Irish Fiction Week Review: The Mammy by Brendan O'Carroll

Tuesday 17 March 2015
Title: The Mammy (Agnes Browne, #1)
Author: Brendan O'Carroll
Publisher: O'Brien Press
Publication Date: 18th November 2011 (1st: 1994)
Pages: 176
ISBN: 9781847173225
Source: Purchased
Rating: 4/5
Purchase: Amazon
Agnes Browne is a widow of only a few hours when she goes to the Social Welfare Office. Living in James Larkin Flats, with Redsers' legacy - seven little Brownes - to support on the income from her Moore Street stall, she can't afford to miss a day's pension. Life is like that for Agnes and her best pal Marion. But they still have time for a laugh and a jar, and Agnes even has a dream - that one day she will dance with Cliff Richard.

The Mammy describes the life and times, the joys and sorrows of Agnes, mother of the famous Mrs. Browne's Boys from the daily radio soap. A book of hilarious incidents, glorious characters, and a passion for life, it is written with a sure touch and great ear for dialogue.

Despite having a TBR for #IrishFictionWeek, I remembered that I added the Agnes Browne books to my actual TBR ages ago and having finished The Mammy it was the perfect book to read to celebrate all things Irish. I love Mrs. Brown's Boys and whilst The Mammy is a little different to the programme (Agnes is only 34), it is still hilarious and had me laughing out loud throughout. The Agnes Browne that we meet in The Mammy is a less exaggerated version of her TV equivalent, but she still has all those qualities (good and bad) that made a nation fall in love with her.

Brendan O'Carroll writes a realistic and believable portrayal of 1960s Dublin, and his descriptions and knowledge of the area had me picturing it quite vividly in my mind. It's easy to really get a feeling for that time thanks to O'Carroll's authentic and at times, brutally honest account of Dublin life in the 60s. I always love reading about communities pulling together, neighbours and friends helping one another out and reading about things that today we take for granted as for us it is the norm.

It would be a shame to reel off my favourite parts of the book (there are so many) but some worth mentioning have got to be Agnes and Marion discussing 'organisms' (Agnes has never had one), Agnes attempting to explain to eldest son Mark about puberty and her arrest for assaulting a nun (with a cucumber!). Alongside the humour there are also some touching moments, and some serious ones too involving Marion. Again it's perhaps a very realistic portrayal of the time, women experiencing the same problems and often afraid to speak up about them. Being set earlier, and over a long period than Mrs. Brown's Boys we get a glimpse of the children we know as adults in the programme and they all have their roles to play in the story, especially towards the end (did that really happen?!).

The book isn't all that long and so sadly I had it read in no time but I was left feeling like I'd read a full-length novel because of how much story The Mammy has in it. Despite the differences to the TV show, fans old and new would certainly be well-advised to give it a read and those that don't like the TV Mrs. Brown might enjoy this more because of the differences. With a quite bittersweet ending, the book left me wanting to continue the story of the Browne family and so I have to read The Chisellers for Irish Fiction week.

I wanted to include the image below of an earlier cover for The Mammy, they say 'a picture is worth a thousand words' and this one really is!


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