Walking With Ghosts is affecting on many levels: a working-class family memoir as well as a meditation on fame and its discontents. His love for, and loss of, his parents is palpable and likewise the loss of his beloved sister Marian, whom he takes back to Dublin after she suffers a breakdown in London... These are the ghosts that stalk this poetic, but often starkly vivid, memoir. In Byrne’s evoking of them, they are as alive on the page as they are in his consciousness. And, in the act of writing, he comes to a deeper understanding of the secrets that they held close in a culture that was the opposite of our own: tight-lipped, parochial, perhaps suffocating, but also quietly decent and dignified.
It is not just unusual for an actor to write about himself in the way Byrne does, but for anyone at all. Thus, it is hard to place Walking with Ghosts in the tradition of Irish memoir. What is striking is the intensity of the introspection. Byrne works with the idea that if you want to know where the damage lies, look inwards, describe the intimate, hidden spaces within the self. There is something fresh and liberating about this, a feeling also that it must have been a challenging book to write.