An exuberant Angela's Ashes meets When Did You Last See Your Father?; an intoxicating memoir of Ireland and being Irish (and Anglo-Irish as well) from one of literature's most flamboyant characters. John Walsh is one of literature's party animals and ever-present commentators, and he writes with terrific wit and panache. The Falling Angels is a book about being Irish and about the way the Irish see the English and vice versa; and how it feels to fall in between. It opens with the death of Walsh's mother, 'the Widow of Oranmore', as he learns the Irish Way of Death: 'the rosaries and mass cards and lilies and amaryllises, the curious mixture of innocence and guile with which distant in-laws from Kerry and Dublin would coo and sigh and claim close friendship and act at being saints, the increasingly direct conversations that the neighbours (and I) had with Mother about death and what she could expect in Heaven. Above all, there was my mother's own struggle with her growing doubts about God and the afterlife - she who had once been the Pope's representative in Battersea.' Every sentence Walsh writes is witty, outrageous, illuminating and compelling; he explores the Irish identity in a warm, personal and confessional book that takes in issues of race, of place, of language, of song, of love, of religion and, crucially, the changing nature of Ireland as it wriggles out of the dwindling influence of the church towards a new sense of itself; and in England, Irish culture has a fashionable ascendency (Angela's Ashes, Father Ted) as indeed it always has had. Stuffed like a barmbrack (fruitcake to you English) with quotations from Heaney, MacNeice, the Pogues and Paul Muldoon, it will be intensely personal, lively rather than gloomy, full of literary and historical relish, and a completely glorious read.
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