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My Dream of You

O'FAOLAIN, Nuala

2,047 ratings by Goodreads
ISBN 10: 1573221775 / ISBN 13: 9781573221771
Published by Riverhead Books, New York, 2001
Hardcover
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About this Item

Small 4to. Cream cloth spine and green paper over boards, pictorial dust jacket. 500pp. Fine/near fine. Tight and attractive first edition of the Irish columnist's first novel, boldly signed by the author in black ballpoint on the title page, below which she adds "Winnetka 2001.". Bookseller Inventory # 35489

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Bibliographic Details

Title: My Dream of You

Publisher: Riverhead Books, New York

Publication Date: 2001

Binding: Hardcover

Dust Jacket Condition: Dust Jacket Included

Signed: Signed by Author(s)

Edition: 1st Edition

About this title

Synopsis:

The greatly anticipated first novel by the author of the number-one New York Times bestseller Are You Somebody?: a novel within a novel, a love story within a love story, an historical story within a contemporary one.

Hailed by critics ("A beautiful exploration of human loneliness and happiness, of contentment and longing," wrote Alice McDermott in The Washington Post) and embraced by legions of readers, Nuala O'Faolain's memoir Are You Somebody? introduced a writer of exceptional insight, honesty, and compassion. These same gifts are evident in O'Faolain's grand first novel that tells of parallel lives, one hundred fifty years apart, driven by a hunger for passionate love.

My Dream of You is the story of Kathleen de Burca, an Irish woman based in London, a travel writer who crisscrosses the globe. She is a woman on the run until a quick series of blows, on the eve of a milestone birthday, stops her cold-revealing the painful cost of her refugee existence and the encroaching despair that the love she believed would deliver her might never come. And still, she feels, her heart is ridiculously alive. . . .

And so it is to passion that Kathleen turns when she sets out for Ireland to investigate the true story of a scandalous affair between the wife of an English landlord and an Irish servant during the latter years of the Famine. Between the lines of the historical record and through a reconsideration of the family she fled so long ago, Kathleen attempts to understand how it is that even in the face of adversity love can prevail and even with love families can be torn apart. During her time in the country, she encounters a lover of her own who helps her to know her own heart and presents her with an ultimate choice that, like the one made by her nineteenth-century lovers, promises to alter the course of her life.

My Dream of You is a singular achievement: a feeling and captivating work that explores the extremes of passion, the depths of loneliness, and the resilience of the human heart.

Review:

Nuala O'Faolain's My Dream of You takes the old feminist adage one step further: the personal is invariably political in this exquisite first novel, while its politics feel very personal indeed. The heroine, Kathleen de Burca, is an Irish travel writer living in London. Estranged from her homeland and her family, pushing 50 but still living in the same dingy basement flat that's been her home for two decades, Kathleen's is a life gone "even and dry." Love has been her traditional panacea: "I believed in passion the way other people believed in God: everything fell in place around it." But the only love that comes her way these days takes the form of grim, anonymous sex--and even that grows harder to find.

Oddly enough, it's history--her own, and Ireland's--that brings Kathleen back to life. Shattered by a close friend's death, she leaves her job and London to immerse herself in a 150-year-old divorce case. In 1849, according to court documents, the Anglo-Irish landowner Richard Talbot divorced his wife because she committed adultery with their ragged Irish groom. Or did she? The book Kathleen imagines writing about the affair is a classic tale of passion--yet her research turns up a more complicated story, even as love once again makes inroads into her own life.

My Dream of You shares some of the same preoccupations as O'Faolain's bestselling memoir Are You Somebody?: a distant and loveless family life, the plight of Irish women. But it's the historical narrative that gives Kathleen's story both context and shape, juxtaposing the affair inside the demesne walls with the famine outside. The excerpts from her "Talbot Book" are searing in their intensity, studded with images of great beauty and unimaginable suffering. Some readers might in fact wish the book's balance tipped even further in the Talbot direction. Then, however, we might miss the author's heartbreakingly nuanced portrait of Kathleen's loneliness:

It was never real excitement that got you into bed; it was hope, like some stubborn underground weed. Look at the way you've believed every time, at the first brush of a hand across a breast, that the roof over your life was sliding back and a dazzling, starry firmament was just coming into view.
The suffering of Irish peasants during the famine might be a grander subject than a solitary woman's search for passion. Yet one is as real as the other. In the Irish experience, as in Kathleen de Burca's, the movements of history leave ghostly tracks across individual lives. --Mary Park

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