This is not an actual autobiography, for a hard working journalist has little time for that, leaving such things to politicians and pop stars. Rather it is a collection of articles covering Mary Kenny’s long and colourful career, her encounters with the famous and notorious in the events of her times, her special friends, and in the last section, which also on the current issues which concern her in this stage of her life.
The glimpses of her friends, such Maeve Binchy and Nuala O’Faolain, provide further insights into an era and into Mary herself. There are sharp, but just comments on others, such as Mary Robinson.
The early part of the book is richly entertaining, for Mary Kenny never writes a dull line – or if she does it ends in her wastepaper basket. One might also suggest, though she might not, that readers begin with the very last article, which deals with the matter of how attitudes change. The books itself explains how she grew from being the naughtiest girl in the school into the Burkean conservative she now sees herself as. This line of growth or evolution, or whatever ones calls it, this growing maturity perhaps informs all the rest of the book.
Some articles in the second part of the book make for painful but necessary reading, largely because they are very personal.
One very important section deals with her current role as the main carer for her husband, the English journalist Richard West. This will affect many people deeply. For it confronts honestly an issue in life that everyone has to deal with.
Her determination is courageous. Richard West was in his day a distinguished foreign correspondent, but he also wrote books mainly about Africa in the early days of decolonisation. One of these, Brazza of the Congo, is still of immense interest and relevance.
Mary Kenny suggests that she has changed, but I suspect in some ways this is not the case. We in fact change little after the age of 10, we are always the same person. The young woman who launched her feminist protests and was involved in the much written about ‘Condom Train’ incident – the truth of which she now recounts – was as much a serious witness to the truth as the mature journalist who now confronts the issues of our day.
The times have changed, but Mary Kenny’s untiring witness to the truth as she sees it has remained the same. Long may she flourish.