Nuala O’Faolain, Almost There (2003)

I realize I haven’t posted this draft for ages! Anyway I won’t write in details about this book, because my project is to get a global view of all her writings, and this is only the second part of her autobiography. The Bookmooch edition I got first was this one, so I don’t respect the chronology, but it doesn’t hinder the reading. This part starts when she has just published the first book, and it’s a huge publishing success that changes her whole life. She says it was a surprise, yet she later acknowledges that if it had been a complete failure she would have been crushed by disappointment. I believe she’s honest both ways, and what I appreciate most in her voice is her candor, her lack of scheming strategy. A bit like Elizabeth Gilbert’s writing in Eat, Pray, Love, but in less bubbly and with a real tragic streak.

When I said that Elizabeth Gilbert had no real big problem in life, it’s even truer when I compare her with O’Faolain: she had an alcohol abuse problem linked to deeply flawed relationships to her parents (a part I guess she’ll explore in more details in her first autobiography). In this book, what interested me most was how she slowly came to fiction (“My dream of you” was the result of this endeavor). She also tells how she started an American life and built a fragile relationship in her early 60s with a divorced father of a small girl there. Instead of feeling maternal, she gets jealous of the child and we’re left at the end of the book not knowing really how the relationship evolved in the end. Throughout her memoir she is candid about the comfort of loneliness, of alcohol, her own weakness with men, the complex balance of sibling relationships when the parents have been neglectful, her fears. It’s no Irish Catholic confession, nor is it a weepy account dwelling on the sordid like Angela’s Ashes. It’s a grownup view of what it means to take charge of her own life without self-delusion, to reclaim her identity in spite of traumas and failures. It’s quite a courageous voice I’m looking forward to find again in her previous book.


One thought on “Nuala O’Faolain, Almost There (2003)

  1. Since you first mentioned her, I’ve had my eye out for any of her work. This particular book sounds really interesting.

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