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Sunday, June 15, 2014

Someone by Alice McDermott: Review

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Bloomsbury India was really sweet to recently send me a few books they thought I would like.....And I can't thank them enough for the same!

I received 4 books, and one of them was Someone by Alice McDermott. This is the first book I finished of the 4, so I will start the reviews with this one.

Before I talk more about the book, here are the details:

Details about the book:
Title: Someone
Author: Alice McDermott
No. of pages: 232
Publishers: Bloomsbury
Format: Paperback

The book was published in the year 2013 and was nominated for the National Book Award for Fiction (2013) and National Book Critics Circle Award for Fiction (2013).

About the book:

This is the story of Marie, a little girl who wears glasses and is very stubborn and shy, and thinks of herself as an extremely common looking girl, more like a character out of the cartoon shows that kids watch. There is nothing remarkable about her, or the conditions she is in, or the people who surround her.

Marie is the daughter of Irish immigrants and lives in a colony of Irish-Americans. The book spans about 60 years of Marie's life, that takes us on a vast landscape in terms of people and events and relationships. Through each of these relationships and happenings, we witness a world where nothing seems extraordinary, yet everything is special.


My take on the book:

When I first began reading the book, I was a little confused. The cover looked very interesting (you can read the COVER JACKET HERE) but I was getting mixed feelings for the first 4-5 pages or so. I knew the book would be good, something I would eventually like, and I did read through....and am I glad....

The story begins at the steps of a family home. Pegeen stumbles over from the road to the steps, her stockings torn, her walk limp, a young woman who seems confused, yet somehow makes sense (especially later, as you move on with the story.) Marie is about six when the story begins, and she observes her neighbour's antics and her oddities, trying to make sense of the same, yet forgetting everything the moment she sees her own father arriving home from work.

She is essentially her father's daughter, and Marie admits that seeing her father returning home from work is a special part of her day.

Marie's parents are Irish immigrants, and most of the neighbours in the colony are the same. The story gives the reader a glimpse into what life was like for the Irish Americans in the 20th century, especially the early 20th century.

 There are many layers to the story, which gradually shift as you move through the pages, giving you a better understanding of the various characters and why they do what they do. Through all this, Marie suffers through childhood fights, insults, heartbreak, trauma at the death of her father, sees her brother going off to be a Catholic priest and eventually giving it up, the death of her mother, the relationship between her mother and the kids, the relationship between the mother and the father, the Second World War, Marie becoming a wife and then a mother, and then her own relationship with her kids and their growing up and eventually their lives.

 The book is a wide landscape, as I already mentioned.

I felt that the characters are richly drawn, and what may seem very ordinary and everyday in the beginning has a lot of meaning once you read more.

The story is believable, yet there is a certain magic in the pages that seem to create a sort of old world charm. I loved the fact that the author gives enough importance to each character, meaning that they are given their due time in the story. So, a character that needs limited time has been given so, with the story progressing beautifully and not dragging on unnecessarily, while those characters that need in-depth descriptions and attention are treated in the required way.

There is a lot of understanding in the way the author portrays the many emotions and turmoils. From happiness to wonder to tragedy to shock to revelation to any other emotion that the characters go through, everything is handled in balance. There is no melodrama, and no where do you feel the story moved away too fast. Everything is perfectly timed.

The author does a great job in showing us how life is not what it always seems, that there are so many different stories merged in that one story too. As you move through the pages, you realise that there could be an entirely different way of seeing things.

The best part about the story is that there were moments that led me to question my earlier analysis, and I was left thinking to myself - 'Oh, is that so? Okay, so this is what happened...wow!' The fact is, there can be so many angles to a simple everyday occurrence, and the writer shows us just that.

I absolutely loved the book. And I definitely give it 5 stars, and do recommend that you read it too.



- Debolina Raja Gupta