Review of Scourged by Michelle Dooley Mahon

Michelle kindly sent me a copy of her book in exchange for an honest review.

I love a good quote, so I was immediately happy to open the book and find several quotes at the beginning of the book.  My two favourites being:

‘You need chaos in your soul to find the dancing star.’ Friederich Nietzsche.

‘Sometimes one word can recall a whole span of life.’  Edna O’Brien.

Michelle and I already have something in common, she seems to revere and respect Edna O’Brien as much as I do.  Hoorah!

On to the book.   Written as a dual narrative, Scourged tells the story of Siobhán, during two different time periods.  Written in Siobhán’s  voice as she is growing up and throughout her life, where she talks about meeting her beloved husband Tom and about her children, Michelle included. And the other part of the narrative is Michelle describing what happened during a ten year period during which Siobhán became increasingly ill with Alzheimers.

There were several aspects that struck me immediately about the book after reading the first few chapters – Michelle describes life in Ireland in such detail that it is like going on a cultural and deeply intimate journey to the country.  She talks about the traditions, the singers, writers and cultural phenomenon in Ireland during the 70’s, 80’s and the present day.  It is joyful.  She is also extremely funny.  There were so many laugh out loud moments in the book that I could hardly keep up.   However this is not a light book.  It deals with a serious subject in a heartfelt way.  Michelle’s love for her mother Siobhán is evident from the start.  They shared a deep bond as is much in evidence as the book progresses.   I almost cried when I read that she quoted from Shakespeare the refrain from Macbeth:

“to morrow, and tomorrow, and tomorrow,

creeps in this petty pace from day to day,

to the last syllable of recorded time,

and all our yesterdays have lighted fools,

the way to dusty death, Out, Out, brief candle!”

When my own father was dying of cancer, he repeated this refrain often and it was yet another cultural reference that I appreciated, among many throughout the book.

Michelle’s great gift is observation.  She describes the characters she meets both in the nursing home and as Siobhán herself talks about her life and that of Michelle’s.  My favourite parts were the cultural references such as in 1979 when she says (as Siobhán):

‘Beckett was alive and well and hating Paris, Edna O’Brien had left Ernest Gebler and walked from Chelsea to Wimbledon to start a new life minus the sons she adored.  Women burnt bras and started to challenge church and state, dispensing contraception from the North out of suitcases filled with french letters and pills.’

If you have ever nursed anyone through dementia or alzheimers, there will be so much in this book that you will be able to identify with.  The extreme sadness of watching someone you love disappear before your eyes is beyond horrible.  Michelle writes with such honesty and compassion, and the story of her relationship with her mother is so poignant, I had to get the tissues out several times.

There is so much in this book that I feel it needs a second reading.  It does require determination, as it is a long read and I felt the excerpts of Siobhán’s life, whilst beautiful and brilliantly written, could have done with some editing.

But you are certainly getting your money’s worth and I would highly recommend this book.     You can purchase it by clicking on the link below:

http://www.shellshock.ie/scourged

Make sure you scroll down to the bottom of the page for details on how to buy!

 

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