Ma, I'm Getting
Meself a New Mammy
By Martha Long
Martha Long's debut memoir, Ma, He Sold Me For a Few Cigarettes, was a bestseller both in Ireland and the UK, telling the story of her horrific childhood in the squalor and violence of the slums that still remained in Dublin's inner city in the 1950s.
This eagerly-awaited sequel picks up Martha's story as she stands at the forbidding doors of a convent school about to embark on a new chapter in her life. Now aged thirteen, Martha has been sent to the convent by a court. She has been in trouble for shoplifting which she was doing to support her violent stepfather, feckless mother and hungry siblings.
At least it's got her away from the beatings and the sexual abuse and the constant pressure to take care of her siblings.
Martha is initially pleased to hand over the burden of responsibility for her own upbringing to the nuns. But she soon learns that the nuns have little more planned for her than the life of a skivvy. Forced into back-breaking labour in the convent and bullied by the other children, Martha has daily battles just to survive and learns one very hard lesson -- that she can count on no-one but herself.
Though the same feisty voice -- with full-on Dublin accent -- narrates this book as with its precursor, this time the story is very different. Away from the terrible existence she endured, Martha's story is less a catalogue of brutality and more about her finding herself and learning about people and the real world.
More morbid readers may miss this aspect in the new book but sympathetic readers will embrace Martha's new challenges with her and find themselves cheering her on.
As Martha matures, so too does her voice. The author's ability to develop the voice in tandem with her changing experiences is impressive.
The perspective in this book grows from Martha's observation of her external circumstances to a more reflective account of her internal responses.
Her humour, verve and inextinguishable spark of hope always shine through, which is what makes her books so appealing.