Begorrah, it's the Irish in Liverpool
Nadine Dorries Head of Zeus, pbk, £10, 368 pages
Published 19/04/2014 | 02:30
Available with free P&P on www.kennys.ie or by calling 091 709 350
British critics have ridiculed Nadine Dorries' first novel for its Guinness-soaked Irish clichés. "Holy Mary," said the Telegraph. "Begorrah, it's bad," said the New Statesman.
"Let me take you by the hand and lead you to the four streets in which we find leprechauns and all things Oirish, to be sure," said the Guardian.
One critic simply called it "the worst book I have ever read".
Within days of publication, however, it was getting favourable reviews from ordinary readers, who found it "enjoyable", even "powerful".
Irish readers may be familiar with Dorries from I'm A Celebrity, Get Me Out of Here. She grew up in a working-class family in Liverpool where so many people have Irish roots.
She trained as a nurse before becoming a Conservative MP in 2005.
The book was inspired by memories of her childhood.
Set in the 1950s The Four Streets tells the story of a close-knit Irish community and their daily struggle for survival.
It's a world of women in curlers, twitching net curtains and numerous children being fed on meagre wages brought home by docker fathers if they haven't stopped in the pub first.
Bernadette, "with flaming red hair", dies in childbirth, leaving baby Nellie to grow up with an evil Protestant stepmother. Maura, proud of the attention her family gets from Fr James, is unaware of what happens when he goes upstairs to bless the sleeping children, particularly daughter Kitty.
Things come to a head when the two girls end up in hospital, where Fr James has a couple of helpful cronies.
Distrustful of the police, who call them "bog-jumpers", the community takes matters into its own hands.
Dorries was so incensed by the bad reviews that she disinvited one of the critics to her book launch.
As a reminder of life in the Irish areas in Liverpool and with lots of Call the Midwife-type nostalgia, this book will probably be a bestseller, despite the critics.
– ANN DUNNE
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