Summary and book reviews of A Monk Swimming by Malachy McCourt

A Monk Swimming

A Memoir

By Malachy McCourt

A Monk Swimming
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  • Hardcover: Apr 1998,
    290 pages.
    Paperback: Apr 1999,
    255 pages.

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Book Summary

In 1952, travelling steerage, Malachy McCourt left a childhood of poverty in Limerick, Ireland, heading for the promise of America. This is the story of what he brought with him, and what he thought he left behind.

Larger than life, a world-class drinker, McCourt carved out a place for himself in New York City: in the saloons, as the first celebrity bartender, mixing with socialites, writers, and movie stars, on stage and on television, where the tales he spun made him a Tonight Show regular.

He had money and women and, eventually, children of his own; and that's when he found he had not left his memories as far behind as he had thought. He had no choice but to stop and turn and face his past.

Darkly funny, shockingly raw, and everywhere making the English language do tricks the British never intended, Malachy McCourt, a true original, tells this story with passion, wit, irreverence, and charm.

Excerpt from Chapter One

There is a story in our family that one day my mother was strolling along with my brother Frank and myself, and pushing our twins in a pram. A huge black motorcar stopped at the kerb, and out hopped a smartly dressed chauffeur, who opened the rear door for a bejeweled, befurred grande-dame type of woman who, putting the well-shod feet on the ground, commanded the mother to stop, which she did promptly. Then the grande dame waxed lyrical on the subject of myself--how, she had never seen a more beautiful little boy: the blonde hair, the gleaming teeth, the gorgeous skin, and the smile--and bow she would pay any amount of money to the mother to allow her to adopt me.

The mother, as the story is told, thought, and thought, and thought, and said it was an attractive proposition, but she couldn't think of a way to explain my disappearance to my father, who had not yet disappeared himself, so she reluctantly declined the offer.

In later years, &...

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Reviews

Media Reviews
New York Times

Where Angela's Ashes is about the McCourts' childhood in Limerick, A Monk Swimming picks up the story after the brothers return to America. Where the older brother writes in the modulated lyricism of an Irish-American looking back to a distant time and place, the younger brother speaks in the raucous brogue of a native freshly landed on a foreign shore.

People Magazine

Irresistible...equal parts pathos and belly laughs.

People Magazine

Irresistible...equal parts pathos and belly laughs.

Author Blurb Jim Sheridan, filmmaker, My Left Foot
'If you don't like laughing, you'll hate this book.' -

Author Blurb Jim Sheridan, filmmaker, My Left Foot
'If you don't like laughing, you'll hate this book.' -

Reader Reviews
Mark Williams

normal
Hugely funny with very real descriptions of life's ups and downs. I was impressed with the writing style, wit and cleaver use of phrases. It was entertaining even though I don't drink alcohol and think alcohol overuse is idiotic. I think most ...   Read More

Michael Draper

Those who do not like this book are, quite possibly, of the same distemperent disposition of the tight-xxxxxx brit-oriented Anglophiles whom Mr. McCourt so jovially dissects in this hillariously dark memoir. Those who despise this book must suffer a ...   Read More

Anonymous
Daniel McDermount
I found this book to be above average at parts, but as a whole, I was not entirely pleased. Yes, Mr. McCourt shared many interesting accounts of his life with the readers, but I must agree with Ms. McIlraith. His use of language ...   Read More

Anonymous
Eric Carlsson
My dear Erin, nothing could be further from the truth. "A Monk Swimming" is a devilishly funny, and outrageously entertaining book. To try and compare it to "Angela's Ashes" is like drawing parallels between apples ...   Read More

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