Thursday, September 1, 2016

Secret Child by Gordon Lewis and Andrew Crofts

This is not a great book, but it's a reasonably interesting memoir of Gordon Lewis who was born and spent his early childhood in a home for unwed mothers in 1950's Dublin.  At the time, his mother was determined to keep him but unable to tell any of her friends of family that she had a child so they lived in relative isolation from the outside world.

The author paints a great picture of his mother - strong, determined, and self-sufficient she makes the best life she can for her son under the circumstances.  However, Gordon who does not do well in school (years later he is diagnosed with dyslexia) begins to get in trouble by running about town with the other "unfortunates" and causing general mischief.  When he is brought home by the police for the second time his mother decides she must get him away from the bad influences and turns to an old boyfriend who she had been unable to marry as his Protestant and her Catholic families were so vehemently opposed to the relationship.  He proposes and promises to take care of mother and son, bringing them to London where he now lives.

Gordon learns early that Bill is full of promises and short on delivery, but nonetheless he sees Bill and his mother are in love and figures out the best way he can how to make a new life for himself in London.  His mother even prohibits him from ever talking about his past life - which is hard for him as he misses both his friends and Bridie, the woman who was like a second mother to him while his mother worked.  Though still struggling in school, Gordon inherits his mother's entrepreneurial spirit and finds creative ways to make money even as a young boy.

The book begins with Gordon returning to Dublin to seek out his father and ends with us learning the identity of his father and the details of why his mother was left on her own.  Though that story is somewhat sad, you can't help but feel Gordon was lucky to be raised by such a determined single mother in a time and place when that was nearly unheard of.

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