The Green Years

In a remote fashion, I attributed Jamie’s good will to the fact that, like the Provost and Miss Julia Blair, and others in the town who had shown kindness to me, he had known my mother–this phrase, indeed, “I knew your mother,” like a recurrent phrase in a piece of music, minor, yet strangely heartwarming, cropped up often during my childhood, and brought with it always a sense of reassurance, of confidence in the inherent goodness of people and of life.

The Green Years, by A.J. Cronin, is a charming coming of age story. When young Robert Shannon is orphaned in Dublin, he comes to live with his mother’s family in rural Scotland. He becomes close friends with his great-grandfather , as well as classmates Gavin, Alison, and Angelo. He experiences a budding love for nature and science and also faces hardships like his own self-consciousness and questions of religion. Robert’s dream is to someday become a medical researcher, but it’s a long shot for a poor boy no matter how bright he is.

I think what struck me most was the realism of the story. It seems told from the perspective of a man looking back on his childhood, so the things he is aware of as an adult are presented as he would have seen them then–hinted at rather than explicitly expressed. This is especially true about the great-grandfather, a nuanced character with a kind heart but a lingering fondness for pretty girls and the occasional drink. The book is divided into three parts, and by the third life is certainly no fairy tale as Robert sinks into a morose outlook. At times I questioned how there could ever be a happy ending.

The story is perhaps somewhat autobiographical, for it seems that A.J. Cronin also moved to Scotland at a young age and later graduated from medical school.

The book was written in 1944 but is set earlier in the twentieth century, probably the time of his own childhood.

The Green Years feels a lot like the male equivalent of the Anne of Green Gables series, though a little darker. Apparently he wrote a sequel as well, called Shannon’s Way, which is good because things still seem unfinished. It’s going on the library list for sure! There is also a 1946 movie but I don’t recognize any of the names.

I picked this up several years ago when it was discarded from my high school library, so this is for the “Free” category in the 9 for 09 Challenge.

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Published in: on July 15, 2009 at 10:00 pm  Comments (5)  
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5 CommentsLeave a comment

  1. What a great find!

    Thanks for being part of 9 for ’09 Challenge.

    I’ll add this book to my reading list.

  2. “The Green Years” is one of my favorite novels – I love the works of AJ Cronin. The movie is available on YouTube – it’s very entertaining!

  3. Olivia, thanks for the heads up about the movie! I’ll have to check it out.

  4. […] J. Cronin picks up six years after the The Green Years left off. Robert Shannon has earned his medical degree, served in the war, and once again yearns to focus on […]

  5. […] The Green Years, by A.J. […]


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