The Mammy - Brendan O'Carroll

Genre: Fiction/Comedy/Irish Culture
Synopsis: "Mammy" is what Irish children call their mothers and The Mammy is Agnes Browne--a widow struggling to raise seven children in a North Dublin neighborhood in the 1960s. Popular Irish comedian Brendan O'Carroll chronicles the comic misadventures of this large and lively family with raw humor and great affection. Forced to be mother, father, and referee to her battling clan, the ever-resourceful Agnes Browne occasionally finds a spare moment to trade gossip and quips with her best pal Marion Monks (alias "The Kaiser") and even finds herself pursued by the amorous Frenchman who runs the local pizza parlor.


Review: I decided to pick this book up as a result of a recent Mrs Brown's Boys binge, out of curiosity about the older versions of the stories and characters which ultimately resulted in an unlikely hit tv show. Much as I love the show, it can be quite hit and miss in terms of humour - so I was prepared for this novel to be much the same, and rightly so. On the flipside, everything I love about the show has been immensely enhanced for having read this.

Each chapter is like an episode of the show - short and chronicling one short story featuring one or two members of the Brown clan, as well as progressing one or two broader, overarching stories. It actually read far more like a collection of short stories than a cohesive novel, which I found made it a little difficult to really get into. Although there are differences between the show and this novel (including character names and the precise number of offspring Agnes Brown(e) can be credited with producing), some of the best gags have been reproduced in both media (including Marion/Winnie's 'organism' monologue).

I actually thoroughly enjoyed making comparisons between the two, and intend to check out additional versions (radio/film) of Brendan O'Carroll's multi-layed creation. Much as I love consistency, it's interesting to see how the concept has evolved over the last 20+ years. My biggest criticism of the book, I think, is that the tone is very decided. Some of it is very funny and lighthearted, other parts cut off in a depressingly unexpected manner, leaving me feel unsure whether I should be laughing or not. All the same, while this book is nothing spectacular in and off itself, the stories added great depth to all of the characters and really fleshed out my appreciation of O'Carroll's creation.

Rating: 3/5

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