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We Were Rich and We Didn't Know It: A Memoir of My Irish Boyhood

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In the tradition of Frank McCourt’s Angela’s Ashes and Alice Taylor’s To School Through the Fields, Tom Phelan’s We Were Rich and We Didn't Know It is a heartfelt and masterfully written memoir of growing up in Ireland in the 1940s. Tom Phelan, who was born and raised in County Laois in the Irish midlands, spent his formative years working with his wise and demanding father In the tradition of Frank McCourt’s Angela’s Ashes and Alice Taylor’s To School Through the Fields, Tom Phelan’s We Were Rich and We Didn't Know It is a heartfelt and masterfully written memoir of growing up in Ireland in the 1940s. Tom Phelan, who was born and raised in County Laois in the Irish midlands, spent his formative years working with his wise and demanding father as he sought to wrest a livelihood from a farm that was often wet, muddy, and back-breaking. It was a time before rural electrification, the telephone, and indoor plumbing; a time when the main modes of travel were bicycle and animal cart; a time when small farmers struggled to survive and turkey eggs were hatched in the kitchen cupboard; a time when the Church exerted enormous control over Ireland. We Were Rich and We Didn't Know It recounts Tom’s upbringing in an isolated, rural community from the day he was delivered by the local midwife. With tears and laughter, it speaks to the strength of the human spirit in the face of life's adversities.


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In the tradition of Frank McCourt’s Angela’s Ashes and Alice Taylor’s To School Through the Fields, Tom Phelan’s We Were Rich and We Didn't Know It is a heartfelt and masterfully written memoir of growing up in Ireland in the 1940s. Tom Phelan, who was born and raised in County Laois in the Irish midlands, spent his formative years working with his wise and demanding father In the tradition of Frank McCourt’s Angela’s Ashes and Alice Taylor’s To School Through the Fields, Tom Phelan’s We Were Rich and We Didn't Know It is a heartfelt and masterfully written memoir of growing up in Ireland in the 1940s. Tom Phelan, who was born and raised in County Laois in the Irish midlands, spent his formative years working with his wise and demanding father as he sought to wrest a livelihood from a farm that was often wet, muddy, and back-breaking. It was a time before rural electrification, the telephone, and indoor plumbing; a time when the main modes of travel were bicycle and animal cart; a time when small farmers struggled to survive and turkey eggs were hatched in the kitchen cupboard; a time when the Church exerted enormous control over Ireland. We Were Rich and We Didn't Know It recounts Tom’s upbringing in an isolated, rural community from the day he was delivered by the local midwife. With tears and laughter, it speaks to the strength of the human spirit in the face of life's adversities.

30 review for We Were Rich and We Didn't Know It: A Memoir of My Irish Boyhood

  1. 5 out of 5

    Diane S ☔

    3.5 I just love memoirs set in Ireland in times gone by. Phelan tells of his boyhood on a 52 acre farm in County Laois, a rural childhood during a time of few of life's luxuries. A demanding, often angry father, but one who loved his wife very much. Such tenderness was shown towards her, she never was expected to do much farm work and he would even help her bathe the children. Everything had a place, and things were kept neat by following prescribed routines. In his family one usually knew what 3.5 I just love memoirs set in Ireland in times gone by. Phelan tells of his boyhood on a 52 acre farm in County Laois, a rural childhood during a time of few of life's luxuries. A demanding, often angry father, but one who loved his wife very much. Such tenderness was shown towards her, she never was expected to do much farm work and he would even help her bathe the children. Everything had a place, and things were kept neat by following prescribed routines. In his family one usually knew what to expect and when. A more innocent time in ways, hard work for sure, but also unexpected treats now and then that were greatly appreciated. A time when people worked hard for what they had, and appreciated it the more for all that. Nothing taken for granted. The writing is plain, simple, sometimes funny, sometimes sad. The Catholic Church an ever present influence. Family mattered, stuck together. Phelans later life would be interesting as well. I enjoyed his heartfelt memoir. ARC from Edelweiss.

  2. 4 out of 5

    Chrissie

    Tom Phelan writes of his youth, growing up on a farm in County Laois in the Irish midlands. He was born in 1940. The book follows him to the point when he leaves home; he is off to boarding school. He is to study to be a priest. The short epilog tells us that in June 1965 he became an (view spoiler)[ordained priest. Eleven years later he left the priesthood (hide spoiler)] ! No explanation is given for this decision. The focus of the book is his youth in rural Ireland on a small, unmechanized far Tom Phelan writes of his youth, growing up on a farm in County Laois in the Irish midlands. He was born in 1940. The book follows him to the point when he leaves home; he is off to boarding school. He is to study to be a priest. The short epilog tells us that in June 1965 he became an (view spoiler)[ordained priest. Eleven years later he left the priesthood (hide spoiler)] ! No explanation is given for this decision. The focus of the book is his youth in rural Ireland on a small, unmechanized farm of fifty-two acres. It is about the back-breaking work of farm existence. The book is very much about Tom’s father and the relationship between the two. It is about Tom’s mother and his brother, neighbors and the occasional work-hand. It is about daily life—going to school, raising turkeys, plowing, the mating and foaling of horses, shoeing a horse at the forge, being an altar boy, being bullied by classmates and the all-pervading influence of the church. Where isn’t it so in Ireland? The book is about life in a rural community where all know everything about everyone else. Nothing, ever, can be kept secret. The reason why I liked this book as much as I did is because everything is laid bare. Relationships and hardships and how people really behave are spoken of. The telling feels very honest to me. There is a story of the night a tree is felled and stolen. “The only neighborly way to get the tree was to steal it.” Doesn’t that pique your interest? We are told of how Tom and his brother were instructed by their father to answer all questions with the reply, “I don’t know.” Why does a father teach a son that? The person I got to know best was Tom’s father. I came to like this man very much. Despite his harshness, he was a good man! The prose is simple and direct. It makes the reader think. What do you think of this? “I remembered the pebble of doubt he had placed in my boot.” This concerned whether Tom should one day become a priest. One day Tom’s maternal uncle, Billy, visits. Tom remembers his red handkerchief and how he sang and he cried, there, in their kitchen. This became a memory Tom and his siblings would never forget. “A man singing in the house was as strange as Dad laughing out loud.” I was drawn in by the people, by the relationships revealed, by the lifestyle without excess. The life lived was hard and back-breaking and yet it attracts me. Does the drumming of raindrops on a roof appeal to you? Do you have fond memories of the echoes that reverberate under bridges in your youth? If so, the book may suit you too. This is a simple book, but it has lots of appeal. The audiobook is narrated by Gerard Doyle. His performance I have rated with two stars. It is definitely OK, bordering on being good. My difficulty in rating the narration is due to the fact that some parts are read better than others. Doyle uses an Irish accent. You must at times push yourself to figure out what word is read because the accent influences the pronunciation. The speed is perfect, and the Irish accent adds atmosphere to the telling. What gave me the biggest problem was when the narrator failed to pause between paragraphs that changed from one subject to another. In these cases, you need a pause to indicate the shift. Sometimes the pause was lacking. Both the book and the audiobook conclude with a glossary. Many Irish terms are used. The glossary aids understanding. My two star rating for the narration reflects my displeasure in having the glossary words read one after another at the end. Either the glossary words should have been made available via a PDF file or explained when they are used in the text. Reading them off at the end is of no use at all! *************************** Similar to Alice Taylor's To School Through The Fields

  3. 5 out of 5

    Martie Nees Record

    Genre: Biography and Memoir Publisher: Gallery Books Pub. Date: March 5, 2019 After reading the Goodreads blurb, I figured this book was a no-brainer for me. The blurb suggests that Tom Phelan’s memoir is in the tradition of Frank McCourt’s memoir, “Angela’s Ashes.” Considering, I loved “Ashes,” what could go wrong? The answer is plenty. I already knew from the book’s title that Phelan’s tale would be much more upbeat than McCourt’s. But give me a break. Phelan makes it sound like his growing up p Genre: Biography and Memoir Publisher: Gallery Books Pub. Date: March 5, 2019 After reading the Goodreads blurb, I figured this book was a no-brainer for me. The blurb suggests that Tom Phelan’s memoir is in the tradition of Frank McCourt’s memoir, “Angela’s Ashes.” Considering, I loved “Ashes,” what could go wrong? The answer is plenty. I already knew from the book’s title that Phelan’s tale would be much more upbeat than McCourt’s. But give me a break. Phelan makes it sound like his growing up poor in Ireland in the 1940s was nothing short of a Disney vacation. The biography is mostly saccharine. Phelan never expresses any frustration or even a thought on how his adult life was taken out of his hands. Rather he jokes that since his childhood he was groomed to become a priest. Now I get that this is Ireland. And I also get that families can be very proud when their children devote their lives to the Church. (It doesn’t hurt that the family’s social status is upped when this happens). Remember the 1977 movie, “Saturday Night Fever?” John Travolta played the character Tony Manero, a 19-year-old Italian-American living in Brooklyn. Remember how upset his parents were when his brother left the priesthood? It may be different decades, different cultures, but the same pride in having a son as a priest. So as an Italian-American, when I say I get it, I truly do. But—and this is a big but—the author seems to be determined that his tale be nothing shy of heartwarming. Perhaps I am being a little too harsh in my critique. There is a poetic quality in the author’s prose. I did get a kick out of all the Irish words and expressions that I read. I thank the author for the glossary. I did laugh at ‘drunk Uncle Paulie” stories. Plus, there are similarities between “We Were Rich” and the John Grisham novel, “A Painted House,” a book I did very much enjoy. Both stories revolve around a back-breaking rural lifestyle. Both protagonists have loving, wise and demanding fathers. Both books have the same good vibes about them. Still, Grisham’s novel reads more realistically. There are unsolvable problems in “House.” To be fair, in this memoir, the chapter “Midnight Phone Call” can make you teary. Yet, the sorrow is expected, which takes out some of the punch. So, if you are looking for a sweet uplifting story that takes you back to a simpler time, then this one is for you. Sometimes, even I can be in the mood for such a read. Personally, I felt set up by the comparison to McCourt. I guess I was expecting a memoir with more grit. I received this Advance Review Copy (ARC) novel from the publisher at no cost in exchange for an honest review. Find all my book reviews at: https://www.goodreads.com/review/list... https://books6259.wordpress.com/ https://twitter.com/NeesRecord https://www.facebook.com/martie.neesr...

  4. 4 out of 5

    Kendall

    We Were Rich and We Didn't Know It is a beautiful memoir describing the joy and sorrow of living in the rural times. Tom Phelan's writing is lively with avid descriptions of farm life. I found it fascinating learning about the Tom's perspective of living in a rural community. It's insane how things have changed over the years especially with looking back living without a telephone, internet, computers, etc. It's a definite eye opener realizing how much our society is dependent on technology now. We Were Rich and We Didn't Know It is a beautiful memoir describing the joy and sorrow of living in the rural times. Tom Phelan's writing is lively with avid descriptions of farm life. I found it fascinating learning about the Tom's perspective of living in a rural community. It's insane how things have changed over the years especially with looking back living without a telephone, internet, computers, etc. It's a definite eye opener realizing how much our society is dependent on technology now. This was a smooth and enjoyable read... I usually don't read memoirs but this was a change and glad I stepped out of my comfort zone with this book. It's a super quick and easy read! :) 3.5 stars :) Thank you to Gallery, Threshold, Pocket Books and Netgalley for the arc in exchange for my honest review. Published to GR: 1/1/19 Publication date: 3/5/19

  5. 4 out of 5

    Jackie

    I won this book in a Goodreads giveaway. It’s an easy book to read. The author writes a story of hidden treasure found in poverty in 1940s Ireland. Some happy, sad and funny memories were recorded in this book

  6. 5 out of 5

    Irene Well Worth A Read

    A sometimes sorrowful, often humorous look at growing up in 1940's Ireland, when the kitchen was truly the heart of a home and the location of everything from bathing to turkey plucking. Tom Phelan shares with readers a look at his close knit family, dealing with bullies, and life on the farm. It is an engaging heartfelt memoir that paints a brilliant picture of simpler times. 4 out of 5 stars. I received an advance copy for review A sometimes sorrowful, often humorous look at growing up in 1940's Ireland, when the kitchen was truly the heart of a home and the location of everything from bathing to turkey plucking. Tom Phelan shares with readers a look at his close knit family, dealing with bullies, and life on the farm. It is an engaging heartfelt memoir that paints a brilliant picture of simpler times. 4 out of 5 stars. I received an advance copy for review

  7. 4 out of 5

    Matilda

    5 stars Short and sweet.

  8. 5 out of 5

    Kenzee

    *I won this book in a GoodReads Giveaway* First things first - is this not a beautiful cover? I love it. In fact, that's what drew me in. I know, I know. I've been burned by this many times before and yet I somehow never learn my lesson. But y'all - it's such a cool cover! I couldn't resist. Sadly, this book just didn't do it for me. The writing is perfectly fine. In fact, I can even see how it might be good writing if it was applied to something with any kind of plot. This book however, is a seri *I won this book in a GoodReads Giveaway* First things first - is this not a beautiful cover? I love it. In fact, that's what drew me in. I know, I know. I've been burned by this many times before and yet I somehow never learn my lesson. But y'all - it's such a cool cover! I couldn't resist. Sadly, this book just didn't do it for me. The writing is perfectly fine. In fact, I can even see how it might be good writing if it was applied to something with any kind of plot. This book however, is a series of essays about the author's childhood that don't flow together whatsoever. There is no plot, no underlying story or even a sense of purpose. It was difficult for me to stay focused. There was very little I could relate to or empathize with - which I feel is a key necessity in enjoying a memoir. Half this book was taken up with graphic descriptions about how and where animals relieve themselves, and how to castrate or kill them. Cool, cool, cool - but seriously who cares? After the first time which had the shock factor going for it, it was just boring. Cool - another cow is defecating. Oh hey, this time its a horse farting. Now the cow has to urinate. I get it. There were a few nuggets of humor in there that actually had me laugh out loud - in particular the last line of Chapter 7 and the chapter about Isaac's trees. I mean, being neighborly is important. I think there are people out there who will enjoy this. It's not like it's poorly written. But I'm clearly the wrong audience.

  9. 4 out of 5

    Paul Pessolano

    This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here. “We Were Rich and We Didn’t Know It” by Tom Phelan, published by Gallery Books. Category – Memoir Publication Date – March 05, 2019. Tom Phelan was born in County Laois in Ireland. It is a memoir of his days of growing up on a farm, his recollections of the people that lived around him, and his family, to say nothing of his Catholic upbringing. Tom, was from his earliest days, was designated as the boy in the family who would become a Catholic Priest, but until then he had to grow up. It was hard w “We Were Rich and We Didn’t Know It” by Tom Phelan, published by Gallery Books. Category – Memoir Publication Date – March 05, 2019. Tom Phelan was born in County Laois in Ireland. It is a memoir of his days of growing up on a farm, his recollections of the people that lived around him, and his family, to say nothing of his Catholic upbringing. Tom, was from his earliest days, was designated as the boy in the family who would become a Catholic Priest, but until then he had to grow up. It was hard work for a young lad on a farm, especially with a very demanding and hard working father. Life on the farm could be likened to living as the Amish do today, there was no electricity, no indoor plumbing, and farm work was done with the help of horse and plough share. Tom relates stories of the people that lived around them, and in many cases the stories provide a comic lift, and sometimes a tragic ending to an already bleak life. Tom was in awe of the life led by the clergy and saw that he would live this life as soon as he finished his studies at seminary. Although he missed his family he was finally ordained a priest in 1965, only to have his neighbor, Durt Donovan’s prophecy come true, as he left the priesthood in 1976. This is a really refreshing memoir that provides an easy read that gives a good account of living on a rural Irish farm in the 1930’s and the mindset prevalent at that time.

  10. 4 out of 5

    Sylvester

    An interesting memoir, especially in that it's about struggle and hard work, and yet, it turns out that in his community, Tom's family were "rich". He sure didn't feel rich, but he was. I listened to the audio book, which was excellently read - Irish accent and all. An interesting memoir, especially in that it's about struggle and hard work, and yet, it turns out that in his community, Tom's family were "rich". He sure didn't feel rich, but he was. I listened to the audio book, which was excellently read - Irish accent and all.

  11. 4 out of 5

    Elizabeth

    This beautiful book had me absorbed the whole time that I was reading it. It had me laughing, it had me crying, it had me praying. Thanks so much to my staff member, Angie, for drawing my attention to it. My mother was raised in the same region of Ireland as the author. I felt so much closer to her and my ancestors through Tom's careful storytelling. And what a generous vocabulary...I loved, loved, loved the words in this book! The title for me is a word play--how we realize as adults how wonder This beautiful book had me absorbed the whole time that I was reading it. It had me laughing, it had me crying, it had me praying. Thanks so much to my staff member, Angie, for drawing my attention to it. My mother was raised in the same region of Ireland as the author. I felt so much closer to her and my ancestors through Tom's careful storytelling. And what a generous vocabulary...I loved, loved, loved the words in this book! The title for me is a word play--how we realize as adults how wonderfully rich our childhood was. But for Tom it was literal, too. As an adult he realized that the bullies who were stealing his sandwiches were actually starving. Such a startling revelation. There were several instances when Tom speaks about the psyches of the people where he was raised. I found his insights to ring true and to be fair as well as wise. Three examples I took note of: p. 62 What was it about this harmless error that caused Dad to react so angrily? I did not understand how one halfpenny could cause such a war. Later I would come to see that many people in rural Ireland did not have the skills to negotiate. Instead, confrontations were followed by avoidance, and the hard feelings went unresolved even as both parties settled into eternity, close together six feet below the surface of the local cemetery. p. 154 Turf was also called peat, but none of us used that word lest we be accused of being posh and "having notions." p.155 Perhaps from the age-old practice of evading the British excise man, the Irish are secretive about their wealth or lack of it. No one would ever ask a farmer how many acres he owned. No farmer like Dad would ever admit to his neighbor that he had trespassed on his land, because the intrusion might be interpreted as snooping around. Dad wanted the lower four feet of that ash tree, but if he asked Isaac for it then Isaac would know Dad had been walking his land. As well as that, if Isaac refused, the refusal would place intolerable strain on the relationship between the two men. The only neighborly way to get the tree was to steal it. And the glossary to this book was excellent. Both my parents used the phrase, "make a hames of it" and you knew you had screwed up! But to find out the derivation was fascinating. HAMES: Two curved metal bars, joined by a short chain at one end, fitting into a groove in a horse's collar. Hooks on a hame allow for the attachment of traces. Because the chain joining the two bars sometimes became twisted, the expression "to make a hames of it" means to make a mess of something. I am anxious to read more...both fiction and non-fiction...by this exceptionally talented writer.

  12. 4 out of 5

    Joanne

    This one has sweetness and wry humor of Angela’s Ashes, if not the abject poverty and hapless alcoholic father to propel the story. Made up of several dozen individual essays which each relate a tale, incident, or quirky personality or neighbor from Phelan’s youth. The unifying thread was the presence of his hard-working da and life on a working farm. Lots of life lessons can be learned doing the work of animal husbandry evidentally. So it’s slightly disjointed, and not a complete story-narrativ This one has sweetness and wry humor of Angela’s Ashes, if not the abject poverty and hapless alcoholic father to propel the story. Made up of several dozen individual essays which each relate a tale, incident, or quirky personality or neighbor from Phelan’s youth. The unifying thread was the presence of his hard-working da and life on a working farm. Lots of life lessons can be learned doing the work of animal husbandry evidentally. So it’s slightly disjointed, and not a complete story-narrative, if you’re looking for that. Also-to me and avoiding revealing any spoilers-it felt unresolved. Here is a kid who had been groomed for the priesthood his entire life, and eventually, we’re left with a big so, what happened!? He only hints at some bitterness, and I hope the answer is his follow-up memoir, which may make a more interesting book than this one. I did listen to the audiobook, which was charming due to the Irish lilt of the narrator (It wasn’t Phelan though. Which begs the question-why not??).

  13. 4 out of 5

    Lori

    I appreciate receiving an ARC of this book. I always feel a little guilty giving a rating to a memoir. Who am I to judge someone’s recollection of a life? However this was compared to Angela’s Ashes which is a pretty high bar to put out there. I considered this an average memoir. Also think had he written this at a much younger age it may have been a little less of a rosy picture of poverty.

  14. 5 out of 5

    Mimi

    This is a simply told memoir with each chapter a particular anecdote from Tom Phelan’s childhood. His writing makes you feel the innocence of his childhood and the difficulties of rural life. I found it slow to get into his tales about members of his family and of his community. However, I persisted in reading it and suddenly I found myself caught up in his stories, feeling the anguish and the joys he describes. While each chapter is a separate remembrance, seemingly independent of the others, t This is a simply told memoir with each chapter a particular anecdote from Tom Phelan’s childhood. His writing makes you feel the innocence of his childhood and the difficulties of rural life. I found it slow to get into his tales about members of his family and of his community. However, I persisted in reading it and suddenly I found myself caught up in his stories, feeling the anguish and the joys he describes. While each chapter is a separate remembrance, seemingly independent of the others, together they weave a touching story of his life growing up. I was surprised how the people in his memoir came alive in my mind. At one point, he writes, I started to cry. Then with great sorrow, Eddie began to sob. Together in the hedge we wept. . . And so did I.

  15. 5 out of 5

    Judy

    Thanks to Gallery Books for the advance copy of this book. A memoir of life as a boy in post-World War II Ireland, the book deftly describes the joys and sorrows of rural life. I found it to be beautifully written and poetic in its descriptions. The people inhabiting this world were so engaging, I wanted to read more about each of them, and indeed, wanted the book to continue. This is not a dark or melancholy depiction of life's difficulties, but it is written with a sincerity that is meaningful Thanks to Gallery Books for the advance copy of this book. A memoir of life as a boy in post-World War II Ireland, the book deftly describes the joys and sorrows of rural life. I found it to be beautifully written and poetic in its descriptions. The people inhabiting this world were so engaging, I wanted to read more about each of them, and indeed, wanted the book to continue. This is not a dark or melancholy depiction of life's difficulties, but it is written with a sincerity that is meaningful and moving. Thank you to the author, Tom Phelan.

  16. 5 out of 5

    Maddison

    I'm not usually keen on memoir, but Tom Phelan's We Were Rich and We Didn't Know It: A Memoir of My Irish Boyhood is exactly the type of memoir I wish was more ubiquitous. It's a fascinating, funny, and warmhearted portrait of childhood in mid-century Ireland that reads as a wonderful blend of memoir and microhistory. Phelan's experiences of growing up in a close-knit farming family and attending Catholic school resonated deeply with me, and as a result, I was more appreciative the intimate feel I'm not usually keen on memoir, but Tom Phelan's We Were Rich and We Didn't Know It: A Memoir of My Irish Boyhood is exactly the type of memoir I wish was more ubiquitous. It's a fascinating, funny, and warmhearted portrait of childhood in mid-century Ireland that reads as a wonderful blend of memoir and microhistory. Phelan's experiences of growing up in a close-knit farming family and attending Catholic school resonated deeply with me, and as a result, I was more appreciative the intimate feel of the writing and the comfort it provides. While other readers have stated that this book doesn't have enough troubling bits (I suppose they mean painful memories and experiences/a darker edge a la McCourt's Angela's Ashes), I have to admit that it's incredibly refreshing to read a memoir that doesn't try to dramatize its events more than need be. Phelan's prose is gorgeously artistic, but the events he writes about and the stories he tells don't pretend to be anything they're not. As such, there is an inherent childhood rawness and authenticity in Phelan's work that doesn't necessitate the constant dredging up of deep, dark, existential moments. This memoir is one of boyhood - albeit a boyhood tinged with the pain of schoolyard bullying and childhood aggression, the struggle to understand deep-seated socioeconomic class differences, and the confusion at trying to understand the complexity and hypocrisy of adults. I would argue that it does have its painful moments, ephemeral though they may be. I like to think Phelan's gentle nods towards the darker times, but primary focus on the learning of life's (often ironic) lessons is representative of childhood more generally. This is also a work rich in detail of farming life, and how growing up in such an environment was a learning experience in and of itself. The title of the memoir directly invokes this idea - that even though Tom's family may not have had the material wealth of other families (though Phelan admits they were never as poor as some of the other families in the area), they were rich in familial love, an iron work ethic and strong principles, and opportunities to learn from the earth they tended. I highly recommend this read - it's as hospitable a book as anyone could ask for. I look forward to reading more of Tom Phelan's work.

  17. 4 out of 5

    Linda

    Okay, I’m a little biased, because if it’s a book about Ireland, I’m going to love it, especially if it’s nonfiction. Which this book is here. Even so, I think that author Tom Phelan has given us a great glimpse into 1940s rural life there, even though the hardships and deprivations he personally had didn’t necessarily match what some of the other writers of that time have shown us to be the case in Eire. In fact, as the title says, Tom’s life on the farm wasn’t really awful at all, although it Okay, I’m a little biased, because if it’s a book about Ireland, I’m going to love it, especially if it’s nonfiction. Which this book is here. Even so, I think that author Tom Phelan has given us a great glimpse into 1940s rural life there, even though the hardships and deprivations he personally had didn’t necessarily match what some of the other writers of that time have shown us to be the case in Eire. In fact, as the title says, Tom’s life on the farm wasn’t really awful at all, although it certainly posed many challenges. But that’s okay, because this is HIS story, and it was really fun (but not funny, make no mistake about that) to read. It’s done in short chapters, vignettes, that introduce us to his neighbors and family, especially his hard-working and strict father, a farmer, to whom much respect was shown by Tom’s story. The writing was so descriptive that I could almost smell the manure and dampness of the land in County Laois (pronounced “Leath,” I believe). I really enjoyed it.

  18. 4 out of 5

    Amy Ingalls

    I won an ARC of this book in a Goodreads Giveaway. The cover was lovely. I am going to Ireland next May, so I was even more interested than I would have been to read a memoir set in the rural Irish countryside of my ancestors. This was more a series of simple vignettes rather than a narrative structure, and like all books of this type, some stories resonated more with me than others. Tom Phelan has a way with words. Ultimately, I thought this book was a love story of home and family and, especia I won an ARC of this book in a Goodreads Giveaway. The cover was lovely. I am going to Ireland next May, so I was even more interested than I would have been to read a memoir set in the rural Irish countryside of my ancestors. This was more a series of simple vignettes rather than a narrative structure, and like all books of this type, some stories resonated more with me than others. Tom Phelan has a way with words. Ultimately, I thought this book was a love story of home and family and, especially, of his father. The last few chapters got me teary-eyed. So if he wrote through the rose-colored glasses of years gone by, I am not going to complain. Everyone knows the life of a poor, rural Irish farmer was hard, but Tom Phelan manages to highlight the love and stability he experienced at his childhood home without depressing the bejeezus out of me like so many Irish writers.

  19. 5 out of 5

    Athena (OneReadingNurse)

    Thank you to NetGalley and Gallery Books for the free eARC in exchange for an honest review The memoir covers Tom's life from birth to when he takes off for boarding school. Similar events are organized into chapters and follow a fairly logical sequence. Minus the lack of transition between chapters, this is a smooth and enjoyable read! The first person point of view let me feel like I was actually sitting in the kitchen with the neighbors. Phelan's style paints such avid descriptions of people a Thank you to NetGalley and Gallery Books for the free eARC in exchange for an honest review The memoir covers Tom's life from birth to when he takes off for boarding school. Similar events are organized into chapters and follow a fairly logical sequence. Minus the lack of transition between chapters, this is a smooth and enjoyable read! The first person point of view let me feel like I was actually sitting in the kitchen with the neighbors. Phelan's style paints such avid descriptions of people and places that I truly enjoyed it as a picture of his farm and community. A particularly descriptive part that stands out is about the crawlies in the soil and how connected they (Tom and dad) felt to the land and each other. There are a multitude of neighbors, townfolk, schoolmates and family members who had a part in Tom's childhood. His father and Missus Fritz were my two favorites, for their kindness and things they said when children weren't listening! I don't know if I believe that they were as happy as he writes, but I feel like he didn't know anything else. If he had known that the kids were targeting him out of desperation and jealousy instead of animosity, he would have had a better perspectie - but a portion of the moral is about hindsight and how you see things as an adult, things you regret or wish you knew. Overall I give this a strong 4/5. Happy to recommend to anyone interested in history, Ireland, memoirs; anyone who likes to laugh at anecdotes and clever fixes; anyone into farming even would love this! The full review can be found on the OneReadingNurse blog at https://onenursereader.wixsite.com/on...

  20. 5 out of 5

    Lynn

    Nostalgic, startling, and heartwarming are the events, characters, and settings in Phelan's memoir. Phelan richly details his childhood activities on his family's demanding farm allowing readers to smell the dampness of the mud, scrape the debris from his shoes, and soothe his sore muscles after wrestling with farm animals. School presents a more unsettled situation for Tom as he is the subject of bullying from some peers,which cannot be explained. Being a good student, Tom is recommended for a Nostalgic, startling, and heartwarming are the events, characters, and settings in Phelan's memoir. Phelan richly details his childhood activities on his family's demanding farm allowing readers to smell the dampness of the mud, scrape the debris from his shoes, and soothe his sore muscles after wrestling with farm animals. School presents a more unsettled situation for Tom as he is the subject of bullying from some peers,which cannot be explained. Being a good student, Tom is recommended for a future he himself did not imagine.

  21. 4 out of 5

    Duckoffimreading

    I’m a sucker for Irish recounts of life, especially circa 1950s-1960s. I LOVED Angela’s Ashes. Tom Phelan creates the same atmosphere with We Were Rich and Didn’t Know It, but it reads more like a collection of short stories in chapter form, sometimes relating to other chapters and less like a novel. Phelan has the ability to make depressing situations comical, and find the silver lining. Quick and engaging read.

  22. 5 out of 5

    Megan Dennehy

    This book tells the story of a young boy who grows up in the old-country of Ireland. Similar to other memoirs detailing life in previous times, this book shows a perspective of growing up that is not typically seen. I enjoyed this book for the details it provided about how one, poor family grew up in the rural countryside of Ireland.

  23. 4 out of 5

    Rebecca Cron

    Not great, not terrible. The majority of the stories are engaging and descriptive. But you can skip the entire chapter about the torture of the Catholic priest. It’s completely out of place, doesn’t further your understanding of the characters or their stories, and is unnecessarily vulgar. I enjoyed listening to the audiobook in the authors native accent.

  24. 5 out of 5

    GERALD GENTRY

    "We Were Rich and Didn't Know It" by Tom Phelan is an extraordinary, masterfully written book of growing up in Ireland in the 1940s. A time, that is long gone, and will never be again. " We were Rich and Didn't Know It" is absolutely a MUST READ. "We Were Rich and Didn't Know It" by Tom Phelan is an extraordinary, masterfully written book of growing up in Ireland in the 1940s. A time, that is long gone, and will never be again. " We were Rich and Didn't Know It" is absolutely a MUST READ.

  25. 5 out of 5

    Feisty Harriet

    This was just...charming. And full of impossibilities of growing up in rural Ireland, but...charming.

  26. 4 out of 5

    Sue Allen

    It was fun to listen to the Irish brogue and hear about growing up on a farm in Ireland. There were a lot of laugh out loud moments. I enjoyed it!

  27. 5 out of 5

    Arthur Bradford Morrill III

    Simply brilliant...paints moments with all the artistry of a Renaissance master

  28. 5 out of 5

    Emily Polson

    An occasionally charming collection of brief anecdotes about growing up in rural Ireland, but I'm not sure they came together to be anything more than that. An occasionally charming collection of brief anecdotes about growing up in rural Ireland, but I'm not sure they came together to be anything more than that.

  29. 5 out of 5

    Pat K

    Memoir by Tom Phelan, wonderful story of life in Ireland in the 1940s Told in remembered episodes and events, but never feels disjointed. A number of events were repeated in, Lies The Mushroom Pickers Told, which makes that story even more poignant.

  30. 4 out of 5

    Barbara

    This book will appeal to all ages. Those of us who lived in the 40's and 50's can identify with life without electricity in our homes meaning no television, no lights. We lived a much simpler life. To the younger readers it will present a world they can't even imagine. We Were Rich and We Didn't Know It is an interesting look at what it was like to live on a farm in Ireland. You are introduced to all the members of his family and the neighbors and townfolk in the small village nearby. Each chapt This book will appeal to all ages. Those of us who lived in the 40's and 50's can identify with life without electricity in our homes meaning no television, no lights. We lived a much simpler life. To the younger readers it will present a world they can't even imagine. We Were Rich and We Didn't Know It is an interesting look at what it was like to live on a farm in Ireland. You are introduced to all the members of his family and the neighbors and townfolk in the small village nearby. Each chapter could stand alone as a great story. Combined they tell the story of a typical family - their ups and downs as they travel through life. I enjoyed reading it. It brought back many memories of life on the farm with my grandparents. Thanks to Simon and Schuster for sending it to me.

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