Review: A Conversation About Happiness by Mikey Cuddihy
A Conversation About Happiness
Summerhill became famous as the Sussex school where lessons were voluntary and pupils made their own rules. Mikey Cuddihy, of wealthy Irish-American background, spent her 1960s childhood there, sent to the school with her siblings, having lost her parents in car crashes. AS Neill, the founder of Summerhill, opposed authority and advocated sexual freedom. In the 1960s his philosophy appealed to the flower-power generation. But the picture that emerges of the school is ambivalent. Sex was allowed between students and, more alarmingly, between teachers and students. Cuddihy is taken to London by Neill’s wife to have a diaphragm fitted long before she’s ready for sex. A palpable longing for lost family suffuses this fine memoir. On holidays the Cuddihys were farmed out as paying guests. There were tears and hugs as the other children went home; it seemed as if no one wanted to go home. “I wished I could be like them, to have a home I didn’t want to go back to,” she wrote.