“You were the purple bog and ripe wheat-field and a crab-tree in May. You were good food, and songs in the night. You were a welcome for my coming and a prayer for my going out. You were Gran.”
Never No More tells the story of Delia, as she grows up in the 1920s, in the Irish countryside in the care of her beloved Grandmother.
Delia hadn’t always lived with her grandmother, but things had changed when her father died. Her mother, a skilled dressmaker, decided that the family should move to a bigger town where she could trade so much more profitably than she had in a country village.
An eminently sensible plan. But Delia was desperately unhappy at the prospect of leaving, and so her grandmother, unhappy at the prospect of losing all of her family, offered Delia a home with her until the time came for her to be sent to school.
That allows Maura Laverty write much rich, descriptive prose. And she catches everything. There are the rites of passage – births, the marriages, the deaths – that draw the whole community together. There are big events – the ritual that accompanies the slaughter of a pig, the annual cutting of the turf, the visit to the new family home – and there are the small, important details that make up lives.
Of course, it is the characters that bring all of that to life. So many wonderful characters, so many lives are caught. Because Maura Laverty is one of those special writers who knows that each and every person has their own particular story, and because she has the skill to draw them all out.
At the centre of it all is Delia, a girl with a warm heart and a bold spirit that would sometimes lead her into trouble. She is utterly believable, and oh so easy to love.
Her relationship with her grandmother – a woman so wise, so practical, so compassionate – is maybe a little too perfect, but it was so lovely that I was happily swept along.
Delia’s mother played a minor role, but she was such an interesting woman. Her marriage had not been happy and she struggled with motherhood, but she found her role in life as she built up her dressmaking business and was able to support her family.
That was when I understood why this book was a Virago Modern Classic.
It is a gem: an utterly charming story of a place and of its people, laced with laughter, tears and love.
What more could you need?!
Lovely review…one that has me scrabbling through my unread Viragos to see if it might be there! If not, on the hunt.
I loved this one. Am I right that there was a sequel? I’m not sure I ever got to read it.
Oh, I loved this one too. The sequel is called No more than human:
I was doing well with my resolution to not acquire any more books either by buying or borrowing from the library, until I had made some inroads on my TBR mountain range…. then I read this review and the preceding one and now I am off again!
Your posts are far too convincing but thank you for them anyway!
As if I need any more books to go on my TBR pile….but this sounds lovely; like a tonic for the weary soul 🙂 Thanks for the review.
What a wonderful and enticing review, Jane! I shall look out for this one when I am browsing the charity shops – it sounds just my cup of tea.
I love hearing about books that depict that special grandma/grandchild relationship. I adore my own grandma and have a soft spot for grandma’s in literature.
Thanks for this review. I haven’t seen any other reviews of Laverty’s work and so this is helpful as an introduction to her. You have made the book sound like a desirable and rewarding read.
I absolutely love this review, this is a truly beautiful book and will touch the hearts of everyone, through there love for a Grandparent, a childhood memory of living in the Country a life gone by relived in Delia and for a person who never experienced either and can only dream of such treasures, I am so proud to say that Maura Laverty is my Gran Aunt and I light up with every word used by all of you in your desire to discover a true talent 🙂 Thank you for this x
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