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📖 PHILIP'S BOOK REVIEWS: Are You Somebody? The Life and Times of Nuala O’Faolain

Each month, our resident literary connoisseur, Philip, will review a book available in the shop. Read Philip's review of Are You Somebody? The Life and Times of Nuala O’Faolain, a memoir by O'Faolain herself:

"As the cover of the paperback I’m holding in the photograph may show, this book was an international bestseller.  Nuala O’Faolain was a household name in Ireland in the 1980’s with her journalism and TV interviews. Then in 1997 her memoir, “Are you somebody’ was published and revealed in astonishingly eloquent and passionate language, the deep longing, sadnesses and joys of her life. I had never heard of her; the book was just one of many  books that  pass over my desk, to flick through and then shelve. In this case I was gripped and went to the beginning.

 There’s something she does with her sentences. Always jarring and idiosyncratic, they show a deep commitment to put into prose what it was actually like to be alive; growing up in an oppressively Catholic Ireland. Colm Toibin said the experience of reading it was like ‘someone breaking glass.’

In each paragraph there is a sentence to read aloud and savour. Of teaching: ‘I remember talking about Walter Pater in a lecture theatre so long and narrow that in the rows at the back the boys were reading newspapers and even smoking, while the nuns at the front pwrote down everything I said.’

Social history mingles effortlessly with personal history. Her childhood in Dublin, her amazement at having escaped the destiny of thousands and thousands of of women: “they were hotly pursued and half-longed to yield but they were not able to defend themselves against pregnancy, and they were destroyed if they got pregnant’. 

Quite apart from the description of the times, the prose is full of pleasures - sharply observed encounters with established writers and figures such as Seamus Heaney, Kingsley Amis, John Berger, Philip Larkin, the filmmaker John Huston, and - and a more than glancing reference to the New Zealand writer Dan Davin."

A copy of Are You Somebody?  will be available in the shop for only $15.

*If you happen to have a copy gathering dust on your shelves, Philip is eager to give it a new home. Feel free to pass it on to our shop, and Philip will happily purchase it from you!

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