Booking Passage: We Irish and Americans by Thomas Lynch - review by Mary Kenny

Mary Kenny

In Death As In Life

Booking Passage: We Irish and Americans


Jonathan Cape 301pp £12.99

No one does death as gracefully as the Irish. Truly. It is a subject handled with the greatest openness and lack of inhibition – rather as the sex educationalists say we ought to be about sexual matters. I met a young woman from Kerry recently – in her early twenties – who had lost her mother about a year ago. ‘I am sorry for your bereavement,’ I said, as you must always say in Ireland to anyone, stranger or friend, who has had such a loss. ‘Oh, ’tis sad all right,’ she said cheerily. ‘But sure, ’tis nature.’ A strangely sane attitude, I thought. She went on to tell me about her mother’s wake, with the coffin in the living room and all the relations quarrelling the while. ‘Sure, my Ma was the most alive person in the room.’ 

But perhaps this open, friendly relationship with death is only possible where there are large extended families (the Kerry girl was one of eight) to provide that sense of inevitable human continuity, and an innate religious instinct, which remains extraordinarily tenacious in the rural Irish. Every conversation, even amongst blatant

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