Recent books in brief

Recent books in brief
The World of Books
Rathcormick: A Childhood Recalled, by Homan Potterton, with an Introduction by William Trevor (Merrion Press, €12.95/£12.99)

This is a very welcome republication of a book first issued over two decades ago by another publisher. It was then hailed by William Trevor as “a wholly delightful memoir of lace-curtain Protestants in 1950s rural Ireland”.

Theirs was a life not so different from those lived by their Catholic rural neighbours, but this book does not sit well with the “misery memoirs” which have now become a regular genre of Irish literature.

Potterton, as his later career showed, was a lively, inquiring and congenial character as an art curator. Here he reveals his roots, not in a house filled with high culture, but with normal people living ordinary lives. His later life took a strange course, but his account of it (published more recently) was greatly enjoyable, especially a brilliant chapter on Charles Haughey, who had aspirations to be “the Squire” that Potterton was not.

When Rathcormick came out Potterton received many letters from Catholic readers who told him that when children they were told that Protestants were different, but now from his pages they saw that really they were not as they had been painted. This new edition suggests Rathcomick has settled down to be an Irish classic.



Mindcrafting: How to Mentor Your Ageing Mind by Dr Declan Lyons and others (Beehive, €19.99)

This is a very positive book. The later years certainly have their problems, but then so does every time of life from infancy through middle age. The really great change for many people is that when they leave the very structured world of work, they find they have nothing to do but sit and watch television.

Homan Potterton (above) was plagued by people when he retired at the age of 42, asking him what would he do without “the job” and “the pension”? He had lots to do he found, lots to live for. His gung-ho attitude is one which everyone should adopt.

It is not a matter of living out the rest of your sentence, like some doing “life” in prison. It is really a matter getting down to doing what you really wanted to do when you were 12: catch a prize fish, paint a picture, write a book. The world is filled with new opportunities should be the attitude. Just “do your own thing”. But when there are those inevitable “problems” this book will certainly help to manoeuvre round them. It will comfort many, many people.

But on the whole staying active and involved in things is the answer. For instance, spending time with grandchildren (without their parents, of course) will certainly lead to an active time.




Visits to the Blessed Sacrament and Our Lady by Alphonsus de Liguori (privately published, Redemptorist Community, Limerick, €6 plus postage)

St Alphonsus (1696-1787) was, I suspect, far more familiar to earlier generations than he is today – you never seem to hear of a child being given his name.

In this pamphlet, Seán Cannon CSsR and Raphael Gallgher CSsR, provide a new translation of the long-loved text, which provides a different tone more suited to the modern reader, presented in an attractive, clear, easy to follow text, which still provides prayers for the everyday.

A little book like this should not be ignored. It provides an occasion and matter for a half hour of repose. These days all too many churches shut their doors in the day outside of services, but in the cities at least, many are also open. They are the quietest place to find moments of restfulness in an atmosphere of peace and calm.

To fill out every one’s day, a period of repose, no matter what form it takes, is quite essential. Our ancestors always found such moments – you can’t spend the whole day hunting and gathering, or (as today) working overtime on your keyboard.

Take time out. Leave the office and stay away from it; a lunch hour should be an hour, and in churches there exist other persons to speak to than those you work or play with. They are persons who will not disappear from your life, Christians believe, but will always be there.

(Copies are €6 plus postage, and are available from the Redemptorist Community, Mount St Alphonsus, Limerick V94 F867, email:, tel. 061 315099,  9am-5pm only.)