Kevin Brophy spent his formative years in the Married Quarters of the army barracks on the edge of Galway, on Ireland’s west coast, and Walking the Line is his moving account of boyhood in a soldier’s world.
Strangely, in a landscape dominated by men in uniform, the household at Number 2 in the Married Quarters revolves around Mammy, the gentle mother who heals all boyhood aches from wounded knees to wounded pride, and in many respects this book is a sustained lyrical narrative of the intense relationship between boy and mother.
Neither cutely naive nor wise beyond his years, the young Kevin’s observations on family and barracks, on town and school are by turns humorous and poignant, but spiced always with the incisive innocence of childhood. The ‘Line’ of the title is the path linking home and barracks with the boy’s other world of town and school; in Brophy’s limpid prose both worlds come richly to life.
Walking the Line is an important contribution to the literature of childhood and Ireland. The Epilogue, written from the mature perspective of middle age, is a poignant tribute to a way of life that is forever gone – the Married Quarters are no more.