The Misremembered Man
I could never laugh at “Fawlty Towers.” John Cleese’s performance as a man falling apart was painful for me, not funny. I found this book the same. I think others may well laugh at Jamie McCloone’s struggles to find a life and wife. But the chapters between Jamie’s current struggles tell of his past struggles as an orphan in the 1930s, in one of Ireland’s dreadful Catholic orphanages. I found the story of his upbringing too horrifying to laugh at, and saw his struggles as a man were not about finding a life, but about finding the love he’d never had. That anyone could simply number children (Jamie was number 86) and visit the sins of the parents upon them in such a grim style appalled me. That this novel is soundly based on research and tales from the orphans made me shudder. That any of those children actually survived the physical and mental cruelty, never mind the lack of love, seems a miracle.
One can see why Ms. McKenna would tell of Jamie’s bumbling attempts to find a lady friend through the local newspaper’s Lonely Hearts Column with a lighter touch, and the ending is delightful. However, the book is not a pleasant escapist read, but more a book to ponder.