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.