Sunday, May 4, 2008

God Bless You, Nuala O'Faolain

I have been a fan of Nuala O’Faolain since I discovered her memoir, Almost There: The Onward Journey of a Dublin Woman, at the McCracken County Library.

Although I have always loved reading Irish writers, the book didn’t look too interesting. But I stood for a minute, reading the first couple of sentences:

If I had been asked to report on middle age when I was halfway through my fifties, I would have said that it is too bleak to talk about. Much too bleak if you believed, as I passionately did, that your life has been a failure.

With a beginning like that, I knew I had to read the rest of her story, so I checked out the book. And read it all that very night. The next day I went back and checked out Are You Somebody? The Accidental Memoir of a Dublin Woman, and her novel, My Dream of You.
I loved her writing, her way with words, her honesty. And I knew I had to find out more about this strong, tough-minded and funny woman.

O'Faolain was an opinion columnist for The Irish Times, and in 1996 a small Irish publisher brought out a selection of her columns. She offered to write an introduction, and as she looked back over her difficult and lonely life, the dam burst and she just kept writing and writing, suddenly realizing after more than five decades of living, she had not accomplished much. Although she was a successful columnist, all she could feel was regret, and all she could see was what was missing. She had no child, and no other creation. And she didn’t have a partner.

The book of journalism came out quietly, with no launch, no advertising, but after a television interview, it became a bestseller in Ireland. The introduction was reprinted as a book and instantly became a bestseller all over the world, spending many weeks on the New York Times bestseller list.

O’Faolain was born in 1940 in Dublin. Before becoming a columnist, she was a television producer for the BBC, a book reviewer, and a teacher at Morley College. She is the second eldest of nine children, and her father was also a well-known Irish journalist, writing the Dubliners Diary social column for the Dublin Evening Press. She was educated at University College, Dublin, University of Hull, and Oxford University.

O'Faolain was engaged once, but she was never married. In Are You Somebody? she speaks openly about her fifteen-year relationship with journalist Nell McCafferty.

I had heard O'Faolain had written another book, The Story of Chicago May, and as I was looking for it on the Internet, I was shocked and saddened to learn she is dying of cancer. She turned down the option of chemotherapy, which could help prolong her life, and in an April 12, 2008 interview, she spoke with her usual honesty. “I don’t want more time,” she said, “As soon as I heard I was going to die, the goodness went from life.”

My heart goes out to Nuala O’Faolain, one of the most honest and compelling writers I have ever come across. Her writing is brilliant and heartbreaking, unsentimental and funny. When I’m reading one of her books, I never want it to end.

Just as I do not want her life to end.

My thoughts and prayers are with you tonight, Nuala. God bless you.


Kari & Kijsa said...

Wonderful and moving post! Have a blessed Sunday!!

kari & kijsa

Sandra Ree said...

Love your writing.

Suzanne said...

A lovely post. I feel the same.

Anonymous said...

I have only just discovered the late great Nuala O'Faolain. I heard an older interview on CBC radio and I was mesmerized. What an honest, witty and compelling woman she was who was so much more than she ever believed herself to be. I now look forward to reading all of her books.

Gwen said...

I too, heard that interview on CBC radio today, and had to sit still and listen....she was wonderful! This evening I am finding all her books on so I will have them just in case I do not get my hands on the 'paper' books. She is just so witty and lively, she gives me hope. She will be good to 'listen' to on my walks also.

magda.mierzewska said...

Beautiful post. I am just reading Are You Somebody? and am just as moved as you were. Thank you.

All words and pictures © 2008 Brenda G. Wooley