Before I tucked into this book, I quickly scanned the synopsis on the inner jacket and close to the bottom, the phrase “…sensual recollections of childhood…” made me chuckle.
And that is exactly what I got with this book. The author Gabriel Byrne weaves a lush, vivid and yes sensuous retelling of his life story. It evokes a literary sensibility akin to works of poetry. His style is delicate, but unafraid, plumbing the depths of his experiences and memories, paying homage to the many characters and experiences that have shaped him as a person and as an actor.
You can’t help but feel the dull gray of 60’s Dublin Ireland lay thick in the air as you read. The beautiful memories and tales underpinned with a pervasive sense of melancholy. Makes sense though, as memoirs can be deeply intimate affairs, and Byrne himself talks about his battles with addiction, alcoholism and depression. You get the sense of someone who feels deeply, maybe sometimes too deeply. I can relate.
I enjoyed reliving his childhood years with him, in my mind’s eye, I can see the bustling house full of loving parents and 5 siblings. From his first communion to his voyage into the seminary in London, his eventual expulsion and return to Ireland. The years spent aimlessly from one dead end job to the other. All of these paint a picture of the complex, reticent, and sometimes deeply chaotic and rebellious character of our author.
I smile, I mourn, I cringe, I resonate, I tear up sometimes, realizing that even though I am reading this in sunny South Africa miles and miles away from Ireland, some things are universal, some traumas are pervasive.
He shares glimpses into his days as an actor, from the amateur plays in Dublin, to the movies in Hollywood, hobnobbing with the rich, famous and sexy. You feel him and his complicated relationship to fame and success. His musings on the craft. The highs, the lows, the struggles and triumphs. The deep depression after a career defining win. Reminds us that the truly important things are the simple things that make us human.
The book ends with his focus turned to his Dad and Mum at the twilight of their lives. A bittersweet end to this journey we undertook. A mix of longing, remembrance, regret. A personal reminder for me to not take the people I love for granted. Life is indeed fragile.
All in all, I would definitely recommend this book to read, especially if you like memoirs or have an appreciation for creativity.
Walking with ghosts is really that. Walking with the ghosts of memories. Of time gone forever. Of experiences of all kinds and shades. Of love and lust and loss. This is an intimate experience, like sitting with the author over a cup of coffee by the fire on a cold night. Luxuriating in the bubbling potpourri that is our shared humanity, one soul to another.