Guest Author - Mary Ellen Sweeney
The Agnes Browne Trilogy, “The Mammy,” “The Chiselers,” and “The Granny,” (a boxed set) will render life complete for every fan of Angelica Huston in the film, “Agnes Browne.” Author Brendan O’Carroll delivers the readers right into “dirty auld Dublin” and it’s a city made richer for all the Agnes Brownes in it. Have no doubt about it, our Agnes is not the only widowed mother of large broods of young ones—collectively and lovingly called “the chiselers” by their mum---in Dublin, in Ireland, or in the World, but she is the archetype.
In the first book, “The Mammy,” Agnes is strength unmatched from the day she visits the dole office for her widow’s pension, on the very day her man passes into the afterlife. To say more would be to give away too much, because hints about Agnes’s life wouldn’t be fair. There is too much love, humor, and faith found in these pages to risk spoiling the story.
Life goes on in “The Chiselers,” and what a relief! When “The Mammy” ended, I hated to leave the Brownes alone. I was worried for them. I needed to know what became of them. The family is a little older and they’re starting to make their way, but as always, there’s something going on and when one is fine, the next one down needs. And did I mention the French boyfriend, Pierre? Ooh la la.
There will never be a quiet moment for Agnes, just as she’s in ecstacy over her bingo winnings, there’s a letter from the housing authority announcing a scheme to move the tenement-dwellers way, far across town to new housing. Tenement though it may be, it’s home in that life is lived not only in but around the site, and what might be considered good news to some is definitely rocking the Browne boat, kept steady only by constant bailing and divine intervention.
In “The Granny” we’re not talking about Agnes’s mother. Yes, Agnes gets to see the fruits of her labors when one of the chiselers brings forth the next generation in this last book of the trilogy.
There’s still plenty that can happen despite the joy of baby bonnets and booties, one of the chiselers lands in jail and another is off to England—and if any of this sounds familiar, it’s been the sad plight of so many poor Irish families down through the ages, eh? But author O’Carroll gives voice to the joy that is the flip side of that coin of grief. As the Browns grow up and split up to make their own way, tragedy once again draws them back together to remember the hard times and the good times.
Don’t miss the saga of the Brownes. It took a deft hand to put these stories together. Too light and we’d miss the point; too heavy and we’d never read them through the tears. They’re just right, and they ring true. Too, too true.
Netflix has an impressive collection of Irish movies to rent. Very convenient.
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