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Almost There Paperback – 3 Jun 2004


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Product details

  • Paperback: 288 pages
  • Publisher: Penguin Books Ltd; New edition edition (3 Jun. 2004)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0141012846
  • ISBN-13: 978-0141012841
  • Product Dimensions: 13.7 x 2 x 19.9 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (1 customer review)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 880,901 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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"'Her writing is so passionate, so personal - she writes for a whole generation everywhere - a wonderful novelist' Evening Standard"

About the Author

Are You Somebody? Nuala O'Faolain's autobiographical memoir, was published to huge success and critical acclaim in America and Ireland. Since then she has also written the bestselling novel, My Dream of You. She lives in the west of Ireland and New York.

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First Sentence
IF I HAD BEEN ASKED TO REPORT ON middle age when I was halfway through my fifties, I would have said that it was too bleak to talk about. Read the first page
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20 of 21 people found the following review helpful By taking a rest HALL OF FAME on 5 Mar. 2003
Format: Hardcover
This is the first book I have read by author Nuala O'Faolain, but it far from the first autobiographical piece I've read. The latter part of my opening comment allows me to state without reservation that I have never read a more brutally and painfully candid work. Using the word beautiful may seem contradictory but it is her unstinting honesty about everyone, herself most of all, that makes this such a remarkable memoir. I don't think I would have gotten through the book if she had only been candid about everyone except herself. Her willingness to place herself, fears, regrets and anger out on view for the world to read is nothing short of remarkable.
This book covers about 6 years from her first memoir which apparently had the same sort of candor although she did offer it to people who were included prior to its publication. How much she may have changed is not entirely clear, but judging by what was included here I doubt she changed very much.
The book is also a philosophical exercise by a woman who has seen the majority of her life and is brutally honest about what she is and is not willing to do with the balance of the 16 and three-quarter years the actuarial tables allot to her. Initially the most startling part of the book was toward the end when she spoke of the 8 year old daughter of her partner. At first I was put off, and then my reaction changed completely. If there has ever been a case of the truth hurts, and the truth will set you free, in a manner of speaking, this lady has written it.
I don't know how many males will read this book but they should. Much of what she discusses is not bounded by gender, and when there are gender specific issues there are plenty of issues that males can plug in.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)

Amazon.com: 29 reviews
23 of 23 people found the following review helpful
A restless, passionate soul 7 April 2003
By Lynn Harnett - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Hardcover
"I think you can be born homesick. I think you can have a dislocated heart. No place will do. The most wonderful home in the world full of the most love wouldn't be enough for you - you'd keep looking around for where you belong." The "you," of course, is O'Faolain herself, a restless soul still searching for - love? contentment? self-assurance? - still hungry as she reaches 60, her professional life materially validated by bestsellerdom and floods of heartfelt (often heartbreaking) letters from readers of her first memoir, "Are You Somebody?"
Readers of AYS who were swept up by the intimacy and energy of O'Faolain's voice, the unvarnished honesty of her brutal stories of childhood, her hard-won place in Irish journalism and her ongoing, episodic search for love, will find the same frank passion in this second book. Written after the success of AYS and her first novel, "My Dream of You," "Almost There" muses on the changes acclaim has brought - financial security, prestige, Italian holidays and writing sojourns in Manhattan. She describes the writing of the novel and the lover she had at the time - nearly illiterate, married, elderly and secretive - with a clear-eyed distance that combines rueful, wry self-knowledge with raw passion. She shows where she borrowed from real life for her fiction, she tells how AYS affected relationships with friends and old lovers, whose versions differed, sometimes, sharply, with her own. "I hadn't realized before I wrote AYS that I for one need constantly to relearn a simple thing - that I do not understand other people as they understand themselves."
There's a great deal in this vein, how "the memoir changes its own conclusion by virtue of being written." And there are the things that haven't changed - a deep vein of self-perpetuating loneliness, and, in contrast, an optimistic certainty of her capacity to change. And in the end, she leaves us curious, as she did at the end of AYS - does she work things out with her lover's child? Does she persevere this time?
And there's much reflection on age, on how the shortness of time reduces options. Nothing earth-shattering there, but O'Faolain's breath-catching fierceness makes it feel fresh. Fans will love this book and hope for another installment. Newcomers I'm less sure of. There's so much that reflects and illuminates her previous books that new readers will either search those out immediately or lose interest halfway through this one. Cranky, acerbic, sometimes pathetic, O'Faolain possesses the ardor of youth and the (sometimes) wisdom of age.
16 of 16 people found the following review helpful
The Inward Journey of a Dublin Woman 1 Mar. 2003
By Bookreporter - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Hardcover
Some years ago, while traveling in Ireland for the first time, I was struck both by how lush the country was --- as green, if not greener, than I've seen in all the tourism ads --- and by how the landscape was even more inspirational than this novice writer could have imagined. I remember commenting to my then boyfriend that it is no wonder that great writers have sprung from these verdant hills, like so many lambs from the loins of the nation's ubiquitous sheep. From Shaw, Joyce and Wilde to contemporaries Maeve Binchy, Frank McCourt and Roddy O'Doyle, the country boasts a herd of "greats," skilled storytellers and writers. Nuala O'Faolain has earned a place at the head of the contemporary herd, first with ARE YOU SOMEBODY and now in the continuing memoir of her life, ALMOST THERE.
Subtitled "The Onward Journey of a Dublin Woman," ALMOST THERE could just as easily have been titled "The Inward Journey of a Dublin Woman." O'Faolain writes in the best tradition of her Irish predecessors. Rarely sentimental or sappy, she pauses at moments in her life to reflect, to share snapshots of her history with more than just a beautifully descriptive narrative. She offers feeling that is raw, honest and often painful to read. Her story, exposed in the two volumes, is an inward look, a rich and insightful recollection of a life sometimes lonely, sometimes disappointing --- and all tied together in often lyrical language, reminiscent of her native tongue and the magic of her homeland. And lest I forget, she wields a national irreverence, a sometimes dark sense of humor so resonant of the Irish.
In ALMOST THERE, O'Faolain retells the six years that have passed since her first memoir, while going back in time on occasion to incidents that helped to inform her present self. She finds in her later years that there are still lessons to be learned from earlier moments, even from earlier gaps: "...there had been great holes in my ordinary knowledge of the world. Some very simple things have been late discoveries, which is a reward, in a way, for having lived wrong. A lot of people who were better at managing life begin to find it dull at this age."
But for O'Faolain, middle age, albeit trying, is a time of discovery --- friendship, for instance. It is in her mid-fifties when she realizes that she needs to create a "circle" about herself. She finds love again and marvels at it as if it were the first time. She compares middle age to being a teenager again: "Middle age is the least talked about of all the seasons of life, and yet it is the most exacting. It is adolescence come again at the other side of adulthood - its other bookend - in its uneasiness of identity, its physical surprises, and the strengths it takes to handle it."
O'Faolain has the unmistakable voice of generations of her countrymen and women. Impassioned and pained, exhausted and rejuvenated, she writes from a heart swelled by the mourning of the passage of time and tempered by the glorious anticipation of times ahead. I can hardly wait for the third installment of her life.
--- Reviewed by Roberta O'Hara
15 of 16 people found the following review helpful
Amazing story of potential 16 April 2004
By Suez - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Hardcover
Enthusiastic Recommend: Almost There by Nuala O'Faolain
This is a memoir of six years in the life of a woman in her 60s. It's her story of struggling with her past, with the long series of things that shaped her into something that she decided she did not want to be. So she changed. O'Faolain's life is nothing like mine - not even remotely like mine. She's Irish. She suffered as a child from the neglect of a drunken mother. She's never been married, has no children. She earned her living being a journalist. She's not really athletic, and that doesn't bug her. One of the few things we have in common is that we both love dogs. But she also goes for cats, which I can take or leave. And yet so much of what she wrote resonated, spoke to me, got me to say right out loud, "Yea, wow, that's it." It's a wonderful read for anyone who thinks it's too late for ... well, for anything. O'Faolain shows that it's never too late. We've all suffered, physically and emotionally. Some more than others, Nuala more than I. But she demonstrates that there is always a way to strike out on a different path if you are willing to work at it. And though it's not easy, there's progress, not always in a hurriedly straight line, but it's there and it's substantial.
11 of 11 people found the following review helpful
Everybody Has a Hungry Heart 10 Jun. 2004
By Beverly Orel - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Hardcover
Nuala O'Faolain is completely frank and honest without sacrificing elegant prose... sa memoirist unconcerned with image. Her experiences take on a universal quality--I'm not a fifty-something Irish writer whose parents were miserable together (one cold, the other alcoholic) when not being charming. Yet in her descriptions of fear, loneliness, hope I find myself feeling singing "she's killing me softly with her song."
This is no feel-good "How I overcame bad times" memoir in which the heroine is homeless/battered/deathly ill but survives "with a little help from my friends." Nuala recounts successes, mistakes, bad judgement, anger, joy without ever portraying herself as a victim. And the result is that her story lands in your gut.
Few writers would admit worrying about the cat being lonely if she went out for an evening-- they'd be too self-conscious and worry about looking pathetic. Not Nuala. The result is that she wins us over utterly.
This book opens with a great deal more joy than her other books (the wonderful memoir Are You Somebody? and the novel My Dream of You). She recounts with wonder the unexpected success of her memoir and the opportunities it brought her-- the waves of approval from TV talk-show audiences, the trip to New York where she met Frank McCourt, the money. But it didn't ultimately protect her heart from a painful end to a long-standing lesbian relationship, a one-sided affair with a married man, and a troubled relationship with a man she met on line, whose little girl Nuala had to struggle not to resent.
I heard O'Faolain read at Colliseum books New York, and she recounted how in Dublin, everyone criticized her for having had an affair with a married man (who, to be fair, did not ever tell her he was married until very very late in the game) while in America, people were shocked at her attitude to the child. Yet in both, O'Faolain is nothing more than honest. Who hasn't felt jealous and wished they didn't? O'Faolain is never malicious, vindictive or cruel.
She writes with candor about being down-and-out inside, though material circumstances look well. She's an inspiration in every way-- she gives the reader permission to empathize, to say, "yes, it's like that, and she survived, and I can too". You don't have to have a terrible illness or crushing poverty to have legitimate feelings of despair, and O'Faolain is proof that they can be overcome-- with grace.
And her prose is terrific. Simple without being simplistic, somehow she turns a riff on 9/11 to a consideration of voting in Africa.
She's a real writer, and one for the ages-- her main focus is on herself, but her gaze takes on all humanity.
11 of 12 people found the following review helpful
Perhaps too much information.... 2 May 2005
By Belinda - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Hardcover
In some odd twist, I read Nuala O"Faolain's first book while on my honeymoon in England. At a time of great happiness in my life, the pain of loneliness and disconnection in hers was a bold whisper for me to be grateful my the blessings. I later read "My Dream of You" and again was struck by the lack of connection and depth.

However, reading "Almost There" and getting a glimpse into the thought processes behind the books as well as the repercussions from the publishing of both books, the dots have been connected for me about this author. She has several poignant passages discussing the roles of adult children in large, dysfunctional families, how she wallowed in grief over another failed relationship and how she worked to put words together to create her columns and books. It's fascinating insight, particularly for someone this side of forty.

But like all artistic temperments, Nuala has her faults. And shamelessly she puts them out there, causing me many moments of mental flinching, ashamed for her selfishness and immaturity. Regardless, they are real, and this author is nothing if not honest.

So, I trust her when she talks about life and love in her 50s, and how her perspectives have shifted when she has fewer years to spare now... and with that you have to take the brutal honesty of her shortcomings as well.

This is a book I will encourage my women friends to read -- there are many lessons here, and they are told beautifully with gorgeous prose. Definitely worth the investment of time to read.
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