Book Review: MY DREAM OF YOU, by Nuala O'Faolain

So, an Irish travel writer needs a life change. She's fifty, she's been through a lot of crap lately, and so she gets interested in an affair between an English landlord's wife and a hired hand (happened in Ireland, the year after the famine) and decides to write a book about it--the catch in the whole affair is that it requires that Kathleen (said travel writer) return to Ireland for research, and she hasn't been home in twenty years.

The book is complicated, and rich. O'Faolain brings out a character in Kathleen de Burca that is so deep and true that Kathleen seems to be constantly changing--one minute I adore her, am sighing over the lovely thing she just said, and the next don't know what to think. How very like a real person.

DREAM's narrative is much the same--darting back and forth between Kathleen's experiences, her thoughts, her flashbacks, and the scenes she imagines for her star-crossed lovers, even bringing in some fascinating bits of Irish history, interwoven with the politics surrounding the potato famine.

I wasn't sure what to think of the book until I'd finished it. There are many threads winding their way through O'Faolain's tale--more than I could count, more perhaps than even O'Faolain intended, so that once I arrived at the close of the book I found the best sort of ending awaiting me: the sort, whether happy or sad or inconclusive, that draws from me that perfect response--"...but of course. How else could it be?"

MY DREAM OF YOU is bigger than any review, I think. It covers so much ground, and, though I didn't love it all the time, its complexity commands a certain kind of respect, and establishes with the reader a sort of relationship. Kudos, O'Faolain. Well done.


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