Walking with Ghosts: A Memoir by Gabriel Byrne
A Reading Ireland Month book
Best Biographies & Memoirs
When award-winning actor, producer, and international icon Gabriel Byrne was a young boy, his grandmother brought him to the cinema for the first time. There, Byrne fell in love with the transporting power of the big screen. Growing up in 1950s and 60s Dublin within a family of eight, Byrne’s formative childhood years were both carefree and challenging, spent between home, the church, school, and the streets of his ever-changing city where he observed that some of the greatest actors and entertainers could be found in the lives of those around him.
In captivating, funny, and sensual prose that brings to life the myriad voices of his youth, Byrne recounts his first formative 12 years – morning routines with his father, a barrel-maker at the Guinness factory; his debut role in a nativity play; his relationship with his dynamic mother; and his years at a seminary where he studied to be a priest. Interspersed throughout this engrossing childhood story we see Byrne’s ascent to global stardom, from his days acting in amateur drama groups in London, to his first big role opposite Richard Burton, his arrival at the Cannes stage for his breakout hit movie, The Usual Suspects, to the HBO show In Treatment for which he won a Golden Globe.
Combining the cinematic power of Fellini’s Amarcord with the poignance of John McGahern’s writing, Walking with Ghosts is both a moving exploration of the pathos in what it means to be famous and a singular account of Irish boyhood.
Oh my goodness, this good-looking Irishman would have turned my head, but add a beautifully written book full of prose, emotional memories, and a sense of humor as well and he has also stolen my heart.
The descriptive writing style pulls a reader in quickly and my problem with listening to the narration of his own audiobook is that I didn’t have a way to highlight passages. Probably, a good thing, as there are quietly related anecdotes, humorous thoughts, as well as painful memories delivered in a sensitive and contemplative manner, and not everything that resonates can be quoted.
The man relates some soul-crushing experiences as well as unabashed astonishment at his rising popularity; sincerely self-deprecating.
There are intense moments (as he relates his time with the seminary) as well as the lighter flashes of the acting years spent rising to stardom and brushing elbows with major cinema notables though this is certainly not a name-dropping tell all.
Of course, there is the on-going story of his struggle with alcoholism and depression that appears to have controlled much of his life, cementing the stereotype of the Irish males.
The storytelling is not chronological, though he does spend time on his childhood, imparting tales of his parents and his lack of confidence or machismo. Growing up in the 50s and 60s, he collected a number of ghosts along the way and he appears to have come to terms with most of them. The lovely Irish brogue-infused narrative alternates somber thoughts to the amusing, which he apparently also appreciates kept him plowing through, one foot in front of the other, eventually to come to terms with it all and settle in peace.
A biography audiobook you’ll want to pick up if for nothing else than to hear that triumph over all that can be achieved by even the most humble of us.
Genre: Cultural & Regional Biographies, Biographies of Celebrities & Entertainment Professionals, Rich & Famous Biographies
Publisher: Recorded Books, Inc.
Listening Length: 6 hrs 57 mins
Narrator: Gabriel Byrne
Publication Date: January 12, 2021
Source: Local Library (Audiobook Selections)
Title Link: Walking with Ghosts [Amazon]
Rosepoint Publishing: Four point Five Stars
The Author: GABRIEL BYRNE was born in Dublin and has starred in over eighty films for some of the cinema’s leading directors. He won a Golden Globe for his performance on HBO’s In Treatment. On Broadway, he won the Outer Critics Circle Award for Best Actor and has been nominated twice for the Tony Award. He lives in Manhattan and Maine. [Amazon]
Born the eldest of six children to Roman Catholic parents, Byrne is an acclaimed actor, film director, film producer, screenwriter, and author, narrator of his own biography. Byrne spent five years in a seminary (now an atheist), worked in archaeology, cook, and teacher before starting to act at the age of 29. He was married to Ellen Barkin from 1988 to 1999, and to Hannah Beth King in 2014. They have a daughter born in 2017 and as of 2021 live in Rockport, Maine. [Wikipedia]
©2022 V Williams –
4 thoughts on “Walking with Ghosts: A Memoir by Gabriel Byrne- #Audiobook Review – #biographies”
Excellent review, Virginia. I have wanted to read this book for awhile, but will look for the audiobook now. I love when the person the book is about, narrates it themselves.
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Low key, powerful–the opposite of the happy, animated Matthew McConaughey, not to say McConaughey wasn’t powerful–but to say totally confident in your face whereas there is still a quiet reticence in Byrne.
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