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Never No More (1942)

by Maura Laverty

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865261,844 (3.96)24
When Delia's family moves away, Delia goes to live with her grandmother in a farmhouse in the Irish countryside. Here, she experiences the happiest years of her life as she watches the seasons come and go until, one November day, she stands poised for independence - and Spain.

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» See also 24 mentions

Showing 5 of 5
young woman's memories of rural Ireland and her strong Gran
  ritaer | May 3, 2021 |
This book was an achingly beautiful bildungsroman of a young girl who, following the death of her father and because of her tenuous relations with her mother, chooses to go live with her grandmother in a provincial village on the edge of the Bog of Allen. The setting is authentically Irish with a host of interesting characters whose lives make up the fabric of village life. But it is the chronicle of Delia's relationship with Gran that gives the book its depth and beauty. ( )
  Chateauneuf | Oct 21, 2019 |
I read this while on holiday in Ireland, and it was a good choice. In an apparently largely autobiographical novel, the author describes her teens in a 1920s Irish village. When her widowed mother sets off for the city with her other children, narrator Delia Scully is thrilled to be allowed to remain behind with her beloved grandmother. Rural life of yesteryear is brought to life: the peat cutting, the meals (Gran - and Maura Laverty - were enthusiasts for cookery), school, the Catholic church... Stories of the local people- idiots, lovers, revolutionaries - give a further depth to the narrative. Immensely enjoyable, heart warming read. ( )
  starbox | Jul 29, 2018 |
Maura Laverty’s first novel Never No More, and its later follow up No More than Human, are autobiographical novels based upon Maura Laverty’s own life in County Kildare, and her subsequent life in Spain. I was first introduced to these novels thanks to lovely reviews of them on Fleurinherworld’s blog.
As Never no More opens, thirteen year old Delia Scully returns from her father’s funeral. Her family is a large one, she is one of nine children, and she is not her mother’s favourite at all, is often criticised and unfavourably compared to one of her sisters. However Delia is fortunate to enjoy a close relationship of mutual love and understanding with her Grandmother. So when Delia’s mother decides to move to Kilkenny and open a new drapery business Delia is overjoyed to be invited to live with her Grandmother in Ballyderrig.
Ballyderrig is a small village on the edge of The Bog of Allen, a place of great beauty described by Laverty with eager enthusiasm. The community is traditional, mainly Catholic; a community of turf cutters, farmers, spinsters, widows and even a prostitute who is tolerated by everyone, where young girls marry fifty year old farmers and babies come frequently. Delia loves her life with her beloved gran at Derrymore House which she shares with Judy Ryan who works for her.
“The bog was never so beautiful as in May, when we cut the turf. A white road stretching straight and true as a taut ribbon ran gladly through that gentle spread of lovely colour. For a little distance, the full beauty of the bog was screened by the hedges that bordered the road – hedges of foaming May blossom and twisted mountain ash and swaying bog-willow. Later, the wild convolvulus would join each bush and tree with wildly-flung vines dripping with purple and white bells, and the honeysuckle and sweet briar would do their most fragrant best to kill your memories of the scent of departed hawthorn. At each side, a grassy bank climbed from the dust of the road to meet the green of the hedge. Innocent dog-daisies, slim-fingered ferns and tenacious Robin-run-the-hedge mingled with the waving little pink flags unfurled by the wild vetch.”
For Laverty herself, although she had a gran – it seems she was not quite the woman portrayed in Never No More, Laverty’s creation is the grandmother we all would want. Delia’s gran, Mrs Lacy – approaching seventy with her book of remedies and her ability to cook and care for anyone who needs it – is a loved and respected member of the community. Mrs Lacy is a gently pious woman who still kneels by her bed and utters the prayer she learnt as a child. When Delia is tormented with guilt about her relationship with her mother and siblings, her grandmother is able to wipe it out with understanding and wisdom.
Never No More is full of small Irish village life, a round of weddings, wakes, dances and pig killings and the rites and traditions surrounding these landmark occasions. Delia’s simple life is blessed; when she wished desperately for a new bicycle her grandmother makes sure she gets one. The people who visit Derrymore House, and to whom Mrs Lacy sends Delia on errands enthral the eager young girl with their stories and Laverty tells these stories with great affection. The one shadow hanging over Delia is her grandmother’s wish for her to be a school teacher. Delia is destined to go to the convent school at Wicklow to study when she is old enough. Unsure that teaching is the right path for her, Delia hates the thought of being separated from gran, but she desperately doesn’t want to disappoint her grandmother either.
When she is fifteen Delia goes to Wicklow to school, heart sore at being separated from her grandmother and Ballyderrig Delia struggles to adjust. Distracted by poetry – her great love, and finding French and mathematics just too hard Delia begins to fall behind in her studies. She also manages to get on the wrong side of one of the sisters –and Delia’s rage against the woman, who does appear unnecessarily harsh, blinds her to the fact that the nun is really only doing what she believes to be her duty. Soon enough though, Delia’s misery is brought to a halt by the sensible and timely intervention of her grandmother.
There is an inevitable sadness to the end of the novel – which I am sure anyone can see coming. As the novel ends Delia is approaching seventeen – although there seems to be a confusion of dates in my 1985 Virago Modern Classics edition due to an unfortunate and obvious misprint – and so her story is far from over. Delia’s story is continued in No More than Human – which I made sure I bought at the same time as this novel, so glad that I did I am sure I will read it soon. This was such a lovely read – peopled with memorable larger than life characters, surely based upon people the author knew as a girl. The voices of these characters Laverty captures perfectly, the whole novel rings clearly with the gentle Irish cadence of their speech. ( )
1 vote Heaven-Ali | Mar 1, 2014 |
Never No More tells the story of Delia, as she grows up in the 1920s, in the Irish countryside in the care of her beloved Grandmother.

Delia hadn’t always lived with her grandmother, but things had changed when her father died. Her mother, a skilled dressmaker, decided that the family should move to a bigger town where she could trade so much more profitably than she had in a country village.

An eminently sensible plan. But Delia was desperately unhappy at the prospect of leaving, and so her grandmother, unhappy at the prospect of losing all of her family, offered Delia a home with her until the time came for her to be sent to school.

That allows Maura Laverty write much rich, descriptive prose. And she catches everything. There are the rites of passage – births, the marriages, the deaths – that draw the whole community together. There are big events – the ritual that accompanies the slaughter of a pig, the annual cutting of the turf, the visit to the new family home - and there are the small, important details that make up lives.

Of course, it is the characters that bring all of that to life. So many wonderful characters, so many lives are caught. Because Maura Laverty is one of those special writers who knows that each and every person has their own particular story, and because she has the skill to draw them all out.

At the centre of it all is Delia, a girl with a warm heart and a bold spirit that would sometimes lead her into trouble. She is utterly believable, and oh so easy to love.

Her relationship with her grandmother – a woman so wise, so practical, so compassionate – is maybe a little too perfect, but it was so lovely that I was happily swept along.

Delia’s mother played a minor role, but she was such an interesting woman. Her marriage had not been happy and she struggled with motherhood, but she found her role in life as she built up her dressmaking business and was able to support her family.

That was when I understood why this book was a Virago Modern Classic.

It is a gem: an utterly charming story of a place and of its people, laced with laughter, tears and love.

What more could you need?! ( )
2 vote BeyondEdenRock | Nov 10, 2011 |
Showing 5 of 5
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Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Maura Lavertyprimary authorall editionscalculated
Binchy, MaeveIntroductionsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed

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To Thrush, my brother, who has always been the buttermilk for my soda-bread.
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It was strange to come home after my father's funeral and see the shuttered window of our shop and the bunch of black crepe hanging on the door, while Duffy's and Regan's and the other shops were bright and busy with the Saturday afternoon trade.
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When Delia's family moves away, Delia goes to live with her grandmother in a farmhouse in the Irish countryside. Here, she experiences the happiest years of her life as she watches the seasons come and go until, one November day, she stands poised for independence - and Spain.

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"You were the purple bog and ripe wheat-field and a crab tree in May.  You were good food and songs in the firelight and the rosary at night.  You were a welcome for my coming and a prayer for my going you.  You were Gran."
On the edge of the Bog of Allen with its hedges of foaming May blossom and twisted mountain ash lies the little lost village of Ballyderrig. It is 4th October 1920 and thirteen-year-old Delia looks forward to a new life. Her father dead, her mother, brothers and sisters prepare to move to the town of Kilkenny. But Delia stays behind, going to live with her beloved Grandmother in an old farmhouse outside the village. And thus begin the happiest years of this young girl's life: years filled with the beauty of the Irish countryside, the taste of Gran's baked hare, the texture of young mushrooms picked at dawn, the rituals of the turf-cutting season, and much much more. As the seasons come and go we watch Delia grow up until, one cold November day, now seventeen, she stands poised for independence - and Spain.
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