My Dream of You

( 15 )

Overview

A New York Times notable book and bestseller, this debut novel from Irish Times columnist Nuala O'Faolain takes on life and love with Dickensian flair and the striking intimacy that characterized her bestselling and acclaimed memoir, Are You Somebody?

Set in Ireland and spanning a century and a half, My Dream of You unfolds the compelling stories of two women and their quests for passion, connection, and fulfillment.  A globetrotting Irish travel writer, Kathleen ...

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Overview

A New York Times notable book and bestseller, this debut novel from Irish Times columnist Nuala O'Faolain takes on life and love with Dickensian flair and the striking intimacy that characterized her bestselling and acclaimed memoir, Are You Somebody?

Set in Ireland and spanning a century and a half, My Dream of You unfolds the compelling stories of two women and their quests for passion, connection, and fulfillment.  A globetrotting Irish travel writer, Kathleen de Burca is used to living—and loving—on the run. On the brink of fifty, she decides to leave her job and rethink her life. Intrigued by a divorce case dating back to the days of the Potato Famine, she tries hand at writing about it. The case, called "The Talbot Affair," detailed the clandestine liaison between the wife of a British landlord and an Irish servant in Ireland in the 1850s. After a bitter thirty-year absence, Kathleen returns to Ireland, the land of her troubled childhood and turbulent heritage, in search of answers to her questions about desire and lasting love.

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Editorial Reviews

From Barnes & Noble
The Barnes & Noble Review
A bittersweet, beautifully written novel, My Dream of You follows the international success of Irish Times journalist Nuala O'Faolain's bestselling memoir, Are You Somebody? and its frank account of the author's search for love in middle age. My Dream of You, O'Faolain's eagerly anticipated foray into fiction, is the story of Kathleen de Burca, a successful travel writer living in London, whose life is shaken when her best friend, Jimmy, dies of a heart attack.

Nearing 50 years old, with few friends and no family of her own, Kathleen returns home to Ireland for the first time in 30 years to pursue the 150-year-old story of an English lady and her illicit affair with an Irish groomsman during the Potato Famine. While researching the story, Kathleen begins a romance with a married Irishman named Shay, who is on respite from his own self-imposed exile in England. She and her lover cling together in a rented cottage, with the imminent end of their affair hanging over their heads. She wonders if he is her last chance at love.

Kathleen starts to write a fictional version of the Famine affair. But the straightforward Lady Chatterly-like tale takes a bizarre turn when it turns out the English lady, Mrs. Talbot, may have actually been innocent of adultery -- or was, at any rate, sleeping with someone other than the groom. In this novel-within-a-novel, O'Faolain explores the horrors of the Famine, where entire villages perished while English landlords in Ireland continued to export grain, and where, for a lucky few, the only tickets out were on coffin ships to America and Australia. For her part, Kathleen must decide whether to stay with her married man or go back to her lonely, solitary life in London. As the novel moves along, she begins to find clues that may fill holes in the mysterious Famine romance.

Modern Ireland is fraught with painful personal and historical memories for Kathleen. Her childhood was emotionally barren. She is an outsider wherever she goes. As a returnee to her home country, she doesn't fit in. In London, she is subject to anti-Irish bigotry. She looks back with numbness at her many empty sexual encounters -- the casual betrayal that ended her only true love affair, the anonymous men in hotel rooms around the world. O'Faolain carefully selects which stories from her past to tell, languidly building up the intensity of her longing and sadness by recalling a rare happy memory of her dour father or the painful, cruel silences she endured from her mother.

My Dream of You is a subtle, aching novel that explores Kathleen's longing for love, her inability to make long-term commitments, and the painful ambivalence of the exile at home. As in Are You Somebody?, O'Faolain manages to be lyrical without being melodramatic. Her gifts as a writer extend from her descriptions of the Irish seashore, where you can taste the salty air, to quirky descriptions of small-town Irish life, where the sad history of the Famine is just below the surface. Kathleen's desire to be loved is contrasted with her refusal to speak with self-pity. Indeed, despite her desire, Kathleen's refusal to open up may be the very thing that sabotages her own romantic possibilities. O'Faolain's great achievement in the novel is to have made Kathleen a flesh-and-blood woman with the churning of fate in her stomach and a palpable sensuality in her heart. (Dylan Foley)

Dylan Foley is a freelance writer living in Brooklyn, New York.

Catherine Lockerbie
. . . a big, generous, essentially old-fashioned novel, taking its unhurried time to tell a story and create a central character . . . Yet along with the more conventional romance, there is tenderness here, and humanity . . .
New York Times Book Review
USA Today
A stunning new book.
Lynn Freed
What a pleasure it is to be able to open a book and relax into the flow of a beautifully written narrative....The novel tells the story of Kathleen de Burca, an Irish travel writer living in London, who throws over her life there to return to Ireland and write a book. What she is chasing down is an old scandal—an affair in mid-nineteenth-century Ireland between the wife of an English landlord and her Irish servant. But what she is really after is an understanding of passion itself...With an ambling, intimate candor, O'Faolain tells Kathleen's story, present and past....And always of course, behind everything is Irelanditself—beautiful, maddening Ireland.
— Washington Post Book World
New York Times Book Review
The real virtues of "My Dream of You"...lie in involving storytelling and in the depiction of a vivid and warm cast of characters.
Seattle Times
O'Faolain makes it clear early on that peering into the real Irish past means examining, however reluctantly, your own messed-up life.
From The Critics
Irish author O'Faolain has followed up her successful debut, the memoir Are You Somebody?, with this first novel about middle-age Kathleen de Burca. An Irish travel writer living in London, Kathleen is estranged from her family and homeland. Shattered by the death of her closest friend, she decides to make a change in her life, which she believes is lacking love, passion and meaning. Quitting her job and temporarily heading back to Ireland, Kathleen begins work on a novel about an English woman who has an illicit affair with an Irish servant during the potato famine. In the process, she begins a romance with a married Irishman who may be offering her a last chance for love. Considering that only about half of the original novel was included in the abridged audiobook, this version is more effective than one might expect. While there are times when the story moves at a harried pace, one rarely senses that details have been sacrificed. Utilizing her charming Irish brogue, narrator Molloy deftly handles the story with a refreshing no-nonsense approach.
—Rochelle O'Gorman

(Excerpted Review)
Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
Well-known Irish newspaper columnist O'Faolain made a splash in 1998 with the publication of her unsentimental yet poignant memoir. The essential themes and many details of her evocatively atmospheric first novel will be familiar to readers of Are You Somebody? The Accidental Memoir of a Dublin Woman. Expatriate Irishwoman Kathleen de Burca, an unmarried, middle-aged travel writer, lives in a dreary basement flat in London. Although she is professionally successful, her quest for passion has devolved into a series of increasingly rare one-night stands. She justifies the unsatisfying nature of her relationships by characterizing herself as "a generous woman." When her best friend dies of a heart attack, Kathleen decides to quit her job and write the book she has been contemplating for years. She returns to Ireland, where she immerses herself in research into an 1856 divorce case involving an alleged affair between Mrs. Talbot, the wife of an Anglo-Irish landowner, and William Mullan, their servant. Kathleen is also discovering truths about herself, her family and her country as she (like Mrs. Talbot) confronts the dilemma of whether to seize what may be her last chance for love and passion, albeit with a married man. O'Faolain's novel-within-a-novel device effectively mirrors one of the author's themes, the ultimate unknowability of a past always viewed through the lens of the present. The humor, honesty and moral seriousness with which Kathleen assesses her life and the conditions of her heart and her soul acquire a moving resonance as the imagined lives of her characters achieve resolution and her own life flowers into another phase. And O'Faolain's depiction of the west of Ireland during and just after the Famine surpasses any historical recitation of the "facts." Copyright 2001 Cahners Business Information.
Library Journal
A series of blows brings travel writer Kathleen de Burca to a coming of (late middle) age examination of her life and career. Death and dismay gather around her all at once after the demise of her best friend. She quits her job in London and moves back to Ireland where she was born and from where she fled the minute she was old enough. She has terrible memories of her early family life and wants to reconnect with her brothers and sisters. Everywhere Kathleen turns and with everyone she meets there are more tangles. She works on a mysterious case involving an affair between the wife of an English landlord and a stable hand during Ireland's potato famine. She uncovers ambivalence wherever she goes: in the present, in the recent past, and in the records of events from 150 years ago. O'Faolain's (Are You Somebody?) great achievement here is her well-rounded, flesh-and-blood woman full of passion, conflict, and hope. Reader Dearbhla Molloy's voice is clearly rendered and adds dimension and color to a complex tale full of longing and humanity. Highly recommended for all contemporary fiction collections. Barbara Valle, El Paso P.L., TX Copyright 2001 Cahners Business Information.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781573229081
  • Publisher: Penguin Group (USA)
  • Publication date: 2/5/2002
  • Series: Great Irish Writers
  • Edition description: Reissue
  • Pages: 544
  • Sales rank: 649,772
  • Product dimensions: 5.00 (w) x 7.90 (h) x 1.50 (d)

Meet the Author

Nuala O'Faolainis a columnist withThe Irish Times and the author of Are You Somebody? The Accidental Memoir of a Dublin Woman.  She lives in Dublin and County Clare. My Dream of You is her first novel.

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Read an Excerpt

1.

By the time I was middle-aged I was well defended against crisis, if it came from outside. I had kept my life even and dry for a long time. I'd been the tenant of a dim basement, half-buried at he back of the Euston Road, for more than twenty years. I didn't like London particularly, except for the TravelWrite office, but I didn't see much of it. Jimmy and I, who were the main writers for the travel section of the NewsWrite syndicate, were on the move all the time. We were never what you'd call explorers; we never went anywhere near war or hunger or even discomfort. And we wrote about every place we went to in a cheerful way: that was the house rule. But we had a good boss. Even if it was the fifth "Paris in Springtime" or the third "Sri Lanka: Isle of Spices," Alex wouldn't let us get away with tired writing. Sometimes Jimmy accused him of foolish perfectionism, because every TravelWrite piece was bought immediately anyway. But having to please Alex was good for us. And then, people do read travel material in a cheerful frame of mind, imagining themselves at leisure and the world at its best. It's an intrinsically optimistic thing, travel. Partly because of that, but mostly because Alex went on caring, I liked my work.

I even liked the basement, in a way, in the end. I don't suppose more than a handful of people ever visited it, in all the time I was there. Jimmy was my close friend and since he'd come to Travel-Write from America he'd lived twenty minutes away, in Soho, but we'd never been inside each other's places. It was understood that if one of us said they were going home, the other didn't ask any questions. Once, early on, he said he was going home, and I happened to see, from the top of the bus, that he had stopped a taxi and was in fact going in the opposite direction. After that, I deliberately didn't look around when we parted. Anyway, my silent rooms were never sweetened by the babble the two of us had perfected over the years. And for a long time, there hadn't been anyone there in the morning when I woke up. Sex was a hotel thing. I don't think I'd have liked to disturb the perfect nothingness of where I lived.

Then a time came when I began to lose control of the evenness and the dryness.

I was waiting for my bag in the arrivals hall at Harare airport when I fell into conversation with the businessman in the exquisite suit who was waiting beside me. Favorite airlines, we were chatting about.

Royal Thai executive class is first-rate, he said.

Ah, don't tell me you fall for all that I-am-your-dusky-handmaiden stuff, I laughed at him.

Those girls really know how to please, he went on earnestly, as if I hadn't spoken at all. And there was a porter with gnarled bare feet asleep on the baggage belt, and when it started with a jolt the poor old man fell off in front of us, and all the businessman did was step back in distaste and then take out a handkerchief and flick it across the glossy toe caps of his shoes as if they'd been polluted. But I accepted his offer of a lift into town, all the same. We were stopped for a moment at a traffic light beside a bar that was rocking with laughter and drumming.

They're very musical, the Africans, he said. Great sense of rhythm.

Just what are you doing, I asked myself, with Mr. Dull here?

I half-knew; no, quarter-knew. But if nothing more had happened I would never have given it a conscious thought.

Men can't allow themselves that vagueness. At his hotel he said, Would you like to come in for a drink? Or would you like to come up to the room while I freshen up? I've rather a good single malt in my bag.

I propped myself against the headrest of his big bed and sipped the Scotch and watched him deploy his neat things-his papers, his radio, his toiletries. When he came out of the bathroom with his shirt off and the top of his trousers open, I was perfectly ready to kiss and embrace. I was dead tired. I'd had a drink. I was completely alone in a foreign country. I was morethan willing to hand myself over to someone else.

But very soon I was frowning behind his corpse-white back.

If only I knew how to take charge of this myself, I thought. If I could be the real thing myself, I could bring him with me. . . .

I honestly don't know how any person could make as little of the living body as that man did. Even the best I could do hardly made him exclaim. But he seemed to be delighted with the two of us, afterwards. At least I thought he was. He invited me to have dinner with him the next night, and I accepted, though I didn't much want to struggle through hours of trying to make conversation. I was in a great humor when he saw me into a taxi.

It had been human contact, hadn't it? I was a generous woman, wasn't I, if I was nothing else? I hummed as I hung my clothes in the wardrobe of my mock-Tudor guesthouse, under huge jacaranda trees that in the streetlights looked as if their swathes of blossom were black. My favorite thing: a hotel bedroom in a new place.

The phone rang. It was Alex to say that he needed Zimbabwe wildlife copy within forty-eight hours.

I suppose you think that elephants and giraffes just walk around downtown Harare like people do in London? I shouted sarcastically down the phone. I suppose you think they have a game park in this guesthouse where I have just arrived. Then I hung up.

When the phone rang again I picked up, ready to do a deal about the deadline. But it was the businessman.

How are you, my little Irish kitten? he said. I am thinking of you.

Oh, really? I said, embarrassed. Kitten. I was forty-nine.

Unfortunately, he said, I must go out of town.

One hour after I'd been with him! He hadn't even waited till the next day.

And that's what I learned from him-that my heart was still ridiculously alive. I was sincerely hurt. What had I done wrong? I actually swallowed back tears.

And then, he continued, I must go directly back to my office.

There was nothing between the man and me-nothing, not even liking. But because of the memory of some wholeness, or the hope of some regeneration, I would have dropped whatever I'd planned, just to go back to scratching around on his bed.

I cannot go on like this, I said to myself. Tears!

I went on to the east a few days later to do a quick piece about a hot springs resort in the Philippines. I went straight to the famous waterfall, and though the humid, grayish air smelled like weeds rotting in mud and there were boys everywhere along the paths between the flowering trees, begging, or offering them-selves as guides, it was possible to see that this was a marvelous spot, with hummingbirds sipping from the green pools that trembled under each fall before silently overflowing and sliding down the smooth rock to the next terrace. It was going to be easy to put a positive spin on the place. I made notes and took photos of the birds for identification, and then I got a bus to Manila. It arrived in the sweltering heat and dust of the evening rush. My hotel was on the far side of a busy dual carriageway. I started across the road, and reached the road divider where there was a bit of a dust-covered low hedge. A small hand came out of the hedge. I bent down. Two dirty-faced girls of seven or eight had a box under the hedge with an infant sleeping in it.

Dollar! the girl said. Then she stood on the road divider with the traffic going past on both sides and lifted the skirt of her ragged frock and pushed her delicate pelvis in threadbare panties forward. I didn't know what she meant, and maybe she didn't, either.

What money I had in my pockets I gave her, and then, instead of checking in to the hotel I got a taxi to the airport, looking neither left nor right.

There are children living in the middle of the road, I said.

Yes, the driver said. The country people come to town and they live in the street.

There was silence. He flicked on a Petula Clark tape.

After he took my money, outside departures, he said, We don't need no fuckin' grief from some old bitch.

—from My Dream of You by Nuala O'Faolain, Copyright © February 2002, Riverhead Books, a division of Penguin Putnam, Inc., used by permission."

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First Chapter

1.

By the time I was middle-aged I was well defended against crisis, if it came from outside. I had kept my life even and dry for a long time. I'd been the tenant of a dim basement, half-buried at he back of the Euston Road, for more than twenty years. I didn't like London particularly, except for the TravelWrite office, but I didn't see much of it. Jimmy and I, who were the main writers for the travel section of the NewsWrite syndicate, were on the move all the time. We were never what you'd call explorers; we never went anywhere near war or hunger or even discomfort. And we wrote about every place we went to in a cheerful way: that was the house rule. But we had a good boss. Even if it was the fifth "Paris in Springtime" or the third "Sri Lanka: Isle of Spices," Alex wouldn't let us get away with tired writing. Sometimes Jimmy accused him of foolish perfectionism, because every TravelWrite piece was bought immediately anyway. But having to please Alex was good for us. And then, people do read travel material in a cheerful frame of mind, imagining themselves at leisure and the world at its best. It's an intrinsically optimistic thing, travel. Partly because of that, but mostly because Alex went on caring, I liked my work.

I even liked the basement, in a way, in the end. I don't suppose more than a handful of people ever visited it, in all the time I was there. Jimmy was my close friend and since he'd come to Travel-Write from America he'd lived twenty minutes away, in Soho, but we'd never been inside each other's places. It was understood that if one of us said they were going home, the other didn't ask any questions. Once, early on, he said he was going home, and I happened to see, from the top of the bus, that he had stopped a taxi and was in fact going in the opposite direction. After that, I deliberately didn't look around when we parted. Anyway, my silent rooms were never sweetened by the babble the two of us had perfected over the years. And for a long time, there hadn't been anyone there in the morning when I woke up. Sex was a hotel thing. I don't think I'd have liked to disturb the perfect nothingness of where I lived.

Then a time came when I began to lose control of the evenness and the dryness.

I was waiting for my bag in the arrivals hall at Harare airport when I fell into conversation with the businessman in the exquisite suit who was waiting beside me. Favorite airlines, we were chatting about.

Royal Thai executive class is first-rate, he said.

Ah, don't tell me you fall for all that I-am-your-dusky-handmaiden stuff, I laughed at him.

Those girls really know how to please, he went on earnestly, as if I hadn't spoken at all. And there was a porter with gnarled bare feet asleep on the baggage belt, and when it started with a jolt the poor old man fell off in front of us, and all the businessman did was step back in distaste and then take out a handkerchief and flick it across the glossy toe caps of his shoes as if they'd been polluted. But I accepted his offer of a lift into town, all the same. We were stopped for a moment at a traffic light beside a bar that was rocking with laughter and drumming.

They're very musical, the Africans, he said. Great sense of rhythm.

Just what are you doing, I asked myself, with Mr. Dull here?

I half-knew; no, quarter-knew. But if nothing more had happened I would never have given it a conscious thought.

Men can't allow themselves that vagueness. At his hotel he said, Would you like to come in for a drink? Or would you like to come up to the room while I freshen up? I've rather a good single malt in my bag.

I propped myself against the headrest of his big bed and sipped the Scotch and watched him deploy his neat things-his papers, his radio, his toiletries. When he came out of the bathroom with his shirt off and the top of his trousers open, I was perfectly ready to kiss and embrace. I was dead tired. I'd had a drink. I was completely alone in a foreign country. I was morethan willing to hand myself over to someone else.

But very soon I was frowning behind his corpse-white back.

If only I knew how to take charge of this myself, I thought. If I could be the real thing myself, I could bring him with me. . . .

I honestly don't know how any person could make as little of the living body as that man did. Even the best I could do hardly made him exclaim. But he seemed to be delighted with the two of us, afterwards. At least I thought he was. He invited me to have dinner with him the next night, and I accepted, though I didn't much want to struggle through hours of trying to make conversation. I was in a great humor when he saw me into a taxi.

It had been human contact, hadn't it? I was a generous woman, wasn't I, if I was nothing else? I hummed as I hung my clothes in the wardrobe of my mock-Tudor guesthouse, under huge jacaranda trees that in the streetlights looked as if their swathes of blossom were black. My favorite thing: a hotel bedroom in a new place.

The phone rang. It was Alex to say that he needed Zimbabwe wildlife copy within forty-eight hours.

I suppose you think that elephants and giraffes just walk around downtown Harare like people do in London? I shouted sarcastically down the phone. I suppose you think they have a game park in this guesthouse where I have just arrived. Then I hung up.

When the phone rang again I picked up, ready to do a deal about the deadline. But it was the businessman.

How are you, my little Irish kitten? he said. I am thinking of you.

Oh, really? I said, embarrassed. Kitten. I was forty-nine.

Unfortunately, he said, I must go out of town.

One hour after I'd been with him! He hadn't even waited till the next day.

And that's what I learned from him-that my heart was still ridiculously alive. I was sincerely hurt. What had I done wrong? I actually swallowed back tears.

And then, he continued, I must go directly back to my office.

There was nothing between the man and me-nothing, not even liking. But because of the memory of some wholeness, or the hope of some regeneration, I would have dropped whatever I'd planned, just to go back to scratching around on his bed.

I cannot go on like this, I said to myself. Tears!

I went on to the east a few days later to do a quick piece about a hot springs resort in the Philippines. I went straight to the famous waterfall, and though the humid, grayish air smelled like weeds rotting in mud and there were boys everywhere along the paths between the flowering trees, begging, or offering them-selves as guides, it was possible to see that this was a marvelous spot, with hummingbirds sipping from the green pools that trembled under each fall before silently overflowing and sliding down the smooth rock to the next terrace. It was going to be easy to put a positive spin on the place. I made notes and took photos of the birds for identification, and then I got a bus to Manila. It arrived in the sweltering heat and dust of the evening rush. My hotel was on the far side of a busy dual carriageway. I started across the road, and reached the road divider where there was a bit of a dust-covered low hedge. A small hand came out of the hedge. I bent down. Two dirty-faced girls of seven or eight had a box under the hedge with an infant sleeping in it.

Dollar! the girl said. Then she stood on the road divider with the traffic going past on both sides and lifted the skirt of her ragged frock and pushed her delicate pelvis in threadbare panties forward. I didn't know what she meant, and maybe she didn't, either.

What money I had in my pockets I gave her, and then, instead of checking in to the hotel I got a taxi to the airport, looking neither left nor right.

There are children living in the middle of the road, I said.

Yes, the driver said. The country people come to town and they live in the street.

There was silence. He flicked on a Petula Clark tape.

After he took my money, outside departures, he said, We don't need no fuckin' grief from some old bitch.

—from My Dream of You by Nuala O'Faolain, Copyright © February 2002, Riverhead Books, a division of Penguin Putnam, Inc., used by permission.

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Reading Group Guide

DISCUSSION QUESTIONS:


  1. "I knew all about the act of love as a non-event," Kathleen de Burca says, "but I still believed it was the act in which one person can truly learn another, and truly build on what they learn." (p. 64) In what ways has this belief affected her relationships with lovers over the course of her life? Does she still believe this at the end of the book? Why or why not?

  2. What does Kathleen's relationship with Caro reveal about her character? What about her friendship with Alex? With Jimmy? How does each person affect Kathleen's sense of herself?

  3. The loss of Jimmy is the catalyst for Kathleen's return to Ireland. In what ways does his death challenge her perception of herself as "well defended against crisis, if it came from outside"? (p.7) What is she guarding herself against? What are her vulnerabilities?

  4. Why is the story of the Talbot affair so compelling to the young Kathleen? Does she return to it in middle age for the same or different reasons?

  5. "I think they were perhaps the happiest people in Europe, for a while...They had the old faith," Miss Leech tells Kathleen (p. 70). What role does Irish Catholic faith play in Kathleen's present life? What about her past?

  6. "The country I was driving through was only a green space. I didn't care anymore what was outside," Kathleen says. (p. 490) Discuss the changing role of landscape throughout the novel. How does Mount Talbot of Marianne's time compare to Kathleen's basement apartment? What part of Kathleen's identity is linked to her travels? What about her experience of the cottage at Mellary? Her return to Uncle Ned's home?

  7. To what extent does Kathleen know herself through her body? Has her perception of herself been changed by her affair with Shay? How or how not?

  8. "We're middle-aged women now and we have to forgive the past-for our own sakes," Kathleen tells her sister. (p. 498) What has led her to this conclusion? Has Kathleen come to terms with her own aging? Why or why not?

  9. "I could choose what to believe about the Talbot scandal. I would choose what to believe." Kathleen says near the end of her journey. (p. 486) What stake has she placed in her passionate imagining of the two lovers? What forces have shaped her thinking about the Talbots at this point? Have her assumptions about romantic love been challenged or reinforced by her journey home? By her affair with Shay? Discuss.

  10. Discuss the various ways in which women's roles are presented in the novel. How do the mothers in the story (Kathleen's mother, Caro, Annie, Ella) compare with Kathleen? How is she challenged by the women in her life as compared to the men?
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Customer Reviews

Average Rating 3.5
( 15 )
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Sort by: Showing all of 17 Customer Reviews
  • Anonymous

    Posted September 30, 2004

    Read it, think, and dream.

    If you long for fine writing and appreciate realism, this is the book for you. Nuala O'Faolain is in a class not entered since William Kennedy wrote Ironweed. Not a book for the prudish or faint of heart, this is a remarkable work. Well worth your time. The author creates a woman who longs for love, and by the end of the book you will love her.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Posted March 23, 2009

    Irish angst at its best!

    This book is beautifully written by Ms. O'Faolain and is full of sad, tortured, unhappy, and doomed characters. The descriptions of the Irish potato famine and the lives affected is particularly harsh and painful but also accurate. It both captivated and repelled me. It was so wonderfully written but so overwrought and mentally burdensome that it took a while to get through. It was a dead on description of Irish angst (yup, I'm Irish! so I know!) but it gets a bit much sometimes. Overall, a very good read.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted August 29, 2006

    Love it!

    My Dream of You is one of the better written books that I have read in a long time. The book took me back in time and I enjoyed the wonderful escape.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted August 15, 2003

    Better than I originally thought

    I picked up this book because I wanted to read something new by an Irish author. At the beginning, I found the depictions of an empty life so painful and unmotivating that I was tempted to quit. But the book gets better as it goes along...I enjoyed it more and more as Kathleen realizes, near the end, that she needs to re-connect with her own homeland, family and self. Even as a happily married 41-year old woman, I could relate to some of Kathleen's loneliness and self-defeating behavior. Well-written and ultimately worth spending the time on.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted February 19, 2003

    Couldn't put it down

    I read the other readers' reviews...Can't help adding my own 2 pence. Did anyone read the title? My Dream of You is an examination of a modern smoke-and-mirrors champion. The one-dimensional characters and lurid sexuality are quintessential to empathically experiencing Kathleen's world. Kathleen finds herself never "at home" (as she despises/fears what she will find there), and learns little is ever as it appears to be - and this is often by her own doing. She is a self-expatriated Irishwoman while in England. A successful career woman travelling around the globe, she is a lonely stranger in others' homes, often short on self-confidence. She is cold in the arms of searing passion, and at other times, gives herself insensibly to loathsome partners. Her raw sexual encounters deny her any spiritual satisfaction, and distance her from true intimacy, which would force her to acknowledge her true self - or "bring her home." Her painful avoidance of her siblings effects the same result. She experiences her self and those around her as one-dimensional, again, to conceal what is "home" - and threatening - about them. This is all reflected in the historical sub-plot - the adulterous landed Lady, displaced from her home-country, miserable in a loveless marriage - and in the pathetic subplot of the Burke family history - a mother who cannot mother; a family left hardened and hopeless; a home without a heart. And the true-love Kathleen hoped to unmask in her pursuit of the famine-time adulterers is but yet another mirage, just as she seeks true-love in her adulterous affair with Shay. Things are not one-dimensional; there is much supporting the facades. Kathleen must choose to surrender her "Dreams of..." her self, her future, her past, and enter a multi-dimensional reality, and finally "come home" to her true self.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted March 12, 2003

    Highly Recommend.

    I bought this book when it first came out, but because of the shelf of books that I had ahead of it I¿ve only just finished reading it. Not a reader of smut books so I must warn that her ¿love/sex¿ moments are awkwardly shocking, full of passion, and yet still manage to capture the quintessential nature of real behavior. It is a great read, which I highly recommend.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted July 1, 2002

    Save your money, use your library card

    Aargh. It took me 150 pages to even want to keep reading this book. The only thing that motivated me to continue reading was the fact that I spent money on the book. If you are below 40, don't read this book. If you consider yourself a moral person, monogamous, virtuous, don't read this book. If you'd like to treat yourself, don't buy this book. Your money is better spent on almost ANY other book.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted March 4, 2002

    it made me feel less alone.

    i loved this book. the main character is a bit of a tramp but still it shows that not everyone gets the standard sit com life (husband, children, house, dog, job, etc)and that that is just way it is. I suspect the more similar you are to Kathleen the more you like the book. It made sense to me because i'm in my early 40's and widowed and just starting to realize that things are unlikely to work out as i planned. I suspect is would have hated this book in my 20's or even in my 40's if i'd have gotten everything the way i thought i was going to.It's very life affirming. Life is not the same for everyone but there's a lot of joy to be found.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted April 16, 2001

    My Dream of You is more like a nightmare.

    An absolutely horrible book. The author tries way too hard to write 'high quality literature,' but the 'poetic' passages are so forced they are corny. She ends each sub chapter with seemingly poignant and resounding sentences that are so contrived they come off as pathetic. On top of the poor writing, the main charater in a nymphomaniac, and the author can't resist throwing in soft core porn every other page, which seems like a desperate attempt to hold a readers attention through the flimsy writing, shallow, transparnet themes and weak, obtuse parallels between flat, unoriginal charaters. I would not recommend this book to anyone.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted March 19, 2001

    First Novel: Strong on interwoven complexity, weak on depth of realization

    This is clearly a first novel and does not get too complex in the way it blends characters and themes, but it definitely has an appeal. The heroine, Kathleen Burke (Caitlin de Burca) is a 50 year old travel writer who left her unhappy home in an Irish town 30 years before, carrying nothing on her back but the baggage of her upbringing. She moves to London, swearing that she will never set foot on Irish soil again. She's wrong, of course; but aren't most of the life-defining declarations we make when we are young? She stays away for the 30 years, though. Because of a xerox copy of a court judgement from the 1850's that was given to her by an ex-lover many years before -- for which she always held a romantic fascination -- she retuns to Ireland (to Ballygall) to trace the roots of the judgement ... and write a book about it. She is partly fascinated by the judgement -- a divorce decree -- because it involves the time of the Great Famine and an adulterous affair between a Irish stable-man (who would likely have spoken almost exclusively Irish) and the gentrified wife of a cruel landlord (who certainly would have no Irish at all). The affair was supposed to have lasted (according to the judgement) for 3 years. Kathleen wonders: What could they have possibly talked about and what sustained the affair for that duration? Even simple lust will seldom carry forward for that length of time. She decides to try to find out. What ensues is an exploration of the topic, the history, the culture of the past and present, and -- most importantly -- an exploration of herself that she has avoided for the better part of a lifetime. She finds parallels where she never would have imagined: In her own life, her upbringing, her heritage. She discovers that the past and the present are remarkably similar, because both revolve around people ... and people's needs ... and people's anguish. For the first time, she looks at the things that she blames for her unhappiness ... and sees herself in ways that she had thought were impossible. She had spent most of her life trying to run from her past, and ran into it headlong! But this is not a tragic tale; it is a tale of learning and redemption. I would have liked to have seen more complexity to the story; more profundity. But there is meat for self-exploration, for those who wish to dabble there. I found myself thinking about my own past and wondering if I was living the same sort of folly. There are things left unresolved, which I view as a courageous decision. Some of the themes would have been tempting to tie up in a nice little bow. The difficulty would be in resisting that temptation and recognizing the power that can sometimes come from uncertainty. This is an examination of a life still being lived by examining lives that are passed: There are few clear conclusions; there is just continual learning! I recommend this book, for both the simple and enticing story, and the insights into the complexity of the history we think we know ... and the history of the lives we lead. My Dream of You by Nuala O'Faolain

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  • Anonymous

    Posted May 2, 2001

    MIDDLE AGE NEED NOT BE LONELY

    THE DESCRIPTION WAS EXCEPTIONAL. INSIGHT INTO BEING A 50 YEAR SINGLE WOMAN IS REMARKABLE. IT ISN'T ALL LONELINESS-FRIENDSHIP IS THERE AND SHE CHERISHES IT. REALLY ENJOYED THIS BOOK AND WOULD HIGHLY RECOMMEND IT. great book. would highly recommend it. 50 years of age, she has found out that being on one's own can be very fulfilling. friendship matters more than an illicit love affair that would harm her more than give her fulfillment.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted February 23, 2001

    A moving yet exsilarating moment.

    In my own search for love i have found that there are many out there just like myself who also seem to be looking in the same places for all the wrong answers. Through my reading of the book 'My Dream Of You' I found another who was not unlike myself just living life in the hopes that one day the right person might show oneself to my heart and let me know that I am wanted, beautiful inside, and loved. There are many steps in the life of love, and this book has coverd them all, between death, lust, and passion, I have found myself longing to go out into the world and declair that I am not alone in my great search and that I will find my other half soon enough and untill then, I will enjoy the ride and experiance the journy to the fullist.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted March 18, 2001

    A DEFT MEMOIRIST NOW A BRILLIANT STORYTELLER

    Part shocking history, part sexual odyssey, all lyrical prose, Dublin journalist Nuala O'Faolain's first fiction is stunning as she interweaves past and present in parallel stories of two women seeking fulfillment. Ms. O'Faolain's bestselling memoir, 'Are You Somebody?,' won accolades for its utter honesty and brilliant craftsmanship. These attributes shine as brightly in 'My Dream Of You.' Kathleen de Burca, an unmarried 50+ travel writer is a woman who 'believed in passion the way other people believed in God; everything fell into place around it.' Yet to date her life has been a series of meaningless, rueful-in-the-morning liaisons. Compounding her unhappiness is the sudden death of her best friend, Jimmy, a gay fellow writer. Hoping to begin anew, Kathleen takes a leave of absence and returns to her native Ireland. Memories of her homeland are disheartening. She recalls her mother as oppressed and the children as 'neglected victims of her victimhood. Villain? Father. Old-style Irish Catholic patriarch; unkind to wife, unloving to children, harsh to young Kathleen when she tried to talk to him.' Nonetheless, Kathleen wants '....my life given back to me, so I can live it again better.' She has become fascinated by the Talbot affair, an actual event which took place during the Potato Famine, some 150 years ago. According to records, Marianne Talbot, the wife of an Anglo-Irish landowner, was seen by servants en deshabille with William Mullan, a stableman. 'There could hardly have been two people less likely to be drawn to each other than an Anglo-Irish landlord's wife and an Irish servant,' Ms. O'Faolain writes. 'Each of them came from a powerful culture which had at its very core the defining of the other as alien.' Intrigued by the disparity between the apparent lovers and the fact that Marianne is found guilty of adultery, Kathleen determines to write their story. She travels to Ballygall, site of the former Talbot estate, where she is aided in her research by Miss Leech, a feisty spinster librarian; and cosseted by Bertie, a widowed inn owner. As Kathleen delves into the past readers are reminded of the grim devastation wrought by the Famine. Those were days when the still living 'had to open the pit in the top field to push in more bodies,' and Marianne could hear through her drawing room window the cries for food, when 'the low noise of pleading and begging swelled to shrieking.' Surely few have painted the Famine's stark reality as movingly as Ms. O'Faolain. Her descriptions constrict the heart, enabling readers to see anew a mortally wounded country and its people. As Kathleen unearths surprising data about the Talbot scandal, she also discovers some truths about herself. It's at this juncture that she finds another opportunity for romance, but at what price? With 'My Dream Of You' Ms. O'Faolain clearly shows that she is not only a deft memoirist, but a brilliant storyteller, a keen observer of humankind, and a compassionate chronicler of a still present past.

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    Posted January 24, 2011

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    Posted July 19, 2009

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    Posted May 22, 2011

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