Wednesday, 23 September 2009

All of us there (Devlin) 455

The name Polly Devlin seemed familiar, and then I recalled that she has written introductions to a couple of VMCs that I have read (but I'm afraid that I couldn't tell you which ones).

All of us there is a lyrically written memoir of life in Ireland (County Tyrone - on the shores of Lough Neagh) in the 1940s. Devlin was born into a large Catholic family with 7 brothers and sisters, and this book describes some of her experiences whilst growing up. It was a remote and extremely primitive childhood - I did not recognise it as the 1940s, the writing evoked a much earlier age lacking electricity, cars and telephones.

It's a difficult book to write about; much of the prose is very impressionistic and there isn't really a linear "plot" running through the book - in some ways it is more akin to a photograph album of her childhood. However, it gives a wonderful insight into life in those times. Another reviewer for the Guardian has written: "The rural world she describes is almost that of the eighteenth century; the enclosure of the fields, the claustrophobia of the the people, the utter removal from the complexities and tensions of the city or the country beyond - these are really qualities of Wordsworth's world, or John Clare's with a dash of Cobbett"

I was interested to find out more about Polly Devlin, and she has gone on from her childhood to have a glittering career. She launched it by working for Vogue, having won the Vogue Talent competition, and then went on to work as a journalist with columns for The Evening Standard and The New Statesman. She also worked on American Vogue, and then became a critic. She has judged the Booker Prize and written The Vogue Book of Fashion Photography. With her husband she has become interested in conservation, planting many trees on land in Somerset. Quite a person!

Just the one cover, above.

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