Flesh and Blood
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