Like all good stories written in the first person, one is left wondering how much is real and how much is fiction. The descriptive prose shows imagination and wit and the slow-burn development of the characters is excellent, setting the scene as the book gathers pace towards the grand finale.
Of particular delight are the descriptions of the Christian Brothers and the matter of fact truth behind 'a good Catholic' education. The way the author articulates the struggle with strange accents and pronunciations is a joy: "Lion fishing" has now entered this reader's vocabulary.
The author has left me wanting more; surely a sequel developing the relationship with the irreverent Poppy is on the cards?
This deep and moving novel has the ability to make the reader laugh out loud at times and then near to tears at others as you make the journey through pubescent adolescence with the central character.
To truly appreciate the humour and fully understand the dogma of Catholicism it would be beneficial for the reader if they understood Ireland and the Irish in the era in which the story is written, but irregardless of these two advantages "Some Lessons in Gaelic" is well worth reading for the sheer beauty of literature written as it should be.
McCawley Grange is a remarkable writer which in these modern times makes such a refreshing change.
1950's Southern Ireland must have seemed a very alien place to the young sensitive English boy, Gilla Christe (the central character's Gaelic name) as he struggled to be accepted by his peers, the Christian Brothers (in some cases not so Christian) and not least `girls', as he fought his way from childhood to adolescence, and his realisation that perhaps showing off was not the best way to make friends and influence people. I laughed and cried as I travelled with him on his sometimes torturous, sometimes hilarious journey. The author has an exceptional command of the English language, and a vivid imagination. His descriptive writing brought his many interesting characters to life, especially the notorious Plunkett brothers. I had `laugh out loud' moments with Grandma Plunkett and the loveable, level headed and openly honest Poppy Boyle, and the drawings of the naked women. It's a book I will read again and again because I believe each reading will put a different perspective on how one might perceive the complex central character.
An excellent read, a book I recommend without hesitation.
McCawley Grange’s, Some Lessons in Gaelic, is one of those books you read quickly and are sorry when it’s finished. It is brilliantly crafted and the author’s flair with plot construction and narrative are evident. It is the story of a young English boy attending a Christian Brother’s school in 1950s Ireland. In the wrong hands this could have become a light-weight tale of a poor English boy bullied by evil clerics and antipathetic peers. The three dimensional characters in Mr Grange’s story, however, are complex individuals in possession of insights and failings in equal measure. Whether the events are autobiographical or fictional is not the point, what is is the understanding of characterisation that has clearly come from significant experience. The insecure and deeply flawed main protagonist just about claims our sympathy, the teachers are not just boy-beating bigots and his peers are not all ignorant bumpkins whose sole aim is to belittle the blow-in from England. I can recommend this book to anyone. It is humorous, dark and touching. It has the lot.
1950s southern Ireland is not a native place for Gilla Christe, an eleven-year-old English boy. 'Some Lessons in Gaelic' is a rites-of-passage tale charting his childhood to adolescence, in which, due to financial misfortune, Gilla and his family have been transplanted to rural Ireland in the 1950s. We share his minor triumphs. We share his lesser successes with unsympathetic country boys. We sigh for ourselves when we watch his awkward interaction with the adult world. Girls are another species, and because unobtainable (to him) frustrate rather than satisfy his first sexual cravings. Much of this goes on under the watchful eyes of the Christian Brothers, who at times exhibit a matter-of-fact brutality, at others sympathy and understanding. It's a well-plotted novel, with dark undertones and memorably drawn characters, and is told with candour, humour and a genuine sense of humanity.
'Some Lessons in Gaelic' tells the story of an 11 year old English boy as he finds himself and his family abruptly relocated to 1950s rural Ireland on account of some dimly understood financial imperative. Through his often unflichingly honest eyes we follow his small triumphs and frequently disastrous efforts to establish his position beside clumsy and unsympathetic country boys, incomprehending adults and the seemingly unattainable and indifferent objects of his first sexual awakenings - "that alien species, girls, not sisters, girls". And all the while under the watchful eyes of the sometimes casually brutal, sometimes touchingly understanding Christian Brothers.
This is a neatly plotted novel, filled with dark adventures and memorable characters, told with honesty, humour and real human understanding.
This is one of the most moving books I have read as I felt it captured the early anxieties we all suffer as young children. The story line is gripping and the characters all come to life showing that the author has really got inside the lives of both the lead boy and his friends and oppressors. I was sad when it finished as I wanted to know more of these peoples lives which says something for how it affected me and its quality of writing. I will read more from this author.
I loved this book. The author creates a wonderfully vivid and nuanced description of both the characters and 1950's Ireland. There is a scene in Nugget Nolan's shack that is so beautifully created and observed that you feel that you're in there with them. I hardly dared breathe for fear they would hear me. If you liked 'Angela's Ashes', you'll love this.
Through the experience of its often deluded and aggrieved protagonist, Some Lessons in Gaelic emerges as a witty, delicately woven tale of prepubescent turmoil in the wilds of Ireland. The novel is dark, deliciously so, yet set aside-achingly funny in its stark portrayal of a young English boy's plots for revenge, riches, murder and love. Told against the backdrop of the raging Irish Sea, and amidst the shrouded mystery of the Catholic regime, the story resonates throughout with struggles of diaspora and hormones at times as desperate and as secret in their conflict as the setting which binds them. I was at times in mind Banks' The Wasp Factory, and at others Golding' The Lord of the Flies, and yet throughout aware that I was witnessing something truly original. Whatever it may be, this is not just another book of Irish Catholic childhood.
This is a deeply moving story, beautifully told. McCawley Grange creates a powerful sense of time and place, the language is lyrical with touches of dark humour and the characters are wonderfully memorable. A remarkable debut novel - more please!