Tuesday, March 9, 2010
Brendan O' Carroll's Agnes Browne Trilogy is comprised of: The Mammy, The Chisellers, and The Granny. Each book is short (under 200 pages) and tells the story of Agnes Browne and her seven children's lives in a working class Dublin neighborhood. On the whole, Agnes and her brood eke out an existence in tough economic times by depending on each other and using humor to lighten otherwise dark moments.
We are introduced to Agnes Browne in The Mammy, the first book in the trilogy. This book was also made into the movie "Agnes Browne" starring Anjelica Huston. As the book opens, Agnes Browne has recently lost her husband (Red) and her feelings about his death are mixed. We soon deduce that Red was not the best of husbands and liked to drink too much; at the same time, Agnes recognizes that this is a traumatic moment for her seven young children and she does grieve for the man she married and the father that her children have lost. This scene humanized Agnes for me; despite her foul language and apparent callousness, she is a mother at heart and all her efforts to hide her feelings cannot disguise the fierce love she has for her family.
In The Chisellers, we again meet the Browne brood a number of years on from the scene of their father's funeral which opened the first book. The children have grown into teenagers and young adults and are trying to forge lives for themselves - although they do struggle to separate from their mother. She is a powerful force in all their lives and change is difficult for her so she tenaciously holds on to her children and their lives under one roof. But other changes are afoot - due to a revitalization effort in their Dublin neighborhood, the family is being moved to housing in the suburbs of Dublin. Other challenges face the family (I don't want to reveal any spoilers) but they meet those challenges with their unyielding loyalty to each other and signature, although at times slapstick, humor. Overall, this was my least favorite of the three books - I didn't feel there was a lot of action and some of the humor fell flat for me in this one.
In the final book of the trilogy, The Granny, the Mammy becomes a Granny as her children begin to have their own children. Although Agnes has now grown used to the independence of her children and her relationship with Pierre, a Frenchman living in Dublin, is flourishing (and exploring some interesting ways to spice up their sex life!), she struggles with getting older and the moniker "Granny" only serves to remind her of her advancing age! Despite the different directions taken by all the children - only a few are in Dublin now while the rest are in England and other parts of Ireland. I am not usually a fan of books which end with everything all tied up nicely and, although that does happen to a degree in this book, I found the end so heartwarming that I was able to overlook its "perfection"!
This trilogy of novels is not perfect - the books are brief and they do not explore many issues with any depth. The humor can seem slapstick at times and the use of foul language runs rampant throughout. Despite these flaws, however, I enjoyed the three books; the Browne family with their indomitable matriarch, Agnes, grew on me!
These books qualify for the Ireland Reading Challenge