A Series of Series #1: The Agnes Browne Trilogy by Brendan O’Carroll

Hello and welcome to the first installment in a series I’ve just thought up, and do hope to continue, called A Series of Series.

A Series of Series, which is a possibly terrible name but I really don’t care (do you?), is a… thing, I guess, in which I will feature a series that I love, like, or even just read and have thoughts on. There will be one installment a month here on my humblog (is that a word? does anybody say that? humble-blog… get it?) until… well, until I’ve got no more series to talk about. Thus creating a series of series.

I’m so terrible at naming things.

But anyway, let’s begin with The Agnes Browne Trilogy by Brendan O’Carroll. The three books in the series are The Mammy, The Chisellers, and The Granny.

Agnes Browne, in the first book, is a newly widowed mother of seven in the poorer section of Dublin, Ireland during the 1960s. Agnes works a fruit stall with her best friend Marion Monks and struggles to manage life with a humor, a grace, and a dedication that will impress anyone willing to read this collection. (Discussing things of a sexual nature and learning to drive with Marion are the things every friendship should strive for!) The second book follows the Browne family as they grow, the children becoming their own people (for better or for worse) and Agnes falling further in love with a Frenchman named Pierre. And in the final book, Agnes is a grandmother and her children are grown, making their own mistakes (one is in jail) and triumphs but they always return to Agnes!

Agnes is not perfect, but then no one is. That’s what’s so appealing about this trilogy (to be fair, I believe there is a fourth book but I have not read it and I don’t intend to because these three are perfect to me and I don’t want to break the spell), that it is a real family, proverbial warts and all. Heartbreak, laughter, fighting, loving, fierce dedication to one another… that’s what family is. And it’s amazing to read about somebody else being just imperfect enough to be perfect!

I found The Mammy at a library used book sale one summer. It had a fantastic cover, it was short, and I was there on the day when paperbacks were only $0.25 so I couldn’t imagine not buying it, despite never having heard of it. I did not realize it was part of a series, not until the next summer. Because apparently I wasn’t up on Googling every thought that flitted through my mind back in, say, 2006 or so. But a year after finding what I now know was the first book, I found The Granny at the same library used book sale. It was another fantastic cover and I’d liked the first book, so another was a no-brainer. I did not realize it was book #3 and not book #2, not until after I read it.

So, not being completely inept at computer-y things, I took myself directly to Amazon and ordered a used copy of The Chisellers. But I could not wait to read The Granny, so I didn’t. Good thing too, since the copy I ordered was being sent from Ohio (I’m in Pennsylvania) and I tracked it through Illinois, California, and a few other states (we’re talking at least six weeks here, people) before I complained to Amazon, they refunded my money, and then the book showed up!

Fond memories!

But they actually are truly, not sarcastically fond memories because I laughed until I cried reading The Mammy, and I cried tears of sadness too, and I laughed for both reasons reading the second and third books too. I got my mother to read them (she didn’t laugh quite as much, but probably I’d told her too much), my sister read them, my aunt read them because I said they were good. It was my aunt and my mother who suggested lending The Mammy to my grandmother as she waited to be scheduled for surgery for pancreatic cancer. I wasn’t sure, because my grandmother was a Catholic eighty year old and the books tend toward raunchy in some places, but I lent it to her. And she laughed until she cried too, even telling the nurses about how Agnes and Marion discuss sex and talk about ‘organisms’ instead of ‘orgasms.’ I think my family who hadn’t read the book was a little scandalized, but it was worth it. And my grandmother was so impatient to read the rest of the series that she offered to order a second copy of the second book, but then it finally came. While she had the books, my grandfather saw The Chisellers on a table and read it, because he remembered clothes like that as a little boy. He read them all and he liked them all. I don’t remember him reading any other books.

Good memories of those no longer here, thanks to books randomly chosen from piles of books costing only a quarter.

Thanks, Brendan O’Carroll, for the memories.

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