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Are You Somebody?: The Accidental Memoir of a Dublin Woman
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Are You Somebody?: The Accidental Memoir of a Dublin Woman

3.5  ·  Rating Details ·  2,604 Ratings  ·  289 Reviews
Nuala O'Faolain attracted a huge amount of critical praise and a wide audience with the literary debut of Are You Somebody? Her midlife exploration of life's love, pain, loneliness, and self- discovery won her fans worldwide who write and tell her how her story has changed their lives. There are thousands who have yet to discover this extraordinary memoir of an Irish woman
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Paperback, 224 pages
Published January 15th 1999 by Holt Paperbacks (first published 1996)
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Community Reviews

(showing 1-30)
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David
Jul 15, 2007 David rated it really liked it
In the three years or so since I joined Goodreads, there have been a few surprises. The unexpected popularity of vampires. The hilarious brilliance of my shape-shifting namesake in Indiana (aka David Kowalski). The astonishing popularity of "Angela's Ashes", whose fans appear to be legion. Said fans are also extremely vocal in their defence of Frank McCourt - of all the reviews I've posted here, my (negative) comments about "A's As" have generated the strongest reaction by far - I still get roug ...more
Magdelanye
It's so great to follow an obscure impulse to pick a book of which you know absolutely nothing,and have it surprise you with numerous insights pertinent to your situation. I had never heard of Nuala O'Faolain until I encounterd her in the course of a browse in the library.I liked the title and I liked her face,reproduced in a photo strip along the side of the book,the same photo,in vivid colour at the top,fading to green;a face that looked straight out at the viewer,both tough and vulnerable.

And
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Debra
Mar 02, 2013 Debra rated it it was amazing
I was captured the minute I started reading. I did not know the writer or many of the people she discussed but I did know that she fascinated me and seemed to know many Irish and beyond literary figures. Her writing is sublime. After a winter of reading interesting books but none with the beauty hers wrought, I was enchanted. This is a memoir, so Nuala remembers her unconventional life (is there any other kind worth writing about) that during the mid 20th century seems impossible one could live. ...more
Angela
Apr 15, 2010 Angela rated it it was amazing
I read this book after I read "My Dream of You"
because I wanted to know more about the author.
Herein she describes her upbringing, education, and career as a writer for the Irish Times.
She is an extraordinary person with amazing powers of resilience,
despite her hard-scrabble, rural, Irish-Catholic upbringing, with an absentee father, and an alcoholic mother.
The crushing oppression of women, in Church dominated Post-revolutionary Ireland of the 1950's and 60's, under which she came of age, we
...more
Brenna
Mar 03, 2012 Brenna rated it it was ok
I picked this up through paperbackswap.com because it looked interesting, and it delivered – though not in the way I expected. I think I was expecting a female Frank McCourt (author of “Angela’s Ashes”) but Nuala O’Faolain is something completely different. She is a very literary, intellectual woman, who always had a sense of being an outsider in a society that did not want to accept female intellectuals. Growing up with a philandering father and alcoholic mother naturally did not help her self- ...more
Lauren
Apr 05, 2012 Lauren rated it it was amazing
This book gets five stars, which in this case means: brilliant; read it if you have any interest in women's experiences, writing, voice, the Irish in England.

If you love books with a rich, honest, courageous, particularized voice, I recommend this one. I came to love and admire Nuala O'Faolain through reading this memoir. In it, she is stunningly honest about growing up in poverty, in mid-century Ireland, about succumbing to drink and turning away from it, about not wanting to end up like her mo
...more
Elizabeth
I would actually give this book a 3.75.
Some of the cultural, historical and location references were over my head, but I perfectly understood the love and loss, the desire, the frustration with not being the person you think you should be, the mystery of reconciling your past self and your current self, and the struggle of learning to love yourself and to know yourself in different ways as you get older.
I'm glad I happened to pick up the version with the "Afterwords" section in it, in which Nual
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Marty
May 09, 2009 Marty rated it liked it
I struggeld with this book and halfway through was sure I really disliked it - and then around page (115)? it all changed and I began to see why the book was so popular. My first impressions were that is was poorly done stream of consciousness - she seemed to skip from topic to topic, time to time and I (at least) had trouble following her. However, at that midpoint it began to come together and "make sense" and I was able to get into the story and follow it more easily. By the end of the story, ...more
Jennifer Margulis
Jan 19, 2014 Jennifer Margulis rated it really liked it
This beautiful, poignant, important memoir is as painful to read as it is interesting. I loved it. I cringed. I cried. I laughed. I felt angry at Nuala for sleeping with other men's wives, having inappropriate relationships, and disliking Dickens. I also felt deeply sympathetic to her, hoping she could crawl out of the difficulties of her childhood, appreciating her honesty (she writes that when she had a miscarriage she did not know how she felt about it. And she still doesn't know how she feel ...more
Marguerite
Aug 26, 2015 Marguerite rated it really liked it
There are really keen insights here, and a wrenching story, but a lack of structure means the reader has to work harder to extract information. Women, journalists and those of Irish descent will find the effort worthwhile. This made me laugh, cry and think. I will revisit it.
courtney
Oct 13, 2008 courtney rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: those interested in the women's movement in ireland, women
this felt like sitting down to coffee with someone you just met, but someone you need to get to know. o'faolin communicates the grief, frustration, and joy of a very specific generation of women. her perspective is powerful -- the distance she maintains between what she writes about, say the pain of her upbringing, and who and where she is when she writes about it allows the reader to undertake this journey without signing onto the wholesale melancholia that she might have offered. the way she c ...more
Lori
Oct 21, 2009 Lori rated it really liked it
Nuala O'Faolain's memoir is not particulary easy to read. It starts slowly with the history of her young years and family. It's difficult to read about her parent's relationship and the neglect and desperation felt by the family, especially the nine children. O'Faolain is so honest about her own shortcomings and dysfunctions at first it's hard to like her but how we admire her. She chronicles the historical context of Ireland from the 1950's through the 1990's with special emphasis on the role o ...more
Diane
Nov 03, 2013 Diane rated it liked it
I read this memoir because I loved O’Faolain’s book, “My Dream of You”. The memoir was difficult for me to read and I didn’t like it very much. O’Faolain is only a few years older than I, but grew up in Catholic Ireland in a family of nine children with a severely alcoholic mother and a distant father who lived as often with his mistress as with his family. The children were pretty much left to raise themselves. What struck me most was O’Faolain’s dependence on having a man in her life. She was ...more
Diane
Apr 23, 2013 Diane rated it liked it
My reaction to this memoir was mixed. I kept asking myself if O'Faolain was a feminist. In therapy when she was in her 30s, she discovered that to survive she must not replicate her mother's life--alcoholism relieved only by reading. But it seemed to me that she wanted her father's life: a journalist who could escape from home, have affairs, and hang out with intellectuals and the rice and famous. O'Faolain's identification with English, male intellectuals--and the "great books" mentality--was a ...more
Em
Jun 21, 2014 Em rated it did not like it
Shelves: not-recommended
I had purchased this book because of Frank McCourt's praise for it on the cover, and before I had read 'Tis. I enjoyed her revelry in literature in the opening pages, but it quickly bogged down and for the rest of the book. In fact I nearly decided to stop reading it just before the last chapter, which affected my most strongly of all. The major portion of this book was a hard-slog; her bad childhood, her bad romances, her bad memories of her country. And then the last page, which was the most d ...more
Ginny_1807
L'autrice delinea un ritratto intenso, coraggioso e commovente della propria vita in un'Irlanda piena di contraddizioni ed ancorata alle sue tradizioni cattoliche e conservatrici.
Straordinari i passaggi in cui vengono commentate le vicende personali e familiari.

"Questo fratello era un ragazzo molto intelligente e straordinariamente dolce...solo che era marchiato a fuoco dalla trascuratezza.
...Come vorrei poter tornare indietro. Se ieri fosse oggi, investirei tutte le mie energie per indirizza
...more
Angela Dawn
Apr 04, 2007 Angela Dawn rated it it was amazing
I read this book after I read "My Dream of You"
because I wanted to know more about the author.
She describes her upbringing, education and career as a writer for the Irish Times.
She is an extraordinary person with amazing powers of resilience
despite her hard-scrabble rural Irish Catholic upbringing with an absentee father and an alcoholic mother.
The crushing oppression of women in Ireland in the 1950's and 60's during which she came of age, went to college on scholarship, and began her career ar
...more
Laurel
Apr 22, 2013 Laurel rated it really liked it
A dear friend recommended this read. I thought it was a fairly ordinary memoir of a woman who had gone through depression and alcoholism in her younger years and become a successful writer in middle-age. However, in the final pages of the memoir she expresses feelings about how she is dealing with her life as an "older" woman in her 50's that I could very much relate to; she writes of accepting herself as she ages.

But what made me embrace this memoir was the final "afterwords" section which she
...more
Lori
May 02, 2016 Lori rated it did not like it
I did not enjoy Nuala's writing style or the story as presented. Nuala had a terrible family life growing up and continued to allow alcohol, drugs and sex to consume her adult life. It became a boring tale early on. For Irish women that may have grown up during the same time as Nuala, this book may be comforting for them to know they were not alone in these repressed states. I just kept thinking the educated women would want to reach above this state, to use their knowledge to improve their live ...more
Julie Laporte
Jul 24, 2011 Julie Laporte rated it it was ok
Ugh. I just wrote this huge review, and lost it. :(

Well...in summary, skip the book EXCEPT FOR the LAST chapter, which can stand alone. A heartfelt account of a never-married woman in her 50's, reflecting on her life as an Irish woman. Her affection for her animals as a projection and release of her mothering/nurturing instinct, her lost loves, her abusive/negligent parents. Honest, but not in a "pity me" way. Really makes me appreciate how easily love has flowed through my life so far, and to n
...more
Kendra
Aug 22, 2008 Kendra rated it it was ok
Shelves: memoirs
Since it seems like all the books I have on here are ones I really enjoyed, I decided to put a couple that I wasn't that excited about, just to even it out a bit. This (as the title suggests) is a memoir of an Irish lady. I found it to be dull and it took me a while to finish because I had to force myself to read it. I wouldn't recommed wasting your time with this book.
Anita
Jul 24, 2012 Anita rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Although I enjoyed reading about Nuala's experiences while growing up, I lost interest in this book about half way through. There were far too many names that meant absolutely nothing to me peppered throughout. I guess it helps if you understand Nuala's world better than me.
Poups
Feb 17, 2017 Poups rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Cette partielle autobigraphie de Nuala O'Faolain est une très belle balade littéraire. Bercée par les livres et ses auteurs favoris, elle raconte son parcours entre l'Irlande et l'Angleterre au milieu du XXe siècle.
On a l'impression qu'elle a vécu milles vies. Elle enchaîne les boulots comme les hommes, le tout noyé d'alcool et de solitude. Inconstante et attachante, elle semble avoir vécu sa vie par accident. Et pour autant, celle-ci n'en a pas moins été extraordinaire et débordante d'expérienc
...more
kathleen searfoss
Jun 03, 2017 kathleen searfoss rated it really liked it
I was amazingly engaged in this sad, hopeful, honest, wrenching, clear-eyed, poetic & literary masterpiece. Some (much?) was left unsaid, strengths and weaknesses laid bare and drying on the beach of her life. I became an instant fan and was inspired by her courage - particularly regarding the flotsam & jetsam of her early (drinking) years. Much was lived! Her experiences professionally (whether she felt worthy of the tasks at times, or not) - in traveling and doing stories on EVERYTHING ...more
Marvin
May 31, 2017 Marvin rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Anyone
This book is an unflinching look at a life closely examined. "Are You Somebody?:" is one of the most honest, genuine, hard examinations of a life, its value, its failures as well as successes. This is a very hard read and you need to be ready for pain of your own as she (O'Faolain) exposes her's. This is an extremely impactful biography and I highly recommend it.
queen esther
Aug 24, 2009 queen esther rated it liked it
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Lorelei
Feb 06, 2017 Lorelei rated it liked it
3.5 stars.
This was one of those obscure goodreads selections on my sidebar that I have come to appreciate so much. They suggest things I would never find otherwise!

I enjoyed this book; it was honest and frank. But more importantly it resonated with me as a woman who was raised in a devoutly Christian upbringing while also wanting more for myself than simply a husband and children. The notes at the back of the book detail feedback from other readers, predominantly female, who felt the same. My gr
...more
Lina Aguilar
Jun 09, 2009 Lina Aguilar rated it liked it
Shelves: memoirs
It' a bitch to feel that your nobody.

The book became a best seller because of the topic she deals with that most of us do not want to face: Death, suicide, living in the past because we are afraid to move on and then we don’t know what to do with ourselves in this world. How to live. She writes: “what can I do but take my chances?. . . listen to all the music I can, and keep going. Keep working on my escape tunnels out of the past. Keep hoping to break through to the here and now. To be just mys
...more
Zoom
Nov 05, 2016 Zoom rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Zoom by: Shelagh Rodgers
Shelves: memoir, non-fiction
I find it hard to rate this memoir, because there are parts that are 5 and other parts that are 1. The average of 3 obscures those highlights and lowlights.

It's a memoir written by a middle-aged Irish woman in the 90s, mostly about her youth. She grew up with an alcoholic mother, a philandering and traveling father, and a whole bunch of younger siblings. But it's mostly about her quest for sex and love as a woman, and the literary circles in which she traveled. As a woman in those times, those l
...more
Ann
Jun 20, 2010 Ann rated it really liked it
A very interesting read -- at times overwhelming! O'Faolain uses the first part of the book to just dump much of her life's experiences. It may have been extremely cathartic for her -- but can be overwhelming for the reader as she bares all-- her alcoholic mother, distant father (who is womanizing elsewhere,) being brought up in a household with 9 children and in in a household that, despite being educated, spent all the available money on alcohol and cigarettes (and gifts for dad's girlfriend) ...more
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Nuala O'Faolain is an Irish journalist, columnist and writer who attended a convent school in the north of Ireland, studied English at University College, Dublin, and medieval English literature at the University of Hull before earning a postgraduate degree in English from Oxford.

She returned to University College as a lecturer in the English department, and later was journalist, TV producer, boo
...more
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“If there were nothing else, reading would--obviously--be worth living for.” 19 likes
“My life burned inside me. Even such as it was, it was the only record of me, and it was my only creation, and something in me would not accept that it was insignificant.” 8 likes
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