The subtitle of this book is “An Accidental Memoir of a Dublin Woman,” and there is a spirit of spontaneity throughout Nuala O’Faolain’s reflections on her life. I got the feeling like she wasn’t sure if she should be sharing some of these stories, especially the darkness of her parent’s addictions and the tragedy of her sibling’s lives. But she tells them anyway, and we as readers are so lucky that she did.
This is a memoir about literary Dublin, and academia, but more than anything it’s the story of a woman trying to figure out her place in an Ireland that was not built to accommodate a woman without a husband. Part of this feminist awakening, a term that if it is not used explicitly in the book is implied repeatedly, came from the specific historical time that O’Faolain came of age, the 1960s and 70s, but this book feels timeless in many ways.
Nuala was a voracious reader, as was her mother, as am I. The loveliest parts of this book were essentially paeans to the beauty and comfort of books. She, who felt so disconnected from her family of origin, who spent her life searching for a community, described reading as “coming home to books,” which I completely identified with. I’ve already bought two more of her books, and I can’t wait to find home in them as well.