Skip to main content

Review: Mary O'Grady, by Mary Lavin


Pages: 391
Original date of publication: 1950
My edition: 1986 (Virago)
Why I decided to read: AV/AA
How I acquired my copy: bookshop near work, August 2011

Mary O’Grady is the story of one woman and her family during roughly the first half of the 20th century. The novel opens with her marriage to Tom and move to Dublin from her native Tullamore, and the birth of Mary’s 5 children—Patrick, Ellie, Angie, Larry, and Rosie.

I found it kind of hard to like the main character sometimes. She’s so concerned with her children that there’s very little introspection. She doesn’t have time to think because she’s so busy thinking about other people; so our perception of Mary is colored by her children’s opinions of her. Because of her stifling, it’s hard for her children to gain independence—which is exactly why they flee from her—Patrick to America, Larry to the priesthood, etc. So this is mostly a domestic novel; in fact, with the exception of one or two scenes that take place outdoors, most of the action takes place inside. Therefore there’s a kind of claustrophobic feeling to the novel.

The character development of the novel is a little strange, too; for example, either the characters keep thinking that Rosie is younger than she actually is and treat her that way, or the author kept forgetting, because the timeline was a little bit off. The novel is divided into sections that focus on one member of the family or a couple, but I thought that the novel’s physical structure this way was a little bit scattered. Also, the ending was a little bit sketchy; I kept thinking that the author was trying to cram in as much plot and information in as she could. I’m not sure that this novel is my favorite that Virago have published, but the subject matter just wasn’t my cup of tea.


Comments

Unknown said…
Sorry you did not enjoy this one more. Better luck with the next one.

Happy Reading
Unknown said…
I haven't read 'Mary O'Grady' yet, but I think I'll put it off a little while longer. I have read some of Mary Lavin's other work, and liked it well enough. I particularly like 'A Wet Day,' and I'm glad my Irish Lit. course introduced me to some of these writers - I probably never would have found her work if it weren't for that. I wrote a blog post on Lavin's 'The Will' and Edna O'Brien's 'The Creature' recently - have you read anything by Edna O'Brien? If you'd like to read my thoughts, the post can be found at this address:

http://www.LearningandWriting.com/1/post/2013/03/lavin-and-obrien1.html

Thanks :)
Elissa.

Popular posts from this blog

Review: Forever Amber, by Kathleen Winsor

Forever Amber takes place in the 1660s, immediately follwing Charles II's ("the Merry Monarch") return of the Stuarts to the English throne. The book features Amber St. Claire, a young woman who starts out as a sixteen-year-old country girl, naieve to the workings of the world. She immediately meets Bruce Carlton, a dashing young Cavalier, with whom she has a passionate love affair in choppy intervals throughout the book. They have two children together, but Bruce won't marry her for the reason he tells his friend Lord Almsbury: that Amber just isn't the kind of woman one marries.

Upon following Bruce to London, he goes to Virginia, leaving her to fend for herself. What follows is a series of affairs and four marriages, with Bruce coming back from America now and then. Amber's marriages are imprudent: her first husband is a gambler, her second is an old dotard, her third locks her up in the house for days and won't let her out; and the last is a fop who a…

Review: This Rough Magic, by Mary Stewart

Pages: 254Original date of publication: 1964My edition: 1964 (William Morrow)Why I decided to read: it was 90 degrees outside at the time and I decided it was time to read another book by a favorite authorHow I acquired my copy: from Susanna Kearsley, December 2009Sometimes, whether or not I decide to read a book depends on the weather. Mary Stewart’s books are best read on either very hot or very cold days; and since it was 90 degrees out one weekend a couple of weeks ago, I decided that this one would be perfect. And it was.This Rough Magic takes its title from The Tempest, a play from which this novel takes off. Lucy Waring is a struggling actress who comes to visit her sister on Corfu. One of her neighbors is a renowned actor who’s taken a bit of a sabbatical and his son, a musician with whom Lucy comes to blows at first. This Rough Magic is vintage Mary Stewart, with a murder or two, a mystery, romance, suspense, and lots of magic thrown in. Lucy is your typical Mary Stewart hero…

Review: Joy in the Morning, by Betty Smith

Pages: 294
Original date of publication: 1963
My edition: 2010 (Harper Perennial)
Why I decided to read:
How I acquired my copy: Barnes and Noble, Phoenix, January 2011


A Tree Grows in Brooklyn is one of my all-time favorite books and I’ve read it, oh, half a dozen times, so I was interested to see how Joy in the Morning would compare.

Set in the late 1920s, Joy in the Morning begins when Annie, aged 18, comes to a small Midwestern college town where her fiancĂ©e, Carl, is in law school. The novel opens with their marriage in the county courthouse, and follows the couple through their first year or so of marriage. It’s a struggle, because Carl and Annie are basically children themselves, for all the ways in which Carl tries to appear more adult-like.

Annie is endearing; she’s ignorant but a voracious reader, reading everything from Babbitt to War and Peace. Betty Smith’s novels are pretty autobiographical; Joy in the Morning is (unofficially) a kind of sequel to A Tree Grows in Brooklyn—cert…