In her youth, Mary Goodlet Clyde never expected to leave her family and friends in East Belfast, Northern Ireland. But her marriage changed all that. This descriptive memoir shares the details of the author’s life and her many travels across the world.
Clyde was born in Scotland in 1921, but when her mother died of pneumonia shortly after her birth, she was sent to Ireland to be raised by her father’s sister. The author vividly draws the setting, including games she played with friends, schooling and other aspects of life in her working class neighborhood.
Things changed drastically after she married Victor, who then served with the Royal Army Service Corp. For the next 50 years, and through the births of her four children, she followed her wanderlust husband to Rhodesia (now Zimbabwe), Canada, New Zealand, South Africa and back to Ireland, experiencing the wonder of new places and unique peoples.
The book offers well-drawn pictures of the author’s struggles, including continually changing housing and jobs, illnesses and family deaths. Clyde relates such events in detail, down to the pesky African insects — sometimes relating more information than readers will want to absorb and often with the flat viewpoint of a dispassionate bystander. When Clyde describes disturbing scenes such as experiencing Belfast’s wartime bombing, for example, her prose is more reportorial than emotionally engaging. “Lorries were piled high with corpses,” she writes. “…The grotesqueness of the carnage robbed people of their dignity and peace.”
The narrative includes textbook-like passages of historical and political detail throughout (unfortunately with limited attribution) that puts the author’s life events in context, along with some photos of family, friends and memorial sites.
This memoir will serve as a fine family history for future generations, but its lack of dramatic writing hinders its ability to connect with general readers. As a result, it’s likely to be of more interest to the author’s inner circle than a wider audience.