Memoir: Letters of My Life by Mary O'Rourke
Gill Books, €19.99
'Mammy of the Dáil', former Fianna Fáil minister and leader of the Seanad from 2002 to 2007, Mary O'Rourke has garnered widespread support in her latter years. In this collection of letters, we meet O'Rourke the feminist, the humourist, the wise elder.
As one of the many schoolteachers who found their way into Leinster House, O'Rourke's outspoken, matriarchal style provided much satire material for the late Dermot Morgan on Scrap Saturday in the 1990s and Michael O'Leary's Ryanair advertisements.
Now she is a frequent guest on radio and television and her opinion is much respected. The book contains 20 letters to people who have influenced her, from childhood to university, her teaching and political career to widowhood and personal tragedy. At almost 80-years-old, with a challenging life behind her, O'Rourke expresses gratitude for having found life after politics and is in a unique position to dispense advice. I was surprised and impressed by her candour and enthusiasm at a recent Women for Election event.
In her letter to Sheryl Sandberg she praises the COO of Facebook for her inspirational motivation of women in business. In another, she thanks her gardener, David Henry, for helping her overcome the death of her husband, by bringing her magnolia tree back to life. Her love of poetry comes across in her letter to Katherine Lynch with whom she shares a slot on Pat Kenny's Newstalk book club. In letters to family, she includes her Uncle Joe, the black sheep who became a German spy.
Mary's idea is excellent for anyone reaching a certain age, to write to those who have helped shape their lives. This thoughtful meditation on universal themes will resonate with readers of all ages.
Sunday Indo Living