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My Mother Wore a Yellow Dress: Memories of an Irish Childhood

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"I learned about conflict from my parents." So begins Christina McKenna's haunting memoir of her lonely early life. Recounting scenes from her childhood in Ulster, she paints a memorable and poignant picture of violence and oppression with her uncaring father and protective mother, whose retaliation to her husband's penny-pinching came in the form of a secret yellow dress "I learned about conflict from my parents." So begins Christina McKenna's haunting memoir of her lonely early life. Recounting scenes from her childhood in Ulster, she paints a memorable and poignant picture of violence and oppression with her uncaring father and protective mother, whose retaliation to her husband's penny-pinching came in the form of a secret yellow dress. Her formative years and her foray into the world, which begin with the daily trudge to and from school, are peopled by a troupe of bizarre and unforgettable characters dancing in and out of her life, filling her with awe and wonder. Among them are Miss McKeague, a gentle, calm and graceful religious zealot, Great Aunt Rose, the "Yankees," Norrie the transvestite, and in the wings, her stern, unyielding uncles, each vying for the ancestral money and land to the exclusion of all else. At age eleven, she experiences a frightening paranormal occurrence, a prolonged haunting that confirms for her the reality of the spirit world. Though it affects her deeply, she later learns to channel her confusion into twin artistic passions: poetry and painting. The discordant nature of Christina McKenna's young life, and the feelings of inferiority it bred, lead her to examine all the limiting belief systems she grew up with, and question the validity of the hidebound Catholicism of her childhood. This is a rite-of-passage account of two generations of Irish women, told with great humour and compassion. On the one hand is the writer; on the other the heroic mother who showed her love as best she could. McKenna concludes that our past, no matter how painful, need not keep us bound - once we choose love over hate. That choice, she suggests, will set us free.


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"I learned about conflict from my parents." So begins Christina McKenna's haunting memoir of her lonely early life. Recounting scenes from her childhood in Ulster, she paints a memorable and poignant picture of violence and oppression with her uncaring father and protective mother, whose retaliation to her husband's penny-pinching came in the form of a secret yellow dress "I learned about conflict from my parents." So begins Christina McKenna's haunting memoir of her lonely early life. Recounting scenes from her childhood in Ulster, she paints a memorable and poignant picture of violence and oppression with her uncaring father and protective mother, whose retaliation to her husband's penny-pinching came in the form of a secret yellow dress. Her formative years and her foray into the world, which begin with the daily trudge to and from school, are peopled by a troupe of bizarre and unforgettable characters dancing in and out of her life, filling her with awe and wonder. Among them are Miss McKeague, a gentle, calm and graceful religious zealot, Great Aunt Rose, the "Yankees," Norrie the transvestite, and in the wings, her stern, unyielding uncles, each vying for the ancestral money and land to the exclusion of all else. At age eleven, she experiences a frightening paranormal occurrence, a prolonged haunting that confirms for her the reality of the spirit world. Though it affects her deeply, she later learns to channel her confusion into twin artistic passions: poetry and painting. The discordant nature of Christina McKenna's young life, and the feelings of inferiority it bred, lead her to examine all the limiting belief systems she grew up with, and question the validity of the hidebound Catholicism of her childhood. This is a rite-of-passage account of two generations of Irish women, told with great humour and compassion. On the one hand is the writer; on the other the heroic mother who showed her love as best she could. McKenna concludes that our past, no matter how painful, need not keep us bound - once we choose love over hate. That choice, she suggests, will set us free.

30 review for My Mother Wore a Yellow Dress: Memories of an Irish Childhood

  1. 5 out of 5

    Annie

    The Irish are such wonderful storytellers and this book is no exception. It's a memoir of growing up in Ulster in the 1960's -- her father and mother and their characters, and all the characters in the family and in the town. The only part I felt that it fell down a little was near the end where she talked about her own growth and coming to terms with her childhood, but did not talk about how that happened for her. Perhaps she will write another book that continues her own story of how she becam The Irish are such wonderful storytellers and this book is no exception. It's a memoir of growing up in Ulster in the 1960's -- her father and mother and their characters, and all the characters in the family and in the town. The only part I felt that it fell down a little was near the end where she talked about her own growth and coming to terms with her childhood, but did not talk about how that happened for her. Perhaps she will write another book that continues her own story of how she became an artist and escaped to lead a different life. The writing style is beautiful and I thoroughly enjoyed the book.

  2. 4 out of 5

    SweetAnnie

    Excellent and at times Heartbreaking Admittedly I originally found this book hard to get into, but having read Ms. McKenna's other books and enjoying them thoroughly, I read on tenaciously, and thank heaven I did. This turned out to be one of the most beautiful, honest, and meaningful memoirs I have ever read. Excellent and at times Heartbreaking Admittedly I originally found this book hard to get into, but having read Ms. McKenna's other books and enjoying them thoroughly, I read on tenaciously, and thank heaven I did. This turned out to be one of the most beautiful, honest, and meaningful memoirs I have ever read.

  3. 4 out of 5

    Jill Lovett

    This book is one of the most fascinating memoirs I've ever read...sensitive, sad, humorous and a page-turner...I was particularly impressed by the final chapters where Christina McKenna writes with honesty and passion about the importance of love in peoples' lives and the dire results of lovelessness as noted in her portrayals of her father and his brothers. I give this book 5 stars! Jill, Australia. This book is one of the most fascinating memoirs I've ever read...sensitive, sad, humorous and a page-turner...I was particularly impressed by the final chapters where Christina McKenna writes with honesty and passion about the importance of love in peoples' lives and the dire results of lovelessness as noted in her portrayals of her father and his brothers. I give this book 5 stars! Jill, Australia.

  4. 4 out of 5

    Terri

    Memories some memories traumatic a few cherished good memories.We all have them . I thoroughly enjoyed this book. I devour anything about Ireland. I,m not sure why,I,m not Irish. I,'ve dreamt of a stone cottage by the sea. Dreams so vivid I can hear the gravel on the beach crunch beneath my feet ! Memories some memories traumatic a few cherished good memories.We all have them . I thoroughly enjoyed this book. I devour anything about Ireland. I,m not sure why,I,m not Irish. I,'ve dreamt of a stone cottage by the sea. Dreams so vivid I can hear the gravel on the beach crunch beneath my feet !

  5. 4 out of 5

    Jennifer

    Loved two of her other books. This one is a bit autobiographical, which I usually like, but the first couple chapters all she does is point out wrongs she perceived done to her starting at age 3 and how they "ruined" her childhood. Sorry, crabby teachers and parents that aren't perfect are not enough reason for a book of "woe is me". Very, very disappointing. Loved two of her other books. This one is a bit autobiographical, which I usually like, but the first couple chapters all she does is point out wrongs she perceived done to her starting at age 3 and how they "ruined" her childhood. Sorry, crabby teachers and parents that aren't perfect are not enough reason for a book of "woe is me". Very, very disappointing.

  6. 4 out of 5

    Alexandra

    Extremely well written and entertaining, the author writes her autobiography about growing up in Ireland to a neglectful father and weary mother. The last chapter seemed out of place, but the rest of the book was captivating as you went on the journey with the author.

  7. 5 out of 5

    Judy

    After having read "A Misremembered Man", I jumped into this book with relish. It truly is a touching portrait of growing up during the sixties in Ireland. Loved it. Would read anything this author puts out. After having read "A Misremembered Man", I jumped into this book with relish. It truly is a touching portrait of growing up during the sixties in Ireland. Loved it. Would read anything this author puts out.

  8. 5 out of 5

    Jessica Goglin

    enticing characters and realistic storyline!

  9. 4 out of 5

    Susan Poling

    Loved this one!

  10. 5 out of 5

    Janneke

    Love this author! I have read several of Christine McKenna's books and have enjoyed them all. This book was a lovely glimpse into what shaped her as an author. Love this author! I have read several of Christine McKenna's books and have enjoyed them all. This book was a lovely glimpse into what shaped her as an author.

  11. 5 out of 5

    Fran Burdsall

  12. 5 out of 5

    Joan o'Reilly

  13. 5 out of 5

    Mary Hano

  14. 5 out of 5

    Krisha Lea

  15. 5 out of 5

    nancy healy

  16. 5 out of 5

    Sandria

  17. 5 out of 5

    Jenny Glowka

  18. 4 out of 5

    Suzette Riva

  19. 5 out of 5

    Emily Laing

  20. 4 out of 5

    Sarah

  21. 5 out of 5

    Michael France

  22. 4 out of 5

    Brenda Drew

  23. 4 out of 5

    jean gaca

  24. 5 out of 5

    Fiona Black

  25. 4 out of 5

    Anne Mcanerney

  26. 5 out of 5

    michael perrott

  27. 5 out of 5

    Margie Swanson

  28. 4 out of 5

    Aisling Donnell

  29. 4 out of 5

    Nancy Murray

  30. 4 out of 5

    M Scade

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