A Day at a Time

by Mary Kenny, New Island Books, £13.99

Mary Kenny is a veteran journalist who describes her career as the “modest success of remaining in work for over 50 years”. She is also an author and, of course, a popular Catholic Herald columnist. In these “Thoughts and Reflections through the Seasons”, as the subtitle puts it, she has assembled a miscellany of reflections, anecdotes and stories that demonstrate her unique stance, one that is humorous, tolerant, trenchant and sage.

Her subjects are wide-ranging, showing her insatiable curiosity and appetite for life. They include thoughts on Irish history, favourite poems, saints’ lives, existential philosophers and personal admissions. Each extract is barely a page long, designed to be dipped into rather than read sequentially. However, such is Mary’s beguiling voice that I read the book in one sitting.

The passages I liked best, being of Irish extraction myself, were those showing the proverbial wisdom of the author’s Irish relations, such as Aunt Norah, who used to say: “When you’re too good, you’re no good”; or Aunty Dorothy, who believed that “a woman’s attitude to her husband’s revenue should be: ‘What’s thine is mine; but what’s mine is my own.’ ”

When Kenny married, her mother told her: “Never let the sun go down on your anger” and “Never give a man bad news on an empty stomach.”

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