Literary Fiction

The Misremembered Man – Christina McKenna

13 October 2018
The Misremembered Man Book Cover The Misremembered Man
Christina McKenna
Toby Press

Jamie McCloone's early years in a grim, cruel orphanage have left him wary of people and anxious of change. Now in his early forties, he has no dreams of changing his lonely life as a bachelor farmer until his kind-hearted neighbours, Patrick and Rose, decide he is in need of a wife. Lydia couldn't be more different to Jamie. Rector's daughter and proper schoolteacher, she still lives at home, looking after her aged and demanding mother. She dreams constantly of changing her spinsterly fate, but has no idea how to - until a friend suggests she puts an ad in the Lonely Hearts column of the Mid-Ulster Vindicator. The result is a meeting of absolute opposites: farmer Jamie with his cavalier attitude to personal hygiene and his ignorance of the fairer sex, and Lydia Devine, for whom everything must be folded neatly and laid in its proper place - including her ideal man. The Misremembered Man is a beautifully rendered portrait of life in rural Ireland which charms and delights with its authentic characters and gentle humor. But the tears it brings to our eyes are not only tears of laughter. This vivid portrayal of the universal search for love brings with it a darker tale, heartbreaking in its poignancy, for Jamie's search for love is truly a search for innocence and the childhood that was stolen from him. In this first novel, McKenna lays bare a sinister period of Ireland's history; one which many would prefer to leave hidden and safe from investigative eyes.


The Misremembered Man is a captivating and very endearing story of 2 mature people dealing with a harsh past, a lonely present and a hope for a renewed future. Jamie McCloone and Lydia Devine are, both strangers, both seeking companionship, and both hoping for something meaningful in their autumn years. They find themselves increasingly alone as family and friends move on or pass away. There is a very sad underlying history and vulnerability with Jamie, particularly as his childhood was spent in an Irish orphanage with all its brutality and abuse. Jamie is a rough-cut farmer, honest and hardworking but socially awkward. Lydia is a school teacher, precise, polished and well-spoken, and carer to her elderly mother.

Lydia needs a partner for a wedding and decides against all logic to advertise in the paper. Jamie who has been coaxed into looking into the newspaper’s Lonely Hearts section sees the advert and decides to respond. His first attempt at a response, before his friends get hold of it, is hilarious, and the black humour is always prevalent throughout the book. Their first meeting was a bit of a shock but there was something really touching and absorbing about him despite his appearance in yellow shoes. The Northern Ireland (Norn Iron) slang is not something you’ll meet too often but you just can’t help reading with a smile on your face as the dialogue is really funny.

The social connections between the characters are very keenly observed and Jamie’s reflections back to the orphanage, are treated with a lighter touch than what may have been expected. I felt that approach was more appropriate for this story and maybe more poignant for it.

The story is not a complex tale and the plot is pretty straightforward but there is a lot of fun journeying through this story. There is a final twist when Lydia’s mother dies and leaves her a life-shattering revelation in a letter. Serendipity is one of life’s mysteries but with it comes a chance and a sense of hope.

Peter Donnelly

Founder of The Reading Desk, supporting readers, authors, publishers and book industry. Top Reviewer on Amazon, Goodreads, and NetGalley

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