Review of “Confessions of an Irish Rebel” by Brendan Behan

I first came across the name of Brendan Behan when I was reading about Christy Brown. Socially, they were on friendly terms but Brown was anxious to match his success. Behan, just like Brown was a voracious drinker, and it played a significant role in his early death at the age of forty-one.

This book was released posthumously. It tells the story of his life, in his own inner voice after Borstal Boy (when he was imprisoned for attempting to bomb the Liverpool docks). Brendan dictated this book during the last years of his life. Thankfully, the book had been completed, but it had not been edited by Behan. It tends to wonder at times and is a bit loose here and there. It can meander from one subject to the next and at times it can be hard to keep track of.

More importantly, for me anyway it leaves many questions unanswered. He never states why he drifted away from the IRA, just that he did. There is nothing about how he feels about his poor health in the end or about his illegitimate child (a further child is born to his wife post death).

However, it is very well written and has many very funny sub stories. One of the funnier aspects is how he gets on with some of the British police and prison guards. For instance, after another stint in prison, he is given the option to get out if he agrees to leave the country. A policeman goes with him to the port and they both get drunk along the way. He is supposed to spend his last night in another prison but they won’t let him in as they say he is too drunk! The book is full of such anecdotes and can be very laugh out loud at times.

Another, is when he’s working for a pimp in Paris from one of the pubs. A man is there with his mother, so they convince her that her son heading to a late night mass only for men.

He never talks about his own liaisons, but the book gives me the impression that there were many. It’s a pity cause I’m sure there must have been some stories left out.

The book ends quite abruptly. Probably, on his death he didn’t want to say too much about those he loved most.

I give this book 3.5 stars out of 5.

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