I am woefully behind with blogging so I'm only getting round to posting my reviews of my April reads.
And I haven't even started my May book which may turn into my June read.
Just as Roddy Doyle's description of Dublin in 'The Commitments' might have been at odds with what Bord Failte (the Irish tourism board) was trying to promote, so too his portrayal of Ireland's fight for freedom isn't one that you'd find in most history books.
The central character is Henry Smart, who right from the moment he is born is a second class citizen and a painful reminder to his mother of her firstborn, the Henry of the title.
Henry grows up in a Dublin of grinding poverty and slums, of men and women old before their time who find solace in alcohol. His mother never recovers from the loss of the babies who became 'stars' in the night sky while his one-legged father is a hitman providing security for one of the city's most popular brothel. Soon Henry and his younger brother are fending for themselves on the streets.
By the time Henry is 14, he's fighting with the Citizen's Army in the GPO during the 1916 Easter Rising and the description of Dublin under siege is superb. He later joins the Irish Republican Army and becomes one of Michael Collins' right hand men during the War of Independence. Doyle pulls no punches in his account of the bloody nature of war. There's a sense of disillusionment also, as Henry realizes that some of those fighting for Irish independence will, in their own way, become a new ruling class and the rights of the plain people of Ireland will once again be ignored.
Henry's romance with Miss O'Shea is another thread in the story, with the passionate teacher refusing to remain in the background making tea.
Altogether a most enjoyable and insightful read.
The other book I read was 'French Women Don't Get Facelifts' by Mireille Guiliano, the author of the hugely successful 'French Women Don't Get Fat' and 'French Women for All Seasons.' If you've read her previous books, you will be familiar with her mixture of anecdotes and helpful hints, this time repackaged for an older market. Subtitled 'The of aging with style and attitude', the book dishes out a lot of common sense about eating, exercise, drinking lots of water and a little wine, taking vitamins and planning your wardrope so that you don't end up looking like 'mutton dressed as lamb' as my mother used to say. There's probably nothing in it that you wouldn't find in magazines but Mireille writes with a beguiling tone and gives advice like an old friend.