...All of Us There had a lasting effect on me: so many months later I still feel the Irish walks, the story of the parents... I loved the flatmate and the early stuff and the dazzlement of money and the narcotic charm of Ireland…paint me more Ireland, bigger, wider, longer, because you do it better than I’ve ever read.
Reader from New York
... That implacable yet tender look on things and people, the interrogation about a woman’s role and identity in all her facets reflected by others. It is simply wonderful that you cold convey all these emotions with such great style, humour, love and compassion. This book is an amazingly good work.
...I am reading your book All of Us There with great delight. It is a masterpiece. Only once or twice in literature has childhood been so wonderfully celebrated...
George Mackay Brown
Several years ago I found Blackstaff’s The Rattle of The North with excerpts of All of Us There. Over and over again I have used those excerpts teaching classes in Irish literature and culture here in San Diego on the border with Mexico. I also teach classes in The Irish/Mexican Connection.
But what I want you to know principally is that a friend who had heard of you in one of my classes brought be back All of Us There. I have been reading it - somehow I did not know it had been reprinted - this week and it would be hard to find words to tell you what it has meant to me. What a feat, your carefully worked through, poetic and painstakingly written book. You have given my grandmother a life for me as no other Irish writer ever has done. How it cost you to write such a book. And yet, it would have been more costly to keep it to yourself. Words to thank you fail me.
I am a writer and poet …in your book you say that children cannot ask for what they do not know they want. No child, certainly, but I have waited to read your work for so long without knowing how much I wanted and needed it.
J.L San Diego
Not only did I enjoy your book - I found it so beautifully evocative that, although I was brought up in Belfast, I had no difficulty in joining all of you on the shores of Lough Neagh. Like the Member of the Wedding I wanted to belong.
...By a strange chance, I must have flown scores of times past your family home back and forth, back and forth. In the last winter of the war, my RAF squadron trained in ‘Lough Neagh’ night bombing - hoping to catch U-boats, eventually, on the surface at night we never did. But I had to go with the crews on training flights, with the target a buoy on the east side of Lough Neagh. It must have given your family and neighbours weary nights! Anyway, it’s a lovely book.
All of Us There is a marvellously haunting and beautiful book, something to be so proud of; a perfect testament to yourself and your family, it seems to me.
...Your books have enchanted me beyond belief, and the more so because Ardboe is a familiar place, and all the countryside around - Ballinderry of the musical name and the even more musical river - salterstown with its dear familiar part of the lough shore - Coagh, that strange little village with the harsh-sounding name - surely Coagh must be an Irish word bastardised? Drunconvis - the Crabtree - Tamlaght - all of them are in my heart, too.
I write to thank you for the pleasure you have given me. In All of Us There you make many things clear to me and yet I am drenched with sadness in the reading, for all the life that has gone and with it any sense of security which I might have had...
...Then, gradually, like a mist rising, I began to see the people and the strange landscape and to become involved. There are some marvellous bits here: the fishing, the servant girl, especially the Mass in the open air. Very, very good descriptive writing - simple and evocative…. it was however the last bit, the speculations on Catholicism in a Protestant land which caught me totally. It says more about the troubles, says it more eloquently, more heartbreakingly, more succinctly, than any political writing I’ve every read. Really terrific...
...All of Us There is a magical book. (I’ve tried to think of a more precise adjective, something prosaic, because I refuse to succumb to the spells you cast but there isn’t one. Magical.) I came home to find it in a paper bag from the Bridport Bookshop. I ordered it some weeks ago and while I know it’s not to be published for another week or so the young couple down there evidently knew I ought to have it at once. I’m not sure they were right. The lure of your writing terrifies me just as all great writing does. Flippancy is my safeguard, that and parody. …. By melding beauty and understanding so brilliantly it takes one’s breath away. I don’t like the word ‘brilliant’ because it has come to be associated with facility and you book isn’t in the least easy. I suppose a hardened reader could go through it at a sitting but if I did it would take me months to recover. Beauty of this sort inflicts pain. I don’t mean the beauty of your description or memories but of your understanding, what’s called insight. I daresay people will blather on about intuition but while you undoubtedly have it to a remarkable degree it is the intelligence, the understanding that I find so breathtaking that I want to jump up and shout about. … … I can recognise gifts when I see them. So I shall read the book slowly to avoid the pain of it all and not to be influenced by your style. …. As it is I’m like Francey suspended in mid-air in the hay barn torn by the opposing poles of your world and the needs of my own. The ancient regime…which is so much a part of your book. And the smell of the countryside. The barnyard and the hens and the dogs along the road and the orange lozenge panes around the front door. I am there but that’s the easy part and what is so wonderful is that the winding sheet of your family’s feelings has been unwound and you are all there alive and fighting and dance. That’s unique. Every now and again I stop and look at the page and wonder if you are projecting but, no, the truth of it all shines through. And the way you use tenses pulls me into your world. It is magical. And for all the pain, the savagery and hatred your vision never negates...
...Now that I have read All of Us There I treasure it. It is the only intimate and un-angry expression of the feelings of a colonised people that I have ever read and I think it is your lack of anger that gives it its strength.
And the family. You have made your family and the obscure place they live in universal in an imperceptible way which I can’t define. Maybe you didn’t know you were doing that. But you did it.
I feel the same about the delicacy with which you write of religion - the magical and folklore part, inspiration is it partly? and suffering - declaring yourself to be a Methodist, I found terribly moving.
And Lord Brookeborough! I had a similar experience - though not hurtful to me - in the BBC Belfast.
I’ve missed out because I can’t write about poetry how I love your evocation of the countryside and people, but you have created in my mind an indelible picture...
David Thompson (author of Woodbrook)
...I have just read “All of Us There”, and wanted to say how much I enjoyed it. It is very poetic and evocative, but the points that struck me most were first, the appalling so-called religious education that you had to put up with, and secondly there is what you describe as the psychic pain, that stems from evil deeds done on the past. I wonder if anyone else has commented to you on this?...
I’ve just finished reading your book ‘All of Us There’ and before I read it again, I want to thank you for the writing of it.
As I turned the pages a prayer rang in my head on some other novel - Oh God that everyone should read this, then they would know; for here is Truth from the heart; the cry of the dispossessed, and the so lambent evocation of what has been lost, that cannot be regained, but the acknowledgement of how it was and is.
...what makes the book, to my mind, great is that your story is more than personal, but universal. ... since your book arrived in the public library it has been out every month without a break. …I feel so grateful to have been allowed to see over the wall and recognise a sister spirit, for in writing your story, it tells to me as if you have shown the way back for more sisters that you have ever known.
...nothing I read gave me half as much pleasure as did All of Us There. I read it as slowly as I could for fear of finishing it too soon. Certain parts made me weep and I was willing to do so. The pain and the fun were so brilliant and clear I felt I too was Irish! Which for a totally Jewish half Russian, quarter Polish and quarter Dutch lady is a tribute indeed. What it made me feel above all is sadness at being an only child. How lovely to have-to-be-a sister.
I have been reading with immense pleasure your book ‘All of Us There’ which was of particular interest to me since my mother (Ann Jane) was a Treanor from Cookstown whose people owned the Battery at Ardboe... ...I look forward to reading more products of your imaginative pen in the future.
Joe Roe Clancy
I find it very hard to explain to you how I enjoyed and lived through your books, especially All of Us There. I know Ardboe and love it so much. The little graveyard, the Pin tree which I hammered a penny into. I can’t remember the wish I made, maybe it was for the peace of the world. This is always my wish and I believe wishes are prayers.
Whenever I was at Ardboe (15 years ago) I brought a piece of the Pin tree home with me, I still have it after all these years and it would give me great joy that you would have it.
All of Us There is a very moving book. It is a painfully accurate description of the unmatched agonies of being young and aware in a divided community...
You have given me the ‘feel’ of Ireland in a way I should not have thought possible...`
I like All of Us There very much. It has, as Proust says somewhere (though I think I shall miss-spell it) ‘invigaudnes’/’the smell of the place’. And though the circumstances of your childhood and mine are not, really, for matching, certain things I know as you know them, and as you remind me of them.
...I have always wanted to know more about the background to the continuing problems of Northern Ireland - the apparent intransigence of all parties. Your book has given me a very personal insight into ‘Why’... ... These references make a haunting background to your book. But most of it is a delightful glimpse into a Catholic childhood in 1950’s Ireland, which I very much enjoyed.
...You know, you are a remarkably fine writer. I was quite right when I said you are the best essayist writing in English today. And now you have done it again with a whole book of essays linking different aspects of a single theme, each so beautifully and densely written that one dare not hurry on to the next enchanting idea or paragraph for fear of skipping over some verbal gem tucked away towards the end of a sentence. So many lovely words and phrases jump new-minted from the page.
And what fascinates me just as much, is the way that the whole is even greater than the parts. The parts - each chiselled, hammered little scene - lock together to make a complete and living picture of that strange childhood that is still all round you... ... Your lovely book of a fabled childhood should be enforced reading for every English politician to trap him into wisdom unawares.
I have just read All of Us There. I thought it was LOVELY, beautifully written and have put in on the shelf next to Wordsworth - no greater honour. It reminded me of my own childhood (spent on the other side of the religious divide) e.g. the harvest scenes and the power of Ellen, and at the same time taught me so much. I wanted it to be a good deal longer.
I was fortunate enough to read two of your books, ‘Only Sometimes Looking Sideways’ and ‘All of Us There.’ I enjoyed them both a great deal, albeit for different reasons and thought I should take the liberty of writing to you to tell you so!
The former provided wonderful reading on my flight to New Zealand at Christmas - the vigour of writing and diversity of topics provided an ideal antidote to the tedium of flying. Thank you.
The latter has fired me with the desire to re-visit Northern Ireland and those parts I have (inexcusably) neglected in the past. It was really a delight to be taken into your inner circle of kin and community and to be able to read of a time and place that has now, sadly, disappeared. When I visit Lough Neagh and the Old Cross at Ardboe, I will be prepared for things not being as they were, or should be, but it was very generous of you to have preserved what was in such a wonderful book. It was truly a delight to read.
Thank you for writing All of Us There which I have read and finished with pleasure and relish... The book got better the more I read.
... I adored All of Us There. There were so many wonderful, magical, memorable pieces. I also loved The Far Side of the Lough.
Clare Boylan - Image Magazine
I was absolutely enchanted by All of Us There. It is beautifully written and the relationship between the sisters most sensitively handled. I love the sympathy by which the social milieu is handled with an appreciation which I think would be impossible to find in a similar type of social economic background in Britain.
To look back from another world, gives it a certain poignancy that even the most talented ‘local writer’ could not begin to handle.
What pleasure I gained from reading your extraordinarily moving book! My pleasure came from so many aspects of the book.. Most of all I was profoundly impressed by the sensitivity of your recollections.
I found your book enchanting and sadly nostalgic. There is an old saying that ‘you can take the man out of the country but you can’t take the country out of the man,’ and your charming book confirms that the adage quoted applies equally to a woman.
I write to tell you what pleasure All of Us There has given me. It was a delight to read slowly, enjoying the pictures it conjured up and the poetic rhythms of your prose.
Italy - This is where I’ve read All of Us There. It is wonderful, truly, it is something else. I love it and admire it hugely.
I have never read anything so poignant or beautiful Your descriptions are intensely moving and haunting. This is a most important book for withered humanity and it has taken such courage and dedication to write. It is so deep you are submerged in it yet so clear that you can see better through such crystal water. Here is living proof of a most lyrical genius...
I’ve become hooked on All of Us There. It’s so beautifully written - poetry - or more blank verse in parts.
Your All of Us There and a visit to the Ardboe Cemetery were the highlights of my Tyrone visit. I discovered the cemetery before your book and later wish it might have been otherwise. This is to tell you how much we appreciate your beautiful prose. (I have read your entire book aloud to my wife who was as moved as I was by your accomplishment and talent.) Furthermore you have explained so much we could not understand about our own Irish heritage, especially the autocratic Irish justice ruling our isolated rural parishes here in America
All of Us There is beautiful. I think the blurb’s claim to be a work of literature is fulfilled. I found parts of it very moving indeed - I cried a number of times in the course of reading it... I am amazed at the sheer quality of the writing, the way you have go under the surface of your world with language, the intensity and the originality of metaphor and phrase, especially when you are talking about ephemeral things, and the marvellous recreation of place and period.
I found All of Us There in a village bookshop in Somerset. I was very pleased! It is a touching portrait of you and your sisters. It is also ferocious. What a bond there must be between you all. Those middle class people at Warrenpiont lived in a false security. They lived in a limited enclosure of their own structuring. But out of frustration you created your own world. And now it can never be lost, because it is enshrined in your books. I have been enriched by making their acquaintance.