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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

3.48 of 5 stars 3.48  ·  rating details  ·  2,225 ratings  ·  253 reviews
"You don’t want the book to end; it glows with compassion and you want more, more because you know this is a fine wine of a life, richer as it ages."—Frank McCourt, author of Angela’s Ashes

One of nine children born into a penniless North Dublin family, Nuala O’Faolain was saved from a harrowing childhood by her love of books and reading. Though she ultimately became one of
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Paperback, 240 pages
Published February 17th 2009 by Holt Paperbacks (first published 1996)
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David
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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Angela
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
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Brenna
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
Debra
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
Lauren
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
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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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Jennifer Margulis
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
Em
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
Diane
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
Lori
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
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
courtney
Oct 19, 2008 courtney rated it 4 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
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
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
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Laurel
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
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Marty
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
Julie Laporte
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
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Mary Reed
This was a gift from a friend for my retirement. He said he cried 10 times while reading this and was certain I would, too. Her story is filled with places to cry, but there is a prevailing tone of blame that made it hard for me to be fully sympathetic. Rarely does she take responsibility for rising above what she knows is a terrible childhood. I kept waiting for the light to go off, for there to be a page with a drink or a drunk. I kept thinking if she could only stop drinking, her world would ...more
Eric
I had great expectations for this book, after seeing a review in Oprah right after it was published around 2002. Perhaps such expectations can hardly ever be met; not surprisingly, mine weren't either.

But like most sweeping statements, mine needs some clarification. I really loved the first 80 pages, and the last 80 pages. When she talks honestly about herself, her writing brims with emotion and insight--the kind of wisdom you see almost only from decades of living a kind of observant and refle
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Kendra
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
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.
Karin A.
The accidental memoir. Nuala titled the book Are you Somebody? because it was a question she was often asked. However, I think she may have been asking herself. This memoir was "accidental" as she used it to purge her soul. While reading the book, I questioned why someone would spill their guts and tell the world about the alcoholic mother, neglectful father, the bed hopping and her own heavy drinking. It wasn't until the last chapter that Nuala asked this question herself. Nuala found her book ...more
Bruce Reiter
I continue to look for books of modern Irish authors to give me a "leg up" on the literature. This autobiography is heartbreaking. This is about a life in Ireland that parallels my own timeline. Told from a woman's perspective about her life in Ireland and her parents' lives, it paints a pretty raw picture of the culture of repression for women of all ages in that nation. No one escapes except by death and even that is questioned. Her life was amazing in what the author was able to accomplish in ...more
Candace Rollins
Like many Irish writers, Nuala's biography is wrought with pain, abuse and drink. It is almost the theme of the contemporary Irish writer. Nuala brings to it a female perspective of what appears to be the cause and effect on her life and her sorrows. During the book I often lost interest in the lovers and repetitive behavior, but found true hope in her own enlightenment after the deaths of her flawed parents and brother. I am often drawn to Irish writers, not because of my own Irish family, as r ...more
Debbie
This was a bookclub book, or else I would never have finished it. I found reading most of it quite a slog: a mixture of the "my miserable Irish childhood" genre, stream of consciousness narrative, name dropping of people I haven't heard of, and a love life that goes nowhere (often with married men)...

But did I miss something? The book has a lot of glowing reviews by respectable people. Except for a few very early parts, the last chapter, and an occasional insight or flash of compassion....I just
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Jennyb
This is an imperfect book about an imperfect woman, but deeply satisfying and moving too. O'Faolain wrote the memoir when she was 56, reflecting on where life had gotten her so far -- her triumphs, and tragedies, and what it was like becoming an adult in Ireland and England in the 50s, 60s and 70s. She herself is a triumph -- an exceptional woman with advanced degrees and an accomplished professional life at a time when few women could hope to accomplish much more than marrying and raising a pas ...more
Faith
Nuala OFaolain is an Irish journalist and tv-personality... And Are You Somebody? is her memoirs. At the beginning she asks her self the qestion, which became the title of the book, and which is a question she often is asked. Well, off course everybody are somebody. But who is Nuala OFaolain? What is so speciel about her? Well, nothing special special. I bet there are a lot of women like her in her Ireland. And that's probably why her memoirs became a bestseller.

Well, but I'm not Irish. I'm a s
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Larry
I have been meaning to write this review fro some time as in fact I read this book some years ago before being a member of "Goodreads", I think of Nuala now and especially since her passing a few years ago following a brave struggle with cancer. She is on my mind as she was a lover of Proust and in her final interview she said she will miss one thing in particular when she passes; reading Proust! A sad situation as she was in my opinion just getting her voice ("The Story of Chicago May")and the ...more
Ruthenator
It's taking me way too long to read this rather short book. It's okay but maybe I'd know what she was talking about, or care, if I was Irish or knew more about Ireland. Some of it is interesting but she jumps around and I find it hard to follow at times. I realize not everything has to be in chronological order but for example she mentions a time in her life with her family at the time Elvis Presley died (which we know is August of 1977) and then a paragraph or 2 later she starts talking about J ...more
Ellen
Mar 19, 2008 Ellen is currently reading it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: mermaids, oatmeal fanatics
Recommended to Ellen by: i picked it up all by meself.
not done wiith this one yet.
but hey man, guess what? ireland doesn't have the most liberated of social traditions.
shocking, i know.
okay. anyway. o'faolain is a fantastic storyteller. her experiences coming of age--and really, coming into womanhood (whatever the hell THAT is)--in ireland's literary world in the 1950s-60s is super interesting for multiple reasons: (1) she knew EVERYONE in the artistic-academic-literary world back then; (2) is (an) irish (3) woman who struggled to define herself i
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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
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“If there were nothing else, reading would--obviously--be worth living for.” 12 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.” 5 likes
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