Mercier Press £9.99
Frank McCourt has a lot to answer for. Since the success of Angela's Ashes, a glut of memoirs have hit Irish bookshelves as others cash in on the widespread interest in the Ireland of yesteryear. What's somewhat different about this particular book is that it was the author’s niece, Kathleen Barr, who put it together. She had the arduous task of editing the 170,000 words contained in the original manuscript, written by Devlin in the early 1980s shortly before his death, and producing a book fit for publication.
The finished work is a fascinating story, written by a naturally gifted storyteller but ultimately, it disappoints. Paddy Devlin led an extraordinary life, taking him from the tiny community of the Rock in County Donegal to the beach at Dunkirk during World War II. He recounts the details of his life-story with a true writer's touch. His insight into life in rural Ireland in the early part of the 20th century is invaluable, reminding how much this country has changed over the past 100 years.
However, the book does not flow smoothly, which is unsettling for the reader. Editor Kathleen Barr may have been too ambitious in her selection, and would have benefited from covering a shorter time span in the author's life or being more ruthless in her choice of what to include. Although the story of Devlin's life is definitely one worth telling, tighter editing would have improved its overall effect.