One For Sorrow, Two For Joy

(5 customer reviews)
@ John Killeen

Athlone in the 1950s – Guinness barges steam up the Shannon with their precious cargo; turf boats chug along the canal towards Dublin; markets bring life to the streets as the farmers sell their livestock and vegetables while their wives barter eggs with the snooty shopkeepers.

It is the era of Éamon de Valera and Archbishop McQuaid, when ‘fallen’ women are condemned to the Magdalene Laundries, and droves of hopeful emigrants are making their way to Kingstown Harbour, on their way to far-off lands. But for young John Killeen, Athlone is a whole world in itself, full of opportunities for adventure and colourful characters who take him away from hostility of home.

There’s no-nonsense Mrs Webb in her crumbling mansion, whose love of horses and indomitable spirit are infectious; the Crotty sisters, who oversee the moral standards of the town; Mr Foy, whose toyshop inspires envy and hope in every child; and the seventh son of a seventh son, whose powers of healing are liberally applied.

Most important of all, there is Peggy, the Killeen’s housekeeper, who is John’s constant source of affection as he navigates a childhood that is at turns both magical and threatening. She is there when his father turns violent, when he falls for young Steffi next door, and whenever he needs his faith in humankind restored. One for Sorrow, Two for Joy is an enchanting and searingly honest memoir of an Ireland long gone but well remembered, of a time that remains both part of what we are and part of what we left behind.

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Hi Everybody; my name is John and over the years I have written for radio, magazines and newspapers. I have now written a memoir that has so far got several 5-star reviews on Amazon. I am based near Abbeyleix, Co. Laois and the book is a memoir which is about growing up in Athlone in the 1950s. If you would like a signed copy, or any special inscription, please include a message with your order.

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5 reviews for One For Sorrow, Two For Joy

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  1. John Maxwell O’Brien

    What a marvelous gift I gave to myself when I purchased this book. It chronicles seven formative years in a boy’s life who grew up in the town of Athlone in Ireland during the early 50s. John-John’s coming of age is described with such skill, sensitivity and universal appeal, that the present writer, who grew up on the streets of New York City during the same years, can completely identify with the main character and the ordeals, awakenings and inner turmoil he struggled with during those halcyon days.

    There’s a cavalcade of interesting characters here, people we all know by other names, each described with just enough detail that we not only know what they look like, but can feel their presence. The disturbed and occasionally violent father, a responsible but distant mother, a nanny who embodies human virtue, the idolized girl next door, all there before us in this literary smorgasbord.

    This is a slice of life with a pulse and an intelligence. Woven into the fabric are threads of Irish history, politics, religion, bigotry, alcoholism and domestic violence. Along the way we learn a great deal about the town of Athlone – including the etymology of the name – I am putting it on my itinerary, when I next set foot on the auld sod. Young John-John, the main character in this fictionalized memoir, is told at one point, “You’re a biteen [little bit] of a storyteller, all right.” He grew up to be more than that – I’d say an accomplished raconteur. Bravo!

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  2. M Moscrop-Jennings

    Loved this book. Revived so many memories of growing up in my hometown of Athlone. The freedom we had.
    If you were reared in Ireland you will enjoy this.

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  3. Amir B.

    Amir B.
    5.0 out of 5 stars Very enjoyable, a pleasure to read.
    Reviewed in the United Kingdom on December 24, 2020
    Verified Purchase
    This is a well written, fluid book that reads almost like a novel.

    The author manages, with simplicity, style, humour and emotion, to transport the reader into his childhood world, and it only takes a few pages to become quite attached to young John and to build a strong desire to follow him in this period of his journey: a rich description of daily life in rural Ireland of the 1950’s, where people head to the tailor to buy their clothes, electricity usage is still in its infancy, and gramophone records used to enjoy music.

    More than an autobiography, this is a sincere and generous sharing of the author’s dreams, adventures, fears and aspirations, in his awakening to himself, others and to life. Despite a distant mother and a rather violent father, John shows resilience and a surprising level of maturity for his age. He draws support from his circle of close friends and, most importantly from Peggy the family housekeeper.

    Peggy is the main pillar of young John’s world, his ‘real’ mother. She is simultaneously the soil, water and light that nurture his psychological and emotional development, compensating with love and acceptance for his biological parents’ care limitations.

    By the end of this book, one has the impression of having had a dream, immersed in a bygone era where life was simple yet natural and intense, so different from our modern society.

    A pleasure to read, I definitely recommend this autobiography.
    2 people found this helpful

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  4. Damian Tubbritt

    I read this book after a friend recommended it and I’m normally a science fiction type of guy but I was quickly hooked. Not only does this book offer an amazing clear window into the life of an Irish town and its inhabitants in the 1950s but it really captures, for me, what it’s like to be a young boy. Life for John John in this book has the mixture of playing games that feel very serious and real to the kids playing them (that’s the best way to play games, all in with the imagination) and that feeling of being a small player in the bigger life of adults, a life that is not yet fully understood or explained. Every character in this book feels real, rounded and could walk off the page, including Athlone itself. The writing has that rare clarity where the words dissolve and the story plays like a movie in your mind, you step into the world and you feel it’s texture fully. I’d recommend this book to anyone who has an interest in the lived experiences of real people in the not so distant past or anyone who like’s an insightful immersive read.

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  5. SD135

    A really enjoyable read, the author engages you very early with the cast of characters from his childhood; family, neighbours and local characters. An honest recounting of the ups and downs of life in rural Ireland that should be cherished as part of our shared history. Anecdotes and characters that are drawn with care will resonate with anyone who has lived in small towns anywhere.

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