Nan: The Life of an Irish Travelling Woman

Sharon Gmelch, Author W. W. Norton & Company $15.95 (239p) ISBN 978-0-393-02331-2
Ireland's tinkers or ""Travellers,'' pariahs in their own land, are a sociological anomaly, fast disappearing in contemporary Ireland. In 1971 Gmelch, a New York professor of anthropology, took up residence in Holylands, an official campsite set up outside Dublin by the government to keep tinkers off the roads. She moved there to become better acquainted with Nan, a Traveller born in 1919 in a tent in the Irish midlands. Nan's oral history, her self-described ``awful mixup of a life,'' takes us into the Travellers' periods of pleasant, patched-together domesticity that are inevitably shattered by violence and marital crises, usually precipitated by drink. Nan's marriages, her 18 children, the shocking physical abuse perpetrated by one husband, did not break her, and even allowed her a little happiness. Nan's story provides a unique perspective on 20th century Irish history. Photographs not seen by PW. (May 27)
Reviewed on: 01/01/1986
Release date: 01/01/1986
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