The Young Wan

Written by Brendan O'Carroll
Review by Janette King

It’s the night before Agnes Reddin’s wedding to “Redser” Browne, a ceremony that Agnes knows might never take place. She spends a sleepless night reflecting on the circumstances leading up this situation: her parents’ own controversial courtship and wedding, her father’s labor union activism, her grandfather’s stubbornness, the violent act that changed their lives, and the necessity that Agnes take charge of her sister and her mother.

Although this is the fourth in the Agnes Browne series (prequel to book one, The Mammy), don’t expect facts of Agnes’ early life to closely follow the details her author has already sketched. Such an oversight is easily forgiven, though. How was O’Carroll to know as he wrote his first novel that he’d ever need to recount Agnes’ life as a young wan?

The characters are well-drawn and likable. Working-class Dublin from the 1920s to the mid-1950s comes alive but is dramatized in scenes that are sometimes unsatisfyingly brief. In spite of foreshadowing that is often overstated, O’Carroll resolves the story effectively. Overall, The Young Wan is an entertaining book that’s worth the read.