In this memoir, Michael Levey recreates an English childhood outwardly undramatic, but inwardly rich, stirring, sometimes bewildering, and altogether far from typical, not least in its pervasive Catholic ethos. It gains additional resonance by being viewed, critically yet not bitterly, from the perspective of an adult who lost his faith painlessly but precipitated a family crisis by refusing to have his own child baptised into the Church. The reader is not only carried back into the roots of a large Irish family of professional musicians but forward from the author's boyhood in an entertaining account of his experiences in the Army. The book ends with him nervously poised to begin a career at the National Gallery in London that will culminate in his becoming Director. But the main emphasis of the book is on the impact of the exterior world on a boy imaginative and highly visual, the only child of two loving though temperamentally disparate parents, and on his encounters with pictures, books, houses, gardens, churches - and schools. We learn what is like to be this particular child, in his particular circumstances, but something too about thw whole state of childhood.
Sir Michael Levey was Director of the National Gallery from 1973 until 1986. He has been Slade Professor of Fine Art at both Cambridge and Oxford.