Intertwining memories and history, a book within a book expresses love and loss throughout a writer’s lifetime.
Nuala O’Faolain’s “My Dream of You” addresses a woman’s 30-year journey from a childhood in Ireland to her writing career in London.
The storyline draws out the unfortunate events that shaped Kathleen’s life, including an unloving father, her quests through multiple unsuccessful relationships and the death of her best friend.
O’Faolain portrays her character’s life, and thoughts on how life should be, through Kathleen’s idea for a novel. When Kathleen realizes that her life is nothing more than writing for the same magazine for 30 years and denying her past, she decides it’s time for a change.
Kathleen returns to her homeland to reconnect with her family and to research the story of a rich Englishwoman and her Irish lover. O’Faolain brings the lives of those in Ireland during the potato famine to life, exploring the ripples that still effect the country even at the time of Kathleen’s visit.
Following historical leads Kathleen discovers an unexpected love for herself, the loss that closely ensues as well as the knowledge of how she can learn to cope with her life by accepting herself and her past.
The characterization of each new introduction, and the subtle hints of possible stereotypes that surround the Irish culture bring a dimension to the story that leaves readers sympathetic to Kathleen as well as the father that is never met.
The affair that Kathleen becomes involved in during her visit becomes her outlet and muse for the Englishwoman’s story. O’Faolain writes a book within the book, having the character narrate the story of the old Irish affair at the same time that O’Faolain narrates her characters.
This parallel enhances each moment that Kathleen experiences, generating an intense narrative that dramatically personalizes the plot.
As Kathleen traverses through Ireland in search of her book, she in turn finds herself. Her father is a constant in her thoughts, despite his death. O’Faolain dedicates much of Kathleen’s travel to dissecting and analyzing why her father was the way he was and how she should interpret the moments she spent with him.
Brought to life by dramatic language and a unique double story, “My Dream of You” discovers a heartbreaking story incorporated into the history of a country.
Staff writer Kelly Bleck can be reached at email@example.com.