Someone, by Alice McDermott

someoneAlice McDermott is a heavy-hitting name in American literature: National Book Award winner; twice a Pulitzer finalist. Her books are beautifully written, masterpieces of deft description and carefully chosen language. It’s probably a shortcoming in me as a reader, rather than in her as a writer, that while I enjoy every moment of reading an Alice McDermott book, in the way you would enjoy reading poetry — marvelling at what she can do with words — her books don’t linger with me the same way some more commercial, less beautifully-crafted novels have haunted me for years. She  creates strong characters — in Someone it’s Marie, a girl growing up in Brooklyn in the 1930s. There’s nothing remarkable about Marie — she isn’t “someone” in the sense that she’s not a person living a huge, important life that attracts the attention of others. But she is someone — she’s an ordinary person living through the changing world of twentieth-century America, living through love and heartbreak and hope and loss. There are incredibly powerful moments in Someoneparticularly the ending, which is as poignant as any I’ve read lately. But in the end, for me, there’s too much not told — I wanted so much more of Marie’s life, her experiences, her thoughts and feelings and the things that happened to her, over and above just the few moments — gorgeously polished jewels — that McDermott lifts from that life to show us. The very restraint that makes McDermott  a great writer makes her, for me, a frustrating one too; she leaves me wanting much, much more, but it’s clear she has no intention of giving it.

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Filed under Fiction -- historical

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