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5.0 out of 5 starsA Bittersweet, Triumphant Debut
Reviewed in the United States on August 9, 2016
This was a sweet, thoughtful, beautifully written first novel by an author I expect great things from. The lead character, Jamie McCloone, was one I found myself rooting for, and identified with in a way I haven't with many characters in modern fiction--his vulnerability, his faults and foibles, all mixed with such an intense desire to please and be of use to others... There needs to be more men like this in novels today!! Add to this immensely appealing hero an extremely strong supporting cast of characters--his lovable friends Rose and Paddy, the ever-helpful Dr. Brewster, and, as a lovely feminine counterpart, the intelligent, somewhat stifled "Lily", and you have the makings for a truly addictive page-turner! One solitary note of caution: If you are, or were raised in the Catholic faith, there are many graphic, disturbing images relating to Jamie's boyhood growing up as number "Eighty-six", a boy with no name in an orphanage run by a series of particularly vicious priests and nuns. These passages are not for the faint of heart--or doubtful of faith.
3.0 out of 5 starsfrom Jamie the child to Jamie the man
Reviewed in the United States on May 6, 2018
The Misremembered Man (2008) is set in Ireland from the mid-1970s. Jamie McCloone was ten-and-a-half months old when he was abandoned in a shopping bag on the steps of the St. Agnes Little Sisters of Charity convent in Derry, Ireland, in 1934. From then on, he has cursed his mother, all women in general, and nuns in particular. He hates change. Jamie is now a 41-year-old farmer, living off the land, in a limestone cottage in Duntybutt, two miles from Tailorstown, which he inherited from his adoptive aunt Alice and uncle Mick. His companion is his dog Shep. Patrick and Rose McFadden live on the farm next to Jamie. They think Jamie should ‘get himself a woman’ – a wife.
Jamie is depressed; Lydia is oppressed. Do they meet? In the 1970s it is the time of letter-writing and a slow postal service. Intertwined in the theme of loneliness is the background to Jamie’s depression – the cruely of the orphanage, abuse by the nuns, and the emotional challenges in life. The author describes Jamie the child, and Jamie the man. Slow paced, uncomfortable in parts, it takes an effort to reach the end.
Jamie McCloone is a farmer, living on the farm in northern Ireland his adopted parents left to him. In his early forties, he longs for companionship and a family so he answers a 'Lonely Hearts' advertisement from schoolteacher Lydia Devine. She's a spinster, living and taking care of her invalid mother. The story alternates from Jamie's time in the orphanage as a small boy where he was abused and starved to adult Jamie and Lydia's lives. The orphanage sections are very dark; the boys suffered terribly much as the girls did in the Magdalene laundries. This cruelty is offset wonderfully by the poignant and funny sections with Jamie and Lydia as adults. There were a few scenes that made me laugh out loud. The author manages to balance the story well. Her writing is lyrical and her dialogue is masterful. Schoolteacher Lydia mentally corrects and awards points for correct grammar. Jamie and his friends are rougher, and they speak in an Irish dialect that works perfectly. I understand this is a debut novel. It's just lovely, and I can't wait to read more from this author.
Reviewed in the United States on November 11, 2017
A young orphan boy somehow survives the life he was thrown into ; the never-ending toil, the cruelty of those who controlled his life. A young lady is raised in a most comfortable home and takes care of her frail mother miles away from the simple farm where a lonely young man struggles with his life. How fate deals with these two people who would seem to have nothing in common makes a moving and interesting story which is hard to put down until the last page is turned.
I loved “The Misremembered Man!” The descriptions of the time spent in an orphanage and being “farmed out” to do farm labor were difficult to read, but these descriptions were not disturbingly graphic. Knowing that this conduct on the part of priests and nuns actually happened cannot be ignored. Certain chapters that described incidents in the life of the now-grown man left me laughing so hard that I had to wipe away tears. There is one description of a situation involving a toupee that had me laughing out loud, and his conversations with a woman named Rosie were hilarious. The Irish people may have been poor in material things, but they certainly are rich in language. I highly recommend this book. High praise to the author!
Reviewed in the United States on December 29, 2018
The author obviously has a great appreciation for a good hearted person and a healthy disgust for religion that has a record of disgusting, hurtful treatment of children. I'm sure there are many that can attest to the reality of her assertions against the Catholic church. I also agree with her that "paradise" will be on earth, NOT HEAVEN. At Gen. 1:27,28 God told the first man and woman that he had created that their "purpose in life" would be to populate the earth and care for all the animals too. God's purpose has not changed. Psalms 37:9-11,29 tells of God taking action to cleanse the earth of wicked persons and then the righteous would inherit the EARTH to enjoy life forever on it. Rev. 21:4 says God will also remove tears, pain and death from mankind. I learned this and more from JW.org or stop and listen to Jehovah's Witnesses next time they come to your door to share the wonderful future the Bible has promised!
Reviewed in the United Kingdom on October 24, 2017
This a simple story set in village life in Ireland. It is so beautifully told and Christina McKenna manages to paint an everlasting picture of the horror of the Roman Catholic children's institutions that we've all heard about. The truth of the brutality is desperately heartbreaking, causing a deep sadness that made me cry. A lot.
It begins in the 1930's then moves on to the 1970's, at which time a good deal of incidental humour is injected as the characters develop, allowing the reader to move from tears to laughter. Lovely.
5.0 out of 5 starsExcellent thought provoking read
Reviewed in the United Kingdom on October 16, 2017
This was an excellent read, the sort of book that lingers in your mind long after reading it. I will definitely read it again in the future for, with the knowledge of hindsight, I shall be able to make more sense of earlier events in the book. It is a very harrowing read at times, especially the sections dealing with how young boys were 'cared for' in the Irish orphanges, and although this is a work of fiction I expect it is probably a true account of these institutions. I am not a religious person at all, but would welcome the thought that these monsters masquerading as saintly beings would get their just rewards in hell. Despite these heart-rending accounts though the main tenet of the book was uplifting and it had a very satisfactory ending.
Reviewed in the United Kingdom on September 3, 2019
I really wanted and expected to be enthralled by this book, but for me it missed the mark. Far too many long descriptions – people, rooms, activities, everything….. – held up the narrative and became turgid. I imagined the author viewing a scene and determinedly recording every detail with which to delight/bore her readers.
Having said that, after reading the first few chapters in full, I enjoyed skim-reading for the first time and this took me to the end. This way I grasped the plot and the characters without working my way through the long over-detailed passages.
The irony was, however, that the denouement was rushed. Having spurned the lengthy descriptions of feelings, facial expressions, places and actions in the main body of the book, I was frustrated and disappointed to find that the satisfying ending was rushed and sparse! I ended up yearning for a bit of the author’s long-windedness so that I could enjoy the happy turnaround of the main characters’ tragic lives.
5.0 out of 5 starsA story that touched me deeply - made me laugh and cry in equal measure. Wonderful!
Reviewed in the United Kingdom on March 27, 2018
I cannot remember a book I have enjoyed more. Not only are the characters painted so clearly and believably but the landscape and period of Ireland is also perfectly depicted. I laughed with Lydia and James as they muddled their way towards their romantic meeting after corresponding in a lonely hearts column. However, this is not a book about romance and the ending is not at all what one imagines (but I don't want to spoli it for any other readers here). Under the light-hearted main plot is a tragic sub plot - the story of James' childhood in the cruel orphanage. I felt so angry for the poor child, treated terribly and not even given a name, known only by a number. That he managed to grow up to be a functioning human, albeit flawed and fragile, is a miracle. This story has everything in; laughter and tears, romance and the lack of it, love and hatred, children and the elderly. I soon learnt not to make a guess at what was going to happen as the story cleverly avoids cliches and yet, thankfully, has a happy ending. I was on the edge of my seat at the end, hoping that there would not be another tragedy.
Reviewed in the United Kingdom on September 28, 2017
When I first started to read this book I didn't quite know what to expect. It's such a moving story about a man searching for a friend, a companion, someone to love and be loved by after an unhappy childhood. I won't divulge the ending I will leave you to read the book and find out for yourselves! Enjoy!