Christopher Fitz-Simon was born into an extraordinary Irish family, with Daniel O’Connell on one side and Orangemen on the other, and his childhood coincided with the Second World War – or, as it was known in the southern Irish state, the Emergency. ELEVEN HOUSES is a crystalline memoir of his family’s odd progress through those odd years, an account by turns hilarious and heartbreaking.
Christopher’s father was an officer in the British army, serving in the Middle East when war broke out, and the family home in these years was in fact a series of homes, in all four provinces of Ireland. For long periods Christopher and his brother were not enrolled in school, and the commencement of formal education proved a shock after years of the freedom of houses, gardens, lanes and fields.
Drawing on his extraordinarily vivid recall of the places and feelings of those years, Christopher Fitz-Simon tells a story of growing up that is also, in effect, a story of various hidden Irelands during the twilight years of the war. Funny, moving and sharp, it is a childhood memoir like no other.
"Christopher Fitz-simon's sharp-eyed, sensitive memoir... is written with an attractively wry grace, an understated ease. There are some splendid set-pieces. Colourful phrases add zest and vigour. The special skill of the narrative, however, is the detached, observant child's eye view of people and places." - Nicholas Grene, Irish Times
"The sense of recall is astonishing and it is painfully funny." - R.F. Foster, Irish Times
"An enchanting and at times heartbreaking memoir of a peripatetic childhood ... The book is an extraordinary kaleidoscope of Ireland through the war years, seen through a pair of equally extraordinary and perceptive eyes. Allied to an easy elegance of style, and an acute ability for the mot juste, it's a gentle treat with a seasoning of intellectual acerbity". - Sunday Independent
"An interesting and insightful account of a rich and vanished world: a perfect autumn afternoon read" - Sunday Business Post
"Compelling and rewarding reading" - Newsletter Special Supplement
"...laughing out loud." - Gaelic American
"The charm of ramshackle Ireland is not overdone in these pages, the houses of the title, all eleven of them, have a distinctive style and a formidable presence." - Times Literary Supplement
"Good!" - Ramshackle Ireland