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Memories of a Catholic Girlhood by Mary…
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Memories of a Catholic Girlhood (1957)

by Mary McCarthy

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This book was 'just okay' for me. McCarthy's MEMORIES OF A CATHOLIC GIRLHOOD has been languishing on my shelf for several years now. Bought it because I remembered reading THE GROUP back in the 60s, when it was a big bestseller and something of a shocker for its time. And actually this one is a bit shocking too at times. McCarthy was just six years old when both her parents died in the influenza epidemic of 1918. She and her three younger brothers (one of whom was actor Kevin McCarthy) were put in the care of McCarthy relatives in Minneapolis who treated them very badly; their story had a Dickensian quality - bad food, patched clothes, no toys, whippings, etc. After five years of this, the boys were put into a private school and Mary was taken to live with her Preston grandparents in Seattle, where she attended a convent school, a public school and a private girls' seminary, until she went away to Vassar at just 17. Her struggles with her Catholic faith and to fit in at these schools are often interesting, but not always. Her stories of sampling Montana moonshine and dating a married man during one summer are amusing, and maybe a little horrifying too, all at the same time. Perhaps least interesting is her attempts at understanding and explaining her Grandmother Preston, who was Jewish. In the end, the woman remained an enigma and a mystery. MEMORIES was only mildly interesting to me, so I'm not sure if I will read the next one, HOW I GREW, which is also on my shelf. But for anyone interested in learning more about Mary McCarthy, I would not hesitate to recommend this book. (three and a half stars)

- Tim Bazzett, author of the memoir, BOOKLOVER ( )
  TimBazzett | Dec 29, 2016 |
An excellent collection of memoirs, though I would not want to have a relative take her razor-sharp pen thus to my character and ways. That said, the writing is not remorseless and cruel, but thoughtful and insightful, and in the retrospective notes McCarthy is more forgiving than many would be. The first two pieces are painful to read, as they depict the bleak time after her parents' deaths when she lived with relatives who were less comprehending and compassionate than we would hope orphaned children would be blessed with. I enjoyed the book very much all told and her reflections on her Catholic upbringing were illumiinating. ( )
  thesmellofbooks | Oct 26, 2012 |
826 Memories of a Catholic Girlhood, by Mary McCarthy (read 19 Oct 1965) I disapproved of this book, since I disapprove of people losing their Catholic Faith. Wikipedia has an article on the book: ( )
  Schmerguls | Sep 13, 2010 |
McCarthy combined long, sensual sentences with her strong, journalistic voice in this memoir. ( )
  JenLynnKnox | Oct 11, 2009 |
Haven't read this for a while, so I'm not going to summarize, just give an impression. The author lost her parents in the 1918 flu epidemic. What happens after their deaths is the essence of these stories, each of which comes with an introduction by the author telling us what is made up, what is possibly remembered incorrectly, and what almost certainly must be true. With that out of the way, the reader can sit back and enjoy. I recall these stories as being both funny and heartbreaking, and some of best writing of the period. ( )
1 vote paulpekin | Sep 26, 2009 |
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These memories of mine have been collected slowly, over a period of years.
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0156586509, Paperback)

This unique autobiography begins with McCarthy’s recollections of an indulgent, idyllic childhood tragically altered by the death of her parents in the influenza epidemic of 1918. Tempering the need to fictionalize for the sake of a good story with the need for honesty, she creates interchapters that tell the reader what she has inferred or invented. Photographs.

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:06:55 -0400)

(see all 4 descriptions)

Tracing her moral struggles to the day she accidentally took a sip of water before her Communion'a mortal sin'Mary McCarthy gives us eight funny and heartrending essays about the illusive and redemptive nature of memory "During the course of writing this, I've often wished that I were writing fiction." Originally published in large part as standalone essays in the New Yorker and Harper's Bazaar, Mary McCarthy's acclaimed memoir begins with her recollections of a happy childhood cut tragically short by the death of her parents during the influenza epidemic of 1918. Tempering memory with invention, McCarthy describes how, orphaned at six, she spent much of her childhood shuttled between two sets of grandparents and three religions'Catholic, Protestant, and Jewish. One of four children, she suffered abuse at the hands of her great-aunt and uncle until she moved to Seattle to be raised by her maternal grandparents. Early on, McCarthy lets the reader in on her secret: The chapter you just read may not be wholly reliable'facts have been distilled through the hazy lens of time and distance. In Memories of a Catholic Girlhood, McCarthy pays homage to the past and creates hope for the future. Reminiscent of Nabokov's Speak, Memory, this is a funny, honest, and unsparing account blessed with the holy sacraments of forgiveness, love, and redemption. This ebook features an illustrated biography of Mary McCarthy including rare images from the author's estate.… (more)

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