Cover image for Almost there : the onward journey of a Dublin woman
Almost there : the onward journey of a Dublin woman
O'Faolain, Nuala.
Personal Author:
Publication Information:
New York : Riverhead Books, 2003.
Physical Description:
275 pages ; 22 cm
Personal Subject:
Format :


Call Number
Material Type
Home Location
Item Holds
PN5146.O39 A3 2003 Adult Non-Fiction Non-Fiction Area
PN5146.O39 A3 2003 Adult Non-Fiction Open Shelf

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In 1996, a small Irish press approached Nuala O'Faolain, then a writer for The Irish Times, to publish a collection of her opinion columns. She offered to compose an introduction for the volume, and that undertaking blossomed into an "accidental memoir of a Dublin woman" and a book called Are You Somebody'that was published around the world and embraced so wholeheartedly in the U.S. that it reached the number-one position on the New York Timesbestseller list and launched Nuala O'Faolain on a new career. Hailed universally for her unflinching eye ("A beautiful exploration of human loneliness and happiness, of contentment and longing."-Alice McDermott, The Washington Post Book World); her wisdom ("A remarkable memoir, poignant, truthful, and imparting that quiet wisdom which suffering brings."-Edna O'Brien); and her boldness ("An immensely courageous undertaking."-The Irish Times), Are You Somebody'took readers from O'Faolain's harrowing childhood, through decades defined by passion and a ferocious hunger for experience, to a middle age notable for its unbroken solitude and longing. The success of the book's publication robbed O'Faolain of her obscurity, but the traits that defined her life remained obstinately intact. In Almost There, O'Faolain begins her story from the moment her life began to change in all manner of ways-subtle, radical, predictable, and unforeseen. It is a provocative meditation on the "crucible of middle age"-a time of life that forges the shape of the years to come, that clarifies and solidifies one's relationships to friends and lovers (past and present), family and self. It is also a story of good fortune chasing out bad-of an accidental harvest of happiness. Almost There, like its predecessor, is a crystalline reflection of a singular character, utterly engaged in life. Intelligent, thoughtful, hilarious, fierce, moving, generous, and most of all, full of surprises.

Author Notes

Journalist and author Nuala O'Faolain was born in 1940 and grew up in the countryside near Dublin. Before earning a postgraduate degree in English from Oxford University, she studied English as University College, Dublin and medieval English literature at the University of Hull. She had numerous jobs including a lecturer in the English department at University College; produced programs for Open Door, a community-access documentary department at the BBC; and produced current-affairs television programs for Radio Telifis Eirann. She started writing a weekly opinion column for The Irish Times in 1986. She wrote two memoirs, Are You Somebody? (1996) and Almost There (2003), and two novels, My Dream of You (2001) and The Story of Chicago May (2006). She died of lung cancer on May 9, 2008.

(Bowker Author Biography)

Reviews 2

Publisher's Weekly Review

A memoir may be a summing-up of a long, interesting life, or it can be a sort of self-examination so addictive the writer joins the ranks of the "serial memoirists." O'Faolain's a repeat offender, effectively rechewing material incompletely digested in her previous memoir, Are You Somebody? She opens by listing what she doesn't have, as she enters her mid-50s-someone to love, someone to love her, money, a workplace, a pension-but it's clear love is her biggest problem: "How have I ended up with nobody?" Her early boyfriends were apparently unremarkable, her 15-year relationship with "Nell" ended awfully and her subsequent affair with an elderly married man was mostly imagined. Toward the book's end, she's almost ditching her relationship with a divorced father, resenting his intimacy with his daughter. Her anger at her dysfunctional parents seethes throughout, culminating in a fantasy of joining her (now deceased) mother in a bar, and walking out just when Mom's ordered her a drink. By ending on that note, O'Faolain hints that her parents' lovelessness made it hard for her to love, an unsatisfying conclusion to such a nuanced account. Still, readers will enjoy O'Faolain for her witty turns of phrase: as an ex-smoker, she follows street smokers "to gulp their slipstreams," and she fears she's aging so badly she's "joining the rejects of the next-to-Last-Judgment." Her self-deprecation-so reminiscent of Jean Rhys-can be oddly comforting. (Feb. 24) Forecast: Irish writer O'Faolain's popularity in the U.S. (My Dream of You was a 2001 New York Times Notable book and it, along with Are You Somebody?, hit bestseller lists) will help this book's sales. Expect St. Patrick's Day tie-ins. (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved

Library Journal Review

This memoir picks up where O'Faolain's Are You Somebody? left off. As she settles into her fifties, she reflects on her failed relationships, her career as a journalist, her Oxford education, and a childhood that included an alcoholic mother and unfaithful father. Despite having celebrity status and enough money to travel and devote time to writing fiction, O'Faolain finds herself pondering the meaning of family and the importance of belonging. She looks ahead but also back at a life fully lived but only half realized. Throughout the process of trying to clarify the direction of her future, she takes time to consider mistakes she's made and mend the fences worth keeping. What O'Faolain ultimately comes to accept is that there can be more than one place to call home and that while parents can scar a child, it's what that child grows to understand that can finally heal the heart and open a door for others to enter. Her honest self-appraisal moves and inspires her listeners with a vision of old age that isn't half bad. Irish wit peppers most passages, and O'Faolain's lilting Dublin accent washes over the listener with a measure of familiarity. Highly recommended for all collections.-Gloria Maxwell, Penn Valley Community Coll., Kansas City, MO (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.