ARE YOU SOMEBODY: The Accidental Memoir of a Dublin Woman by Nuala O'Faolain
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ARE YOU SOMEBODY: The Accidental Memoir of a Dublin Woman

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An Irish woman reflects, with stunning honesty, on her country and her past. O'Faolain, a journalist for the Irish Times, was asked to collect her columns for publication, but the introduction she sat down to write eventually expanded into this beautifully cadenced and moving memoir, into which many of the columns have been folded. The second of nine children, O'Faolain lived a bohemian childhood with little money and many books. Her father, a well-known journalist in Ireland, left to her mother the responsibility for their children. O'Faolain's mother read voraciously and drank with a similar appetite, often neglecting her children. Nuala was sent to convent school at 14--this and her love of the written word are what saved her, she says. Her adult life at University College, Dublin, as a student and teacher, her studies at Oxford, and friends, family, lovers, and work are all examined with great frankness. Most importantly, O'Faolain explores the role of women in Ireland and how gender has affected her life. O'Faolain's candor made a deep impression when the book was published in Ireland; it quickly landed on the bestseller list, staying at the top for 20 weeks. As she explains in an afterword, ""hitherto silent voices . . . were just on the brink of speaking out. I was just slightly ahead."" Readers of the US edition will be similarly moved. O'Faolain has had her share of love affairs (""my aim in life was something to do with loving and being loved""), and as she approaches 60, what is most poignant about her story is her coming to grips with being childless and alone: ""I would have been a very bad mother during most of my life."" But, she adds regretfully, ""I'd be a good mother now."" A testament to a full and passionately lived life--all the more affecting because of that life's vividly described imperfection and pain.

Pub Date: March 1st, 1998
ISBN: 080508987X
Page count: 256pp
Publisher: Henry Holt