Flesh and Blood

Your Family History - - Reviews: Books -

Au­thor: StephenMcGann Pub­lisher: Si­mon& Schus­ter w. www.si­mo­nand­schus­ter.co.uk ISBN: 9781471160790 Price: £20(HB) Ac­tor Stephen McGann has, he writes here, been ac­tively study­ing his fam­ily’s ge­neal­ogy since he was 17 – nearly 40 years. Here, then, is his at­tempt to write this fam­ily his­tory up, and it’s cer­tainly a fas­ci­nat­ing ac­count of how his McGann an­ces­tors (for he con­cen­trates pri­mar­ily on his pa­ter­nal line) mi­grated, along with many oth­ers, from an Ire­land in the grips of the Great Famine, to Liver­pool. Here, two of the McGann off­spring soon died of mal­nu­tri­tion as their par­ents strug­gled to eke a liv­ing, and a life, in the slums of the city’s dock­lands.

McGann’s ob­vi­ous in­ter­est in, and knowl­edge of, his an­ces­try is clear through­out, and he is thought­ful when it comes to as­sess­ing how his fam­ily moved from il­lit­er­ate poverty to stage and screen fame – his three broth­ers also be­ing suc­cess­ful ac­tors. The book, though, is a blend of ge­neal­ogy, au­to­bi­og­ra­phy and sci­ence – and al­though the sci­en­tific ap­proach (each chap­ter re­lat­ing to a type of dis­ease or med­i­cal is­sue) is an un­usual hook, it doesn’t quite work. You may find your­self flick­ing through the sci­en­tific in­tro to each chap­ter in order to get back to the main nar­ra­tive.

How­ever, this is still a cut above the av­er­age celebrity tome – an in­tel­li­gent ac­count of the im­por­tance of our fam­ily his­tory in un­der­stand­ing our own lives. Rea­d­it­for: Ad­if­ferentap­proach­to­how­fam­i­lylifechangesover­the­gen­er­a­tions

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