Cover image for No tears in Ireland : a memoir
No tears in Ireland : a memoir
Couturié, Sylvia.
Personal Author:
Publication Information:
New York : Free Press, [2001]

Physical Description:
xii, 237 pages : illustrations ; 23 cm
Format :


Call Number
Material Type
Home Location
Item Holds
CT868.C68 A3 2001 Adult Non-Fiction Central Closed Stacks

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On a cool, end-of-July morning in 1939, eleven-year-old Sylvia Couturie and her eight-year-old sister, Marguerite, escorted by their Irish nanny, "Wally," left their family's elegant French chateau for a fantastically ill-timed vacation. Expecting their parents to join them in a month, they embarked in high spirits on this rare adventure outside their privileged but tightly confined orbit of horses and hunts, servants and boarding schools. They sensed the distant rumblings of trouble on the edges of their world, but it would have been inconceivable that their long-awaited holiday would become a prolonged imprisonment, that their difficult governess would become their tyrannical jailer. It would defy belief to think that these daughters of privilege would soon be forced to fight for survival in a strange land as the world descended into war, with only the indomitable spirit of a little girl to carry them through.

Cut off from their family as France falls to the Germans, the penniless threesome is reduced to living in a miserable cottage without indoor plumbing on a remote strip of the Irish coast. As the months turn into years, Sy

Reviews 3

Booklist Review

Couturie, then 11, her sister Marguerite, 8, and Kathleen Walsh, their dour governess, who inexplicably preferred being called Wally, were on holiday in Ireland when France fell. Through a cruel twist of fate and poor timing, the children had to exchange their privileged life in an aristocratic French family for living in rural Irish squalor with a stubborn, ignorant woman as their personal dictator, determined to maintain control under increasingly unpredictable circumstances. For four years the girls were cut off from their homeland, confined to a cold, damp cottage some 5 miles from the nearest town. Writing with great simplicity and heartfelt emotion, Couturie beautifully captures the despair and loneliness of those years, during which she had to rely on her inner resources and a small library to maintain her sanity. Couturie's truly remarkable memoir of a childhood lost somewhere along the bleak, rain-drenched Irish coast quietly, poignantly celebrates one little girl's determination to neither give up nor surrender to the darkness that engulfed her. --June Sawyers

Publisher's Weekly Review

Although there have been many memoirs from every theater of World War II, Frenchwoman Couturi‚ claims a unique perspective. Separated at age 11 from her aristocratic parents while on summer holiday in 1939, Couturi‚ spent the next four years trapped in a remote corner of the coast of Ireland. While Couturi‚ had the company of her younger sister, she unfortunately remained under the care of Wally, an uneducated Irish-born Catholic nanny who severely limited the two girls' access to all outsiders, especially to their parents' friends among the Protestant Irish gentry. Only when a storm engulfed their barren cottage and nearby locals rescued them did the Couturi‚ girls' horizons broaden. In rather Dickensian style (appropriately, Dickens is one of the few authors Wally lets Couturi‚ read), Couturi‚ details her childhood oppression as well as the pluck that led her to attend the local secretarial schoolÄcertainly not the expected route for this girl of privilege, who had lived in a chateau and had her own pony. While Couturi‚'s response to her very specific wartime situation is admirable, her account lacks satisfying emotional detail, especially when the girls finally return to France. Couturi‚ notes that her sister was even more affected by the domineering nanny, but doesn't expand much on the observation. Meanwhile, Couturi‚'s parents remain aloof and unexamined, an odd void in what could have been a more fully realized and involving story. Photos. (Feb. 15) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved

Library Journal Review

This poignant and immensely moving memoir, written partly with the aid of a diary, recounts the amazing survival story of the Parisian-born Couturi, the one-time "voice of France in the Far East" on Radio Saigon. In the summer of 1939, 11-year-old Couturi and her eight-year-old sister, Marguerite, children of privilege and breeding, left their native France for an extended holiday in Ireland. As World War II erupted, their parents were trapped in occupied France, and the girls became alien refugees in a desolate and remote part of rural Ireland. Cared for by their domineering, neurotic, and bigoted governess, Kathleen "Wally" Walsh, they remained separated from their parents for the next five years. Seldom able to attend school while living in barren, impoverished, and isolated surroundings, the two sisters grew from children to young women as they struggled with the strains and uncertainties of war, the psychological feelings that their parents had abandoned them, and Wally's inhuman, selfish, and cruel possessiveness. This gripping and engrossing story will be embraced by scholars and general readers alike. Highly recommended. Marie Marmo Mullaney, Caldwell Coll., NJ (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.