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Novel set in Brooklyn, New York (“a bold piece”)

6th December 2013

Someone by Alice McDermott, novel set in Brooklyn.

Essentially a Brooklyn set novel that runs from the 1920s and continues through the mid 20th century. A life charted, from childhood to old age in a novel of a good 200 pages, the minutiae of everyday American routines are chronicled in intimate detail.

1408847248.01.ZTZZZZZZThe writing is light and as clear as water, supremely lyrical and confident.

This is Marie’s story. Her first love, Walter, who summarily drops her; the relationships with her Mother and Father and her brother Gabe gradually unfold. Then Tom, whom she finally marries and with whom she has her children. And on into old age where her eyes – the leitmotif throughout the novel – worsen. Vignettes abound of the social mores that governed and restricted a woman’s life in the first half of the 20th century. The demands of her job working for Fagin in his undertaker’s office are brought to life. People populate the novel, they come and go, they live their lives, they have ups, they have downs, and they die – they drink pilsener on the porch, they do their washing up, they watch early-days TV. There are nightmares and accidents and ailments that punctuate Marie’s life, a life honed by the knowledge that human mortality lies in wait, if not today, then some time in the future, mortality hangs by a thin thread.

For me, however it was rather like watching a grey 8mm film – the colour and feel were right for the interwar and post WW2 years. Austerity was the norm. The cover beautifully reflects the era. Yet it wasn’t a story that in really sucked me in and it didn’t leave me wanting more. It actually left me feeling mildly depressed. Marie’s family wasn’t my family, nor did I feel in any way part of it – I was observer and bystander to events that formed Marie’s life.

Gabe, Marie’s brother, joined the seminary. And then left after only a short while. He was the bright child of the family and had a quality that shone through the greyness – right to the point where he moved in with Marie and Tom and their children. Clearly he was a troubled soul, who struggled with his life (and he was the character I really wanted to get to know). But Marie is the central character in the novel – and it is her, and her, at times, dreary life – that the author decrees we must follow. So be it.

Tina for the TripFiction Team

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