Writer’s Wednesday: Are You Somebody? by Nuala O’Faolain
I came across this memoir randomly, and picked it up because the title and the back of the cover spoke to me. Are You Somebody? by Nuala O’Faolain, with the secondary title “The Accidental Memoir of a Dublin Woman” for the American/international edition, whereas the Irish edition I picked up, it is simply “the life and times of Nuala O’Faolain” – because in Ireland, O’Faolain was a rather well’known columnist for The Irish Times.
From the back:
Given to watching the world – “like a spy behind enemy lines” – Nuala O’Faolain now turns that exceptional sensibility upon her own life in one of the most personal Irish memoirs ever written. One of the nine children of the pioneering social columnist “Terry O’Sullivan” and a romantic, bookish mother, she writes of 1950’s Ireland, her UCD student years, the sexual mores of Dublin in the early 1960s, and the exuberance of Beatles-era Oxford, as well as her years as a university lecturer, and BBC and RTÉ television producer. Always candid, she also touches on some of those affairs of the heart that have coloured her struggle for a sense of self as an Irish woman.
This remarkable memoir is followed by a selection of Nuala O’Faolain’s columns on people, issues and places from The Irish Times over the past decade. Taken together, the heartfelt memoir and equally ardent journalism of Are You Somebody? provide a fascinating portrait of both Ireland and one of its most popular and respected commentators.
While I’ve had a fascination with Ireland (my adopted country of choice) for years, since living here I’ve found myself trying to understand the more recent history that have shaped the country, people and culture here. While no one story can ever give a full picture, many different stories can help you piece together an overview – and O’Faolain’s story is worth getting to know.
Are You Somebody? is a brutally honest memoir, O’Faolain does not idealize her upbringing, the world around her or her own actions, which is something I both admire and really appreciate.
The selection of columns at the end, are also both thought-provoking and gives further insight to both O’Faolain, and Ireland in the late 80’s and early 90’s – a time where the role of the Catholic church is up for debate, sexuality, the after-effects of corporal punishment in schools, sexual harassment, the travelling community, domestic violence, divorce, abortion, atheism, sin, etc.
What have you been reading lately?
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