Charming Billy

Charming Billy

by Alice McDermott
3.4 23

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Overview

Charming Billy by Alice McDermott

Alice McDermott tells the story of Billy Lynch within the complex matrix of a tightly knit Irish American community, in a voice that is resonant and full of deep feeling. Charming Billy is a masterpiece about the unbreakable bonds of memory and desire.

Charming Billy is the winner of the 1998 National Book Award for Fiction.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781429929707
Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux
Publication date: 11/24/2009
Sold by: Macmillan
Format: NOOK Book
Pages: 280
Sales rank: 175,813
File size: 482 KB

About the Author

Alice McDermott is the author of six novels. Her articles, reviews and stories have appeared in The New York Times, The Washington Post, The Atlantic Monthly, The New Yorker, Redbook and elsewhere.


Alice McDermott is the author of several novels, including After This; Child of My Heart; Charming Billy, winner of the 1998 National Book Award; and At Weddings and Wakes, all published by FSG. That Night, At Weddings and Wakes, and After This were all finalists for the Pulitzer Prize. McDermott lives with her family outside Washington, D.C.

Hometown:

Bethesda, Maryland

Date of Birth:

June 27, 1953

Place of Birth:

Brooklyn, New York

Education:

B.A., State University of New York-Oswego, 1975; M.A., University of New Hampshire, 1978

Customer Reviews

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Charming Billy 3.4 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 23 reviews.
Guest More than 1 year ago
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.
Guest More than 1 year ago
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.
Guest More than 1 year ago
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.
Guest More than 1 year ago
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!
Guest More than 1 year ago
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.
Guest More than 1 year ago
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.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
One of the best books I have ever read!
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of-course More than 1 year ago
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.
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Guest More than 1 year ago
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.
Guest More than 1 year ago
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.
Guest More than 1 year ago
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.
Guest More than 1 year ago
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.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I managed to painfully get through it...but do not waste your time. Boring and plotless.
Guest More than 1 year ago
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.
Guest More than 1 year ago
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.