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Authenticity Paperback – 7 Aug 2003

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Product details

  • Paperback: 400 pages
  • Publisher: Faber & Faber; New Ed edition (7 Aug. 2003)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0571214320
  • ISBN-13: 978-0571214327
  • Product Dimensions: 12.7 x 2.2 x 19.8 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (4 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 478,640 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Product Description


"A novel about art and truth and big ideas that slips down easily and stays with you." -- The Scotsman

"Deirdre Madden's command of language makes Authenticity a joy for the reader.. -- Dublin Evening Herald

"It’s an absorbing read . . . a wonderful idea for a novel." -- Sunday Tribune

"This is Deirdre Madden's most impressive novel to date." -- Independent

Book Description

Authenticity by Deirdre Madden, repackaged along with her other classic novels to appeal to a new generation of readers. --This text refers to an alternate Paperback edition.

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By Kate Hopkins TOP 1000 REVIEWER on 10 July 2011
Format: Paperback
A wonderful account of two artists and one 'almost' artist and their lives. Madden makes the art works created by all three of these characters: Roderic the famous painter, Julia the young artist just starting out and William the lawyer who wishes he'd been a painter from the start, wonderfully convincing, and writes very thoughtfully and realistically about the difficulties, and pleasures, of life as a creative artist. I loved the depiction of the relationship between Roderic and the much younger Julia (it's lovely to have the relationship between an older man and a younger woman written about so tenderly and sensitively). And she's wonderfully sensitive about Roderic's earlier marriage and its end too, showing how two basically decent people can just be 'wrong' for each other as partners, how ever much they are initially attracted to each other. Madden brought both these characters, and the tormented William (whose inner misery makes him such a dangerous man to others) wonderfully to life, as she did so many of the other characters in this book: Denis, Roderic's desperately shy brother, who can only find an outlet for his emotions in hill-walking and classical music, Liz, William's intelligent and brave wife (who William never bothers to really get to know), Roderic's family in Italy (his marriage ends in alcoholism and divorce - his relationship with Julia signals a new beginning for him), Dan, Julia's history-loving father, who has coped valiantly with being a widower and made his daughter into, in Roderic's words 'a beautiful and original young woman' - and lots more. The descriptions of Ireland and Italy are also wonderful, as if Madden has become influenced by art in her writing. A real treat of a book - Madden's absolutely best novel.
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By Eileen Shaw TOP 1000 REVIEWER on 6 July 2014
Format: Paperback
The main focus of this novel, which has a theme of painting and other kinds of artworks are the brothers, Roderic and Dennis, and Julia, also a painter, who has a protracted affair with Roderic.
It is set in Ireland and Italy for the most part, and Italy is where Roderic meets Marta whom he marries and has three daughters. Serena, Allegra and Oriana. Roderic is an artist who works in both Ireland and Italy, while his brother Dennis is a banker. The novel begins with an episode in a park, when Julia responds to a man sitting, shaking, as if terrified, on a park bench. This is William. He is having a kind of breakdown and Julia takes him to his home, briefly meeting his wife, Liz.

The sequences nicely develop and are well handled, though a few are not treated chronologically. Characterisation is very good, but for my tastes there are a few too many instances of epiphany, or illusionistic visions, particularly when, for instance, Frank, Dennis and Roderic's father, appears in a pub as the brothers sit having a drink on the day of his funeral. Only Roderic sees this vision and is not in the least frightened by it.

One cannot help liking Roderic, even though he is a womaniser. His reliance on his brother to buy one of his paintings when he is broke is another instance of his ambivalence though in fact the relationship between the brothers is one of the best things in the book.

When he is well again, William makes friends with Julia, though this probably does not develop into more than friendship. Roderic warns Julia, predicting what will happen to her friendship with William - and he is right.
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6 of 7 people found the following review helpful By J. Stack on 17 Jan. 2004
Format: Paperback
A marvellous book.
A story of perhaps 3 artists; A mature man who have survived his demons, a young woman discovering herself daily, and a mature man who ignored his instincts until perhaps too late.
This a charming\bruising\clearsighted account of 3 vulnerable, very different people, who lives intertwine for a few months.
An excellent book and worth reading in these busy busy times.
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7 of 9 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on 17 Oct. 2003
Format: Paperback
This was a very strange read and I am not entirely sure what to make of it. It seemed to be very well written in the beginning, but the more I read, the more I became slightly irritated by how overwritten it actually was. Some sentence construction was unneccessarily complicated, forcing the reader to read sentences over again to make sense of them. While I am quite happy to do that for Shakespeare, it seemed a bit pretentious in a contemporary novel.
The story got off to a great start with lots of sparky and interesting characters, and Ms Madden's knowledge of art and the life of a working artist in modern Dublin was very impressive.
But as the tale was told, I found myself wanting to know more about the supporting characters than the main protagonists of the story and the constant going back and forwards in time became annoying. I never felt that we really got to know what caused Roderic's breakdown, why Julia couldn't remember her mother, why Dennis had chosen such a solitary life and I found William to be a conundrum.
Having said all that, it was quite an enjoyable read with a fantastic sense of place and I would definitely read more by the author.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on (beta) 6 reviews
8 of 8 people found the following review helpful
Authentic artistry 14 Feb. 2006
By Stacey M Jones - Published on
Format: Paperback
Deirdre Madden has written a beautiful novel about art, about memory about relationships and about how those relationships reveal themselves in time, flashing forward, flashing back. The characters are compelling and real, the narrative structure is powerful and evocative. This book is an authentic masterpiece.

Through moments in the lives of characters Roderic (an artist), Dennis (his brother), Julia (Roderic's girlfriend) and William (a friend of Julia's), Madden reveals the interlocking lives and relationships of these individuals as one would learn them as one got to know them in real life, with the most vulnerable, most painful, most grievous memories and incidents toward the end.

As the reader follows Julia and Roderic's relationship, one learns about both of their pasts, and how they relate to their families and to their friends. The characters emerge three-dimensionally and honestly with Madden's structure and descriptions, and as we learn their past hurts and regrets, we begin to understand their choices and their emotional scars.

It's beautifully told, and expertly crafted novel. I highly recommend it.
5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
Yes, yes, yes, oh YES! 12 Dec. 2013
By Roger Brunyate - Published on
Format: Paperback
Excuse the Joycean exuberance of my title, though not inappropriate for an Irish novel of such quality, but how else can you respond when you read a book that just gets everything so darned RIGHT? You shout it from the rooftops, buy copies for all your friends, sit down and read the thing all over again. This is a novel about art, and about love, about what happens when love fails you or you fail art, and the miracle when both succeed. It is both absolutely normal and constantly surprising. Normal, because you know these people; they live in the everyday world. And surprising, because none of the usual plot cliches apply; things happen, but they happen for internal reasons, organic to the characters involved, more subtle than the usual mechanics of jealousy and adultery, but no less cataclysmic. Above all, whether seen as human beings or as artists, Deirdre Madden's characters are, as her title suggests, AUTHENTIC.

The book opens with a very ordinary early morning scene that soon turns quite extraordinary. Julia Fitzpatrick, a young artist in mixed media, is in bed with her lover Roderic Kennedy, a painter of an older generation who is just coming into major success. Before he wakes, she finds herself looking at a patch of lemon light on the pale surface of the wall and seeing how it would look as an abstract painting. It is the first of many almost throwaway touches that authenticate the acuteness of Julia's vision. Not since Chaim Potok's MY NAME IS ASHER LEV or Siri Hustvedt's WHAT I LOVED have I read a book about artists that so totally convinced me not only of their talent but also of its individual nature. When Roderic wakes, Julia tells him of a strange encounter the day before with a well-dressed businessman quietly weeping on a bench in St. Stephen's Green. It is a beautiful scene, especially since it avoids all the expected resolutions. But Julia and this man will meet again. His name is William Armstrong, a successful Dublin lawyer in the midst of a mid-life crisis; it will later emerge that he too wanted to become a painter, but was steered away from it; more surprisingly, it will also be clear that he had it in him to be a good one.

The back-cover description says that this encounter will have dramatic consequences for all three characters; you expect a sexual triangle of some sort. I won't say that there is no erotic tension there; the whole novel is subtly erotic (I wouldn't have quoted Molly Bloom otherwise). But William is more catalyst than reagent. His effect is to trigger thoughts about what is really involved in a life of art, the sacrifices that are required, and the dangers of the necessary single-minded obsession that can destroy lives as easily as enhance them. Madden moves around freely in time, pushing the story forward, but also going back to Roderic's bouts of drinking and the failure of his marriage, and the formative moments that caused both him and Julia to devote themselves to art. Julia is especially interested in memory, working with objects, scents, and sounds that conjure up deep associations; for her, art is as much a matter of how one sees the world as the creation of artifacts that enshrine it.

I paused for a long time on a page (213) later in the book, wondering whether to mark it to quote here. Yet the language, though beautiful, was no more special than any other part. It was a simple scene, of Julia going back to spend her twenty-fifth birthday at her father's house in the country; they go outside after dark, and smoke cigarettes under a starry sky. An ordinary scene, but somehow the way that Julia was feeling made it special: her place in the universe, her own security in love, the understanding this gave her of the long grief of her widowed father, the loom of the mountains, the cry of a distant bird. This passage is not unique; there are several similar moments, culminating in a similarly enchanted meeting late in the book between an unnamed man and woman on a blustery day in the Wicklow Mountains. But in them, Madden's transformation of ordinariness into magic makes me profoundly aware of the wonder of art -- Roderic's, Julia's, and even William's as painters -- or her own as a writer.
5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
Fine Fictional Exploration of Artist Lives from an Irish Perspective 19 Jan. 2006
By John Kwok - Published on
Format: Paperback
Deirdre Madden's "Authenticity" is an intriguing examination of the solitude of artist lives, without giving us much of a meaningful explanation for the relationship between young Irish artist Julia Fitzpatrick, and the older, established painter Roderic Kennedy. Indeed, I might add that of these two, Kennedy comes across as the more sympathetic - if not always appealing - of the two. His is almost a tragic figure, who has emphasized more the importance of his own work at a serious personal cost in his relationship with his family. Unexpectedly thrown into Fitzpatrick's and Kennedy's relationship is businessman - and would be artist - William Armstrong, who finds unexpected solace in his friendship with Julia; but it is a solace which will prove quite unnerving to all three, leading to a dire, surprising conclusion. Without question, Madden is a fine young Irish writer of fiction, whose use of language is as skillful as that of any celebrated painter who is painting a still life oil canvass painting. But, I agree with an editorial reviewer mentioned here at, that Madden doesn't really delve deeply into the psychological state of mind of all of her protagonists. And yet, despite my own misgivings, I can still recommend this novel as an intriguing fictional exploration of the lives of some contemporary Irish artists.
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
Portrait of the Artist 30 Nov. 2014
By Jill I. Shtulman - Published on
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
All too often, when novelists write about the artistic process, they treat it as if it is a Serious, Weighty Matter. (I'm thinking of novels like The Blazing World, for one.) As a result, we, as readers, never get the sense of well-rounded characters.

For the most part, Deirdre Madden gets it right. In Authenticity, we meet three artists: Roderic Kennedy, whose single-minded passion for his art has turned him into a success but who leaves behind a broken marriage and severe bouts with alcoholism in its wake...his much younger lover, Julia Fitzpatrick, who is also driven by her artistic muse and who may very well be at a breakthrough in her career...and William, the man she chances upon who has relegated his muse to second place as he dutifully follows his destiny to money and position.

When Julia meets William on a park bench, she senses that he is despairing and quite possibly suicidal. She befriends him; while her relationship isn't sexual, it offers the reader a contrast between the two men. Roderic is - quite literally - bigger than life, a giant of a man with a great sense of charisma. William, who has not followed his art (and his heart), is more diminutive, drained of a joie d'vivre and a reason to live.

The theme is summed up at one point by Roderic: "Unfortunately, William really has made a huge mistake. He's done the wrong thing. It isn't just what he thinks he's wasted his life, he knows he's wasted his life...It's not enough to have a gift. You have to have the courage of your gift as well."

Art, Ms. Madden suggests, is giving up something private and precious. The pursuit of art to someone with the calling is not optional; at least, not if the artist wishes to live an authentic life. Art does not serve the artist; the artist serves the art. In a particularly illuminating passage, Roderic muses, "He thought of his painting as though it were a flame, a fragile lit thing that he had guarded with his life. Entrusted to him, he had succeeded in keeping it from being extinguished in spite of the winds and storms through which he had carried it; in return, down through the years, it had afforded him a subtle and complex joy."

This is a stunningly accurate portrait of the artist. Even though the characters tend to be more reserved - more distanced - than I typically like, the portrayal of those for whom art serves is extraordinarily well done. Definitely recommended.
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
In Henry James territory 11 May 2014
By Thomas F. Dillingham - Published on
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
My title just above might well spook some readers and send them fleeing from this fine novel, which would be a shame. I should hasten to say that I do not suggest that it is written in the Master's late style--dense recursive sentences and pages long meditations of the finest of fine distinctions among subtly different emotional responses--far from that. But James was a great master not only of morally complex and psychologically ambiguous relationships, but he was also a writer who frequently gave us characters who were more distinguished by the things they did NOT say to each other or even what we are allowed to understand they choose not to say to themselves. Things unsaid, even though unsaid, often have severe consequences, and that is part of what makes Deirdre Madden's novel so tense and intense. The main characters--Roderic, Julia, William, and several relatives, including Roderic's brother, especially--are people who choose to repress thoughts or suspicions, or at least to leave them unspoken. Roderic, in particular, is inclined not to tell the stories of his earlier life unless there are compelling reasons for him to force himself to deal again with unwelcome memories and emotions. Julia, the younger artist whom Roderic comes to love, also protects aspects of her private life and feelings, with complicating results.

Both Roderic and Julia are artists, he a type of painter whose works have, over several decades, achieved high status in museum collections and high prices at art auctions, she a creator of installations and elaborate constructions (collages, sometimes, at others works that sound rather like more grandiose versions of Joseph Cornell's boxes, hers incorporating video and other technological elements. And Roderic and Julia are lovers.

In the most Jamesian sequence of the novel, the opening chapters, Julia encounters a man who is sitting on a park bench. seeming to be desperately stricken in some way and in need of help. She offers help, even going beyond what would normally seem reasonable, and that creates a potential connection that threatens to destroy not only her relationship with Roderic but the man's marriage and family. There is really very little plot or action in this novel, though the reader gradually learns of Roderic's early tumultuous life and marriage, destroyed by his alcoholism, which also undermines his early career. The fascination and power of the narrative is all in the evocation of the kinds of crosscurrents mature lovers feel when not only are things left unsaid but those that are said can work to alienate or anger one or the other partner. That a third party--the wealthy lawyer whose distress attracted Julia's attention and started her uncomfortable relationship with him--comes into an already unstable situation, is part of the drama, and the portrayal of William is itself sensitive, disturbing, and certainly part of the hold this rich psychological study gains on the attention of the reader.

Although it might be said that the "art world" is the backdrop against which this narrative is presented, it is also important to note that since all three of the main characters are artists--but each in a distinctive mode and style, with different attitudes about the function and meaning of art, different goals, as well--the novel offers an uncommon and rewarding insight into the creative thinking and processes of artists as creators. By itself, the multi-sided story of love and attraction would probably seem familiar, even hackneyed, but Madden's portrayal of these artists and the people who love and support them provides a rich and emotionally powerful dimension that keeps one reading this fine work. Don't look for action or violence--this is a novel about talented and mature adults working to make their lives and build relationships. And it acknowledges that even the best efforts at that sometimes fail.
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