Customer Reviews for

Charming Billy: A Novel

Average Rating 3.5
( 22 )
Rating Distribution

5 Star

(8)

4 Star

(4)

3 Star

(3)

2 Star

(1)

1 Star

(6)

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Sort by: Showing 1 – 20 of 22 Customer Reviews
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  • Anonymous

    Posted February 20, 2004

    Compelling and thought provoking

    I read this book in college as part of a contemporary American literature class. It was one of the most engaging and thought provoking books I read that semester, and it¿s become one of my favorites. I highly recommend this book, but it isn't for those looking for a quick story or a fast-paced adventure. It is a story of themes and relationships, not action. Reading Charming Billy is like flipping through the pages of a family photo album. But the pictures seem to be out of order. The novel begins with a gathering of family and friends. They meet in a small restaurant in the Bronx for a luncheon following Billy Lynch¿s funeral. The author guides the reader from group to group, and the reader catches small bits of different conversations. The following chapters fill in the gaps left in the conversations. The story is, however, disjointed, meandering from the forties to the seventies and back to the sixties. It is as if the pictures fell out of the photo album and were replaced carelessly out of order. To compound this difficulty, the narration itself can be confusing. Sometimes the narrator seems to be merely recounting the story, but sometimes she seems to be addressing an unnamed person. Sometimes she refers to her father by his first name and sometimes as ¿my father.¿ This leaves the reader feeling very disconnected. (This is fitting since connection is a dominant theme in the novel). The reader struggles to keep characters and family relationships straight and to make meaning, groping through chapter after disconnected chapter until all the pieces fall into place, and the whole picture is revealed. Throughout the novel, McDermott raises issues related to love, faith, truth, and connection. The threads the author slowly weaves together are a re-creation of Billy¿s life and a contemplation of his unwavering faith. The reader is compelled to question this faith again and again. Perhaps faith, love, and even heaven are all merely constructions, ¿well intentioned deceptions¿ meant to ease the pain of living (p. 211). After the uncertainty and disconnection of the entire novel, the final chapter focuses on what is constant, the things one is surrounded by that ¿ride out time¿ (p. 237). To achieve this effect, McDermott describes the summerhouse on Long Island in Polaroid detail. In this feeling of consistency and connection, the reader is invited to draw his or her own conclusions about faith, love, and connection, but of course, the author concludes her story with a question and not answer, leaving the reader not quite satisfied and unable to quickly forget the issues raised by the novel.

    4 out of 4 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted November 22, 2001

    A warm, compassionate story.

    This is the sad story of Billy Lynch, a kind, gentle Irish-American man whose heart was broken by an Irish girl who instead of marrying him, went back to Ireland. Billy used all of his energies to preserve the romantic, poetic, and unrealistic world he had constructed for himself. Everybody liked Billy, he had a gift for making friends and keeping them. He was a dreamer and a trusting man, who also, unfortunately, drank a great deal. Billy was an alcoholic as we learn on about the third page of the story, but a lovable, charming one. Billy was trapped in his culture, in his impractical poet's mind, and in the bottle. This book captures the nuances of Irish-American workingclass culture perfectly. It portrays a people who are kind, generous and at heart, all good people. The book also tells the story of internal loyalties and of good deeds gone wrong that sometimes result in unforseen consequences. A wonderful read. The novel Charming Billy is brilliantly constructed and beautifully and sensitively told.

    2 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted December 1, 2004

    Brilliant

    I have read Charming Billy twice and always try to persuade people to read it. The opening pages got me. I knew these people. I know a Billy and the rest of the characters. I have been to the funeral lunch. The descriptions is this book were beautifully crafted. It was written with compassion for human faults, forgiveness, denial and of course, love.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted December 17, 2003

    Outstanding!

    I enjoyed this book immensly.The way the charachters are woven together is wonderful. I found the story touching and emotional. I plan on reading it again!

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted August 11, 2001

    Strong theme

    I have read all the reviews posted and do agree that this book can be confusing. However, this book was not meant to be a strong plot book. Instead it is one of strong themes. Each person whose life Billy had touched has their own perspective of Billy and hence their own reality including Billy's own reality. This is the kind of book that needs a discussion group after reading. The theme is strong and warrents some consideration.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted November 28, 2000

    well captured look at sad, irish family

    this book is beautifully written but the subject is sad and disturbing. Even so, I enjoyed reading it and examining the motives and actions of this Irish clan.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted March 5, 2011

    Horrible

    I managed to painfully get through it...but do not waste your time. Boring and plotless.

    0 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted February 22, 2010

    more from this reviewer

    Incredibly Boring

    While Billy may have charmed everyone around him to make up for being a lush McDermott did nothing but annoy me and turn me off from the rest of her books.

    0 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted April 19, 2002

    BORING!

    This books entire story line was revealed in the first chapter and did not get any more exciting from there. The jumping from present to different points in the past made it confusing but not hard to follow, just irritating. I did not feel sorry for Billy (if that was even what the book was trying to express). It made me frustrated that some people were blaming everyone else (except Billy) for Billy's disease.

    0 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted August 14, 2000

    Good story, flawed structure

    The presentation of this interesting and thought-provoking tale is flawed by its annoying backward-looping structure, which detracts from and makes it hard follow the story's chronology. On page 5 it becomes apparent that the story's narrator is the daughter of one of the main characters (Dennis). Later we understand that her audience is Matt (the boyfriend she later marries) who is barely mentioned. For determined and careful readers, the story is worth the effort.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted August 16, 2000

    Outstanding Story, Questionable Structure

    A touching portrayal of an Irish-Catholic family dealing with grief,loyalty, dishonesty,denial,faith,alcoholism and a strong sense of compassion--this story appeals to both intellect and emotion. The backward looping first-person narration, however, is often awkward and annoying. The structure makes it unnecessarily difficult to follow the story's frequent shifts of time, place,and character.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted April 16, 2000

    Why did this book receive so many awards?

    This is one of the first books I've started reading and refused to finish. I could not get into the characters and I found confusing to even figure out what was going on.

    0 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted January 8, 2000

    Superb, I think!

    Readers will differ in their expectations (see the other reviews!), but I found this novel superb -- the tactics of presentation, spinning the story of Billy to readers as a mosaic of discovered facts. I find the 'Irishness' convincing, rounded. Yes, the order of events is sometimes confusing, as we discover new information to put beside with earlier information. But that's the essence of such tales -- the structure of gossip and gradual, unfolding discovery. Read that opening chapter for superb management of character and scene.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted December 9, 1999

    Slow-moving

    Being Irish, I thought I could really identify with this book having read the great reviews but I'm afraid I was disappointed. It's difficult to identify much with any of the characters. I think the initial storyline was good but reading it became tedious after a while.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted February 7, 2014

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  • Anonymous

    Posted October 23, 2008

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  • Anonymous

    Posted March 8, 2011

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  • Anonymous

    Posted January 12, 2009

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  • Anonymous

    Posted February 13, 2009

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  • Anonymous

    Posted June 6, 2014

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