Constellations is a powerful collection of essays from Irish journalist Sinead Gleeson. A glorious work covering topics from birth to first love, pregnancy to motherhood, terrifying sickness, old age and loss to death itself. For me it was like Sinead is sitting there chatting away with me sharing her thoughts and her life. In what is a hugely personal book she takes us through in a very moving way how she dealt with the physical and mental challenges as well as growing up in Catholic Ireland.

However or wherever you are growing up you will find comfort in this book finishing the book feeling that you have a friend in Sinead. I could see the book becoming a sort of comfort blanket to many readers as they reread her essays drawing solace from them. There’s very little that we’ll experience in life that Sinead has not experienced and how she got though those times will help everyone. It is as vital a read for girls/women as it is for boys/men.

Constellations is written with such humility that that the book is not morbid or depressing, it’s informative and wise. If I had or wanted a sister, Sinead would be that person. The writing is exceptional, powerful and thought provoking. Published as a collection of essays you could dip in and out as you wish. However, it is likely that you’ll read straight through as she shares her experiences and thoughts on topics such as hair, blood, being a woman and a mother.

The book becomes brilliantly more intense as it goes along as she explores these subjects. The pain of losing Terry is heart-breaking as is the death of Rob. Her Non-Letter to My Daughter is unbelievable powerful and I hope that every mother & father will take it to read it to their daughter.

There are wonderful description throughout the essays. Such as when describing Malin town on one of the days she visits. She writes “… One is bright cyan in every direction, the small village green bathed in rays so hot they almost singe the grass. Out at Five Fingers Strand, a pale spine of sand…” You can immediately picture the scene and feel the heat. I was fascinated as she told the tale of being described by a New York writer as being a political writer. I never thought of Sinead as a political writer but as a person writing words that I could resonate with. I gave up going to mass in the late 70’s yet like Sinead when I go back for weddings and funerals, I can recite every word of the mass. It frightens me every time that happens but I cannot help myself saying the words that have been pummelled into my head.

This is a sobering view of life in Ireland for women and a reminder that there’s still a lot of work to be done for us to be treated equally and fairly.


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