Walking with Ghosts is the stunningly evocative memoir by Irish actor and Hollywood star, Gabriel Byrne.
'Dreamy, lyrical and utterly unvarnished' – Colm Tóibín
As a young boy growing up in the outskirts of Dublin, Gabriel Byrne sought refuge in a world of imagination among the fields and hills near his home, at the edge of a rapidly encroaching city. Born to working-class parents and the eldest of six children, he harboured a childhood desire to become a priest. When he was eleven years old, Byrne found himself crossing the Irish Sea to join a seminary in England. Four years later, Byrne had been expelled and he quickly returned to his native city. There he took odd jobs as a messenger boy and a factory labourer to get by. In his spare time he visited the cinema, where he could be alone and yet part of a crowd. It was here that he could begin to imagine a life beyond the grey world of ’60s Ireland.
He revelled in the theatre and poetry of Dublin’s streets, populated by characters as eccentric and remarkable as any in fiction, those who spin a yarn with acuity and wit. It was a friend who suggested Byrne join an amateur drama group, a decision that would change his life forever and launch him on an extraordinary forty-year career in film and theatre. Moving between sensual recollection of childhood in a now almost vanished Ireland and reflections on stardom in Hollywood and on Broadway, Byrne also courageously recounts his battle with addiction and the ambivalence of fame.
Walking with Ghosts is by turns hilarious and heartbreaking as well as a lyrical homage to the people and landscapes that ultimately shape our destinies.
‘Make no mistake about it: this is a masterpiece . . . poetic, moving and very funny’ – Colum McCann, author of Let the Great World Spin
In this intimate memoir, Irish actor Byrne charts his rocky rise to stardom and his battles with alcoholism. An introvert and the eldest of eight siblings growing up in 1950s and '60s working-class Dublin, Byrne was an altar boy who enrolled in seminary school at 11. But he quickly distanced himself from religion after being molested by a priest: "I've been picking at it with a pin ever since... afraid to use a jackhammer." After leaving seminary, he worked odd jobs, joined an amateur theater group, and landed a role on The Riordans, an Irish soap opera, in the late '70s. Though he was considered a sex symbol, Byrne writes of feeling insecure and unattractive thanks to "my thrice-broken nose and beetroot-colored face." When, in 1995, Byrne achieved international stardom with The Usual Suspects, he hit rock bottom: one morning he woke up wearing a bloody shirt and shaking violently from alcohol withdrawal, and was jolted in terror when a woman whom he could not name stirred in the bed beside him. This led to him reaching for help and getting into a recovery program. Byrne writes with candor and an exceptional humility, and has an easy hand with clever turns of phrase. Simultaneously frank and emotionally stirring, this memoir entrances. \n