Nuala Ní Chonchúir
First Sentence: Your ma used up all the juice again.
You’re a ten year-old girl. You live in rural Dublin with your ma and your two younger brothers. It is 1980. This is basically the mind you are going to have to enter if you start reading this book, a mind you will find yourself occupying with remarkable ease due to the skill of the writing on display. This novel is written entirely in the second person which gives the book its unique narrative voice. It is not, as I type, 1980. Nor am I a ten year-old girl. As I was reading this book however, it was easy to imagine I was. If you enjoyed Nude, or books like Tatty by Christine Dwyer Hickey you will find a lot to enjoy here. I thought this was a great read, particularly the first part, and I loved stepping into the mind of the ‘You’ in the title. It somehow managed to evoke memories of my own childhood [not least because of weekends in Kilmuckridge spent in caravans and people constantly asking ‘anything strange or startling?’] and I found ‘Your’ thought process to be incredibly endearing, particularly her feelings on the TV news:
You decide to go on up to bed because there is nothing on, only the news, which is full of boring stuff about hurling and Margaret Thatcher.
It also brought a smile when she speaks of her ma:
When your ma is angry, she says she’s going to run off with a soldier, but she doesn’t know any soldiers, so you don’t think she will.
All in all this is a genuinely moving and often funny portrayal of a childhood ending too soon.
* * * *
Last Sentence: You’re certainly happy to see her.
Last Sentence explained: This book hinges on a tragedy. It is split into two parts, the first part ending with the death of ‘your’ baby brother. This happens when ma is away in Kilmuckridge with her boyfriend. Cora and Noel, the amiable neighbours, take You, your brother Liam and your cousin Rory for a picnic by the river. When You and Cora go for a walk, the baby is left with Liam, Noel and Rory, and their neglect results in his drowning. After this event your ma cannot cope and she is hospitalised while You and Liam are sent to live with your father in his flat, along with his about-to-give-birth girlfriend and their daughter. This is when you formulate your plan to run away with Liam and go to Wales where your school friend Gwen now lives. This plan is a relative success but you soon realise you were wrong to run away and return home to Dublin. At the end of the book ma is released from hospital and a big party is held in her house in honour of her homecoming. For all her failings you are still happy to see her home at the end of the book.
Random quote about cows:
‘Their smell is sweet and warm: a mixture of grass and milk and poo. It’s hard to believe that cows end up as stew and steak.’