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All Will Be Well: A Memoir

4.08  ·  Rating Details ·  429 Ratings  ·  40 Reviews
From award-winning author John McGahern, a memoir of his childhood in the Irish countryside and the beginnings of his life as a writer.McGahern describes his early years as one of seven children growing up in rural County Leitrim, a childhood was marked by his father’s violent nature and the early death of his beloved mother. Tracing the memories of home through both peopl ...more
Hardcover, 304 pages
Published December 18th 2007 by Knopf (first published 2005)
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Mar 03, 2014 Declan rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
How do we deal with the hurt and sadness that, from the moment we are born, begins to accumulate in our hearts? There are, in essence, two ways to respond to the degree of suffering we experience. We can decide that since life has, in a multitude of ways, been damaging to us, we should share the damage around and inflict those closest to us with their share of the hurt. Do onto others as was done to you.
"Man hands on misery to man.
It deepens like a coastal shelf.", as Philip Larkin wrote.

Sep 09, 2009 Larry rated it it was amazing
Before I try to rationalize my 5 star award for this book I must confess to a bias. John was my teacher at Belgrove National School (Scoil Eoin Báiste) in Dublin the late 50’. I recall only too well the brouhaha when he published his first novel and his subsequent dismissal from his post. His castigation by the local parish priest and Catholic hierarchy was something to behold "The Dark" was subsequently banned in Ireland and thereby joined an illustrious group of great Irish writers. So yes I a ...more
Oct 18, 2012 Chrissie rated it it was ok
This book is about the author John McGahern's childhood, growing up in rural County Leitrim at the northern edge of The Republic of Ireland. He was the oldest of seven children. His father was physically abusive, but his mother he adored. Yes, he was tied to her apron strings. He loses her at a young age and he never really gets over this. He hates his father. He is incapable of forgiving his father. This is a book about family relationships. You hear only one side of the story. One rarely gets ...more
Aug 23, 2012 Iva rated it it was amazing
All Will Be Well is a particularly odd title; he died around the time it was published. But title choice aside, this clearly childhood- focused memoir of rural Ireland in the 50's is beautifully rendered. (I felt the influence of Laurie Lee.) McGahern's Ireland has its familiar characters--the priests, the aunts, grandparents, siblings and of course the parents. There is the (good) mother who died when he was 10 and then we are stuck with the (bad, really bad) father who makes him miserable in n ...more
Jun 24, 2011 Marleen rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
As the title suggests, this is the story of John (Sean) McGahern's life.
Having said that, it is predominantly the story of his childhood, with a relatively small part of the book dedicated to his years as an adult, up to the time of his father's death.
That he would end the book with his father's passing makes sense,since this is basically the story of McGahern's troubled relationship with his father.
McGahern senior was a Garda sergeant living in Police barracks as was normal at that time (the 1
Joe McNally
Jun 28, 2012 Joe McNally rated it it was amazing
Love's lifelong branding of itself into the psyche of some human beings can seem almost cruel in the way it forces them to expose themselves to us. From the heart-shredding fictional obsessions of Jack and Ennis in Annie Proulx's Brokeback Mountain to the resurrectional purity of John McGahern's love for his mother - dead before his 10th birthday - in Memoir, we sometimes get to see life with savage, christening clarity.

Memoir is the centrepiece of the jigsaw McGahern has had us put together thr
Bill Keefe
Aug 10, 2010 Bill Keefe rated it really liked it
Further on my journey intot he world of John McGahern, both the ones he wrote of and the one he lived. The surprise of this book was learning just how much of his life is his literature. I knew authors were counseled to write about what they know, I had never had a look into just how far they could take that. In reading, "That They May Face the Rising Sun," I learned that McGahern, like his protaganist was a writer who, later in life, with a second wife, returned to the area in which he grew up. ...more
Vivian Valvano
Jul 24, 2010 Vivian Valvano rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I had been meaning to read McGahern's memoir ever since his death, but I didn't get around to it until I read the excellent Claire Keegan story "Surrender," which she acknowledged as having been inspired by something McGahern wrote in ALL WILL BE WELL. Reading the memoir was sometimes heartbreaking. McGahern's beloved mother was clearly a very special, very loving person, and her death when the author, her eldest child, was 10 left 7 children motherless. Do the math and tremble at the scenario o ...more
I didn't relish this memoir half as much as I wanted or expected. (Isn't that typically the way with me, though? I like books I expect to hate, and inevitably end up disappointed when my expectations are too high?) Let me be quick to acknowledge that I appreciate the book even though I didn't particularly enjoy reading it, partially because I don't think this book is meant to be enjoyed as such. It's emotionally draining and I couldn't read more than small sections at a time.

The three-star rati
Belinda Webb
Aug 12, 2012 Belinda Webb rated it it was amazing
Reading this it is clear that his 'novels' were heavily biographical; I think it was wise that he didn't write or publish the memoir until much later because otherwise McGahern could have been seen as a 'mis-lit memoirist' with nowhere to go once we'd read this. It's all here - Amongst Women, The Barracks, The Dark. I found myself questioning the relentless hagiographical way in which he viewed his mother - but then that's to be expected from someone who lost her as a young boy. She also serves ...more
Bookmarks Magazine

An interesting critical discourse arises from Irish writer John McGahern's new memoir. Reviewers who don't count it among his best write as if they've been cheated. By allowing readers a peek behind his fictional scrim, they feel McGahern, who died this past March, at age 71, handicapped their enjoyment of his well-regarded novels by revealing his emotional mother lode of sources. The majority of critics disagreed with that assessment, casting All Will Be Well as a fascinating glimpse into "the

Apr 15, 2013 Margaret rated it it was amazing
This is an exploration of McGahern's childhood in rural Ireland in the 1940's and 50's. He deeply loved his mother who died of cancer when he was still very young. Sent with his siblings to live with his authoritative father in police barracks (his father and mother rarely lived together)the children learn to endure cruelty and unpredictabilty and to rely entirely on each other for their emotional development. McGahern discovered books through the library of a sympathetic local priest, and throu ...more
Mar 07, 2009 Michelle rated it really liked it
I really enjoyed this book. I feel like I have been to Ireland and back. My favorite quote is "...the best of life is life lived quietly, where nothing happens but our calm journey through the day, where change is imperceptible and the precious life is everything." John's journey is amazing and I appreciate that the book didn't describe in detail the family's dark chapters as many memoirs do. I feel like I know and love his mother and wonder what it would be like to meet her. I found myself thin ...more
Alethea Bothwell
Jan 13, 2015 Alethea Bothwell rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Ok, so now we know where McGahern got his ideas for "Amongst Women." This memoir reads almost like a recapitulation of the other book - EXCEPT the father is even more out of control and the step-mother is not so wonderful. However, it does begin earlier, before McGahern's own mother died, and what a lovely person she was - I wouldn't have missed her for anything.
I must also say that Ireland in the 1940s & 50s does not seem like it would have been a good place to live! A total theocracy, with
Feb 11, 2009 Melissa rated it really liked it
This is a beautifully written and thoughtful book about a very complex and turbulent family. The deepest conflicts and violence of the family was clearly portrayed but the author did not rub the readers nose in the mess. I felt the book gave me further insight into the long conflict between church & state in Ireland and into the lives of country people in Ireland in the mid 20th century.

I love the fluency with which McGahern describes his physical world. The sense of place is very strong, an
Oct 10, 2012 Kathleen rated it really liked it
When John McGaheren lost his mother to breast cancer, he was the oldest of five, just ten years old. It felt like the walls of his tentative life were coming down, with the pain of losing her, the war, the poverty in Ireland. Now, there was no buffer between him and his harsh father, who didn't seem to care much that his wife was gone. The older siblings formed strong bonds to stand against this brute. This memoir mirrors McGahern's childhood and beyond.
Mar 28, 2013 angela rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
I found this book to be quite depressing at first. I told my friend I was reading a book about a guy who grew up in the Irish countryside in the early 1900s and it was kinda depressing. Let me guess, she said, his father is an alcoholic asshole and the mother died? Wow, yeah pretty much. But, McGahern has a way of adding a humorous spin to some very brutal memories. In the end I enjoyed it, but it was a slow start.
Karin A.
Mar 13, 2014 Karin A. rated it it was amazing
Shelves: 2014-read
Heartbreaking, poignant life of the children of the McGahern family. Not unusual for the times. John painted a picture of his family and surrounding and love of his mother in 40s and 50s Ireland. Hard times living under the ruling of the Catholic church, a cruel father and loving mother who died when John was nine. I must read more of John's books. Well done.
Jul 24, 2008 Esther rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I've read some of John McGahern's novels, but this memoir of his life growing up in rural Ireland in the 1940s and 50s is even better. He paints a very vivid picture with his detail. Could almost be describing life on another planet though, no TV, little radio, priests controlling and censoring everything, cows, turf cutting, pregancies after pregancies.....
I received this book as a gift and I really wanted to like it but it is not my style. I am sure it is a very good book but it just is not what I am interested in, which is perhaps surprising because I loved my time in Ireland. I stopped at page 100 and realized I was avoiding reading because I just didn't want to continue... so it was time to put it down and start a different book.
Sep 10, 2012 Quinn rated it really liked it
Shelves: engl-201
I had to read this for my English class. I found it very easy to relate to him, even though I have never experienced anything as awful as his childhood. Sometimes I did get lost in the details though, and it was kind of slow in the beginning. All in all, pretty good read.
A. Mary
Feb 02, 2012 A. Mary rated it liked it
McGahern's parents cannot be said to have had a conventional marriage, and McGahern casts them as saint and demon, really, but the story is an engaging one (unbroken by chapters) of childhood loss and anxiety and adoration and anger. One wonders how any of those kids got from there to there.
Apr 21, 2013 Bernadette.monaghan rated it it was amazing
loved the book and especially as my father knew some of the characters in the book growing up in leitrim at the same time.
Jan 11, 2008 katie rated it it was amazing
An excellent memoir that gave me insight into Irish society.
Linda Fagan-hos
Jul 16, 2012 Linda Fagan-hos rated it it was amazing
Wonderful, moving book about a difficult childhood and the abiding influence of a mother's love
Chris Lydon
Jan 15, 2010 Chris Lydon rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
A painful read and close to home in some ways.
Matt Fullerty
Jan 01, 2009 Matt Fullerty rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
A lot - currently writing an article about the book, McGahern and Creative Writing courses. Watch this space!
Rebecca Burke
Jan 16, 2013 Rebecca Burke rated it it was amazing
One of the most powerfully felt and beautifully written memoirs I've ever had the fortune to read.
Mar 30, 2011 Lola rated it did not like it
The writer's style could not catch my interest. I thought I'd like this book 'cuz I like to read memoirs but I didn't finish the book----only read about 1/4 of it.
Aug 18, 2011 bridget rated it liked it
Bleak without being depressing. There are some beautiful descriptions of nature and of his childhood. Really helps to get a deeper understanding of his fiction.
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McGahern began his career as a schoolteacher at Scoil Eoin Báiste (Belgrove) primary school in Clontarf, Ireland, where, for a period, he taught the eminent academic Declan Kiberd before turning to writing full-time. McGahern's second novel 'The Dark' was banned in Ireland for its alleged pornographic content and implied clerical sexual abuse. In the controversy over this he was forced to resign h ...more
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“..the best of life is life lived quietly, where nothing happens but our calm journey through the day, where change is imperceptible and the precious life is everything.” 12 likes
“About this time, whether he felt there wasn't sufficient drama in his life or that he was determined not to be outdone by Miss McCabe, he decided that he was dying.” 3 likes
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