cover image Cowslips and Chainies: A Memoir of Dublin in the 1930's

Cowslips and Chainies: A Memoir of Dublin in the 1930's

Elaine Crowley. Dufour Editions, $14.95 (172pp) ISBN 978-1-874675-80-8

In this gently nostalgic memoir, novelist Crowley (Dreams of Other Days; A Family Curse) recalls her youth in the hardscrabble, blue-collar milieu of Dublin prior to WWII. Crowley portrays a tranquil childhood though her home life, captured here with loving strokes, was hardly easy. First in a one-room flat, later in a project house, her ever-resourceful and prideful mother scraped pennies, had an ongoing relationship with the pawnbroker that kept poverty at bay, and watched over her handsome, English-born and occasionally errant husband. What stands out in Crowley's storytelling is the mutual, often expressed, affection between father and daughter. His lingering death from tuberculosis in 1942 is seen through the eyes of young Nella who, giving up hopes of higher education, goes to work in a sewing factory. Humor is as abundant as pathos in Nella's tales of challenging the rules of her mother and of the nuns. The title, the name of a game played by children with broken pieces of crockery, is indicative of the youthful innocence and resilience amid poverty. (May)