“ Paperback: 314 pages / Publisher: Headline Review / New Edition: 4 Jun 1998 „
BLESSED ART THOU A MONK SWIMMING - MIRIAM DUNNE
I have been reading some very different books recently courtesy of the Bookcrossing shelf in the Derby Westfield Centre.
I know they say don't judge a book by the cover but the cover did attract me. Firstly the title grabbed my interest being such an obvious mis interpretation of the second line of 'Hail Mary' and also the picture shows a girl skipping obviously set in the fifties the time when I was a child. Finally under the picture the tagline says " An Irish novel of wit and insight."
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Miriam Dunne lives in Ireland on Sherkin Island in County Cork and this is her first novel. I have had a look and can't find if she has written any further books or not.
ABOUT THE BOOK
Basically this is a lighthearted look at a young Catholic girls growing up in Dublin in the 1950s. The family live next to an asylum from which the inmates regularly escape. Mother is a cleaning fanatic and dotes on her elder daughter who it totally bonkers and very highly strung with a pretty nasty temper. Father is very fond of Marian, rather too fond in a slightly questionable way I felt. He is however seen by mother and Celine as a provider of money and useless beyond that. It is certainly not a happy cosy family at all.
Mother is very concerned with the neighbours and what they think but seems to work quite hard in the home and outside as a cleaner and laundry person too.
Dad is not happy in his work nor at home and there is always a hint of some secret with regard to a past romance for mother and maybe marrying the Dad as a saving face situation but it is never actually stated.
Celine is highly strung, selfish and pretty objectionable all round but mother seems to dote on her.
Marian is feisty and very funny at times. She has been kicked out of school and has to find her own school as neither parent seem to think it is important, she finds a boarding school which father is not happy about and yet Marian seems to think it will be a barrel of fun!! Little did she know.
Being a Catholic sex and reproduction is a 'no no' topic and Marian is quite interested in the how and why! She is informed by one of the more knowledgeable girls that it is all in the first few lines of 'Hail Mary' but neither Marian nor I, can work out that one.
Her education gets cut sshort once again and financial problems in the family mean that arian has to get some work. She meets a young lad and the mysteries of the facts of life are no longer so mysterious.
I found this a light easy read with a lot of tongue in cheek humoir and poking fun at the Catholic views and their secrets and mysteries concealing much more than just the facts of life.
Mother seems to me to have a very 'interesting' relationship with the priest and anther preist seems to want a more interesting one with Marian which mother unwittingly encourages.
I loved the style of writing and chuckled at some of the situations and things said but behind the funny parts there is a very sad story. I think this is what makes it so clever , the story could be quite depressing but her lightness of touch and humour take you through and at times you are actually smiling or even laughing at the situations or the things said.
I also enjoyed the fact that secrets were hinted at and there were definitely mysterious histories alluded to but we never find out so have to make or own decisions as to whether what is hinted at took place or not.
The end is a bit od a surprise too and to me it leaves the story open to a sequel but I am mot sure if there is one as I can't find that out anywhere.
This is grittier and funnier than Maeve Binchy but is still very obviously an Irish writer and as I read the book I could hear an irish accent speaking.
I loved the fact that the character were neither black not white but had character flaws that made them human. There were times when you could cheerfully have slapped the mother and yet you couldn't help but feel she was struggling to live up to something beyond her capabilities.
I don't say this is the best book I have ever read. It is an easy light entertaining read that does also make you glad you were not born an Irish Catholic in the fifties. I could picture the house, the living room and the kitchen as well as the characters as the author did a great job bringing them to life.
Well let's put it this way, I enjoyed it but it will be one I quickly forget. I wouldn't pay a lot of money for it but once I was reading it I had not desire to abandon it as it did draw me in and I wanted to find out what happened to the characters in the story.
If you see it in a charity shop or someone passes it on to you then it is an enjoyable read but don't go paying good money for it as it won't stay with you for long , it is like watching a drama on TV, enjoyable and an easy read but not deep or memorable.
Thanks for reading. This review may be posted on other sites under my same username .