewhat intrusive exercise; it can be a duty, it can be a compulsion. Premonition falls+ into the latter category and even now I have to ask why. Having spent much of my life entertaining the thought, my natural inclination always was to turn away. I’m a horse vet, not a writer. But there we are. Certain inclusions were critical. The silver spoon in Derrygarron which, though I was tiny then, still sits like a beacon in my mind. Then there was the barn they lived in after being ejected from their home and the nearby strong flowing stream that spouts out of a hole in the ground - their water source, no doubt. It still spooks me. Imagination still asks how they managed to survive the trauma, how they died and why they were shunted into a hovel. Then there was the constant mention of Ballyaddon itself. I found a contact on Google and went there. As a boy in Portlaoise, there was a drip-drip of more information; though my experiences there as a student would be even more significant. This was my first time to feel like a voyeur, particularly when meeting members of families whose past interlinked with those of mine. I’ve met many prominent people over the course of my life, but how come I met the man who blew my father off the road in an ambush – nearly 40 years later? And the very family who chased the Moores out of Laois; the people my family bought their land from after eviction. Meeting two ex-Black and Tans later was equally strange. Why these things? Then Fermoy, where the same theme carried on and why did it feel so familiar? God help us.’

This is Peter Grey’s life and Peter Grey’s Ireland! And it is a terrific read. Grady Harp, April 16
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