Audrey's Reviews > Charming Billy

Charming Billy by Alice McDermott
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's review
Jun 30, 07

Recommended for: people with extra time on their hands
Read in June, 2007

Charming Billy is what happens when you stop in the library on a whim, before you have registered at Goodreads and before you have an idea of what you want to read, and you find the book with the pretty cover, in this case, the one with a shiny golden seal that says "National Book Award Winner." It is similar to the way in which I shop for wine. And certainly every bottle of wine has something to commend it--alcohol, at least. So, too, does this book have facets to commend it: clean writing, easy reading, interesting use of the narrator, poetry-like repetition of certain phrases and words throughout, alcohol. But truly, as a hard drinker from hard-drinking stock, I STILL did not find the characters to be resonant. Perhaps part of the problem lies in the fact that the dialogue was unbelievable. Here is a tiny sample from near the end of the book, which coincided with my realization that a large part of what was bugging me about the book was the unbelievability of the dialogue.

"She chose him, and as far as I can see he fit her to a T. Her old man all over again. Someone to maneuver, to shore up. An alcoholic with a shadow across his heart. An alcoholic because he had a shadow across his heart, the way I see it...I don't begrudge her her tears, of course, but I wonder, too. Would she have known what to do with a sober man, with the full force of the affection of a sober man who'd never loved another?"

Um, do you talk like that? I certainly do not. I wish that Ms. McDermott would trust her readers enough to understand her meaning from regular dialogue.
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