Book review: What Becomes of Us by Henrietta McKervey @hmckervey @HachetteIre


Go Book Yourself | 01/08/2015

what becomes of us book review

Published: April 2015
Publisher: Hachette Ireland
Format: Softback

This copy was provided by the publisher in return for an honest review

Its 1965 and Dublin is a city of change.

Maria and leaves behind a broken home and travels by ship to Ireland’s capital in the hopes of building a better future for her and her daughter.

She quickly befriends her neighbour Mrs Halpin who agrees to babysit Anna while she tries to find a job. Spurred on by her feisty friend Eve, Maria lands a job at Telefis Eireann as a copy editor.

After a short stay she’s moved to another area to work on the Easter Rising commemorative program. This is where she learns of Cumman na mBan. 

I am a little ashamed to say I didn’t know a lot about Cumman na mBan before reading What Becomes of Us but that’s why I love reading. It opens up whole new worlds. According to the RTE website:

“On 2 April 1914, over 100 women gathered in Dublin to discuss the role of women in the lead-up to revolution.

They became Cumann na mBan - an organisation whose role in achieving Irish independence is almost forgotten.

The meeting, at Wynn's Hotel, was presided over by Agnes O'Farrelly. 

The first provisional committee of Cumann na mBan included Agnes MacNeill, Nancy O’Rahilly, Mary Colum, Jenny Wyse Power, Louise Gavan Duffy and Elizabeth Bloxham.

They adopted a constitution which stated their aims were:

- To Advance the cause of Irish liberty

- To organise Irish women in the furtherance of that objective

- To assist in arming and equipping a body of Irish men for the defence of Ireland

- To form a fund for these purposes to be called the ‘Defence of Ireland Fund’.”

You can read the rest of the article here:

It’s clear that Mrs Halpin isn’t keen on Maria’s new job or Cumman na mBan. According to her death by gunshot would have been too good for these women! In fact Mrs Halpin isn’t keen on a lot of things and she seems intent on forcing her ideals on Maria’s young daughter. Poor Anna is really unsure of what to make of all this talk of saints and scones (or skoooiiins as Mrs Halpin insists she calls them). I did appreciate the injection of humour though it made a nice change of pace.

Maria has trouble getting information for the programme but she finally lands a promising lead in the form of Tess Mc Dermott. Maria quickly learns that Tess’s memories are guarded by a wall that she must slowly and carefully chip away at. As Tess learns to trust Maria we find out what an incredibly brave person she was. I loved reading her story. 

As next year marks the 100Th anniversary of the Easter Rising I feel stories like this will pay an important role. Especially as the stories involving the women of the rising often go untold. 

What Becomes of Us is a real gem – a stunning debut that I am proud to have on my bookshelf. I feel like it’s a book that I will often thumb through just to return to the wonderful writing and imagery.


★★★★ ☆

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