Ex Libris | Someone

Ex Libris | A series featuring recent reads.


Written by? Alice McDermott

In a nutshell? Ordinary. Extraordinary.

The debrief? Marie, the book’s protagonist, is the ‘someone’ of the novel’s title – at first meeting, as ordinary a woman as that pronoun suggests. But, says McDermott, there’s something “contrarian” about books by unremarkable women about unremarkable women – in this case, a Catholic Irish-American girl growing up in Brooklyn. The book is deftly written in sparkling prose, switching elegantly and without structure between periods in Marie’s personal timeline. In so doing it quietly charts a lifetime’s worth of love and loss, from the ache of disappointment to the all-encompassing splendour of joy. I’ve read it twice in a year and I’d read it again in a heartbeat (once I’ve worked my way through McDermott’s entire canon, that is). Should I be blessed with a daughter one day, I’ll be lending it to her too; Someone is the perfect coming-of-age novel, a masterpiece in perspective and in womanhood, replete with the poignancy of growing up.

Buy or borrow? Buy, underline, re-read, lend to every woman (and man) you know.

A quote to end on: “It was not that my life was less valuable to me now that I had glimpsed what it would be like to lose it. My love for the child asleep in the crib, the child’s need for me, for my vigilance, had made my life valuable in a way that even the most abundantly offered love, my parent’s, my brother’s, even Tom’s, had failed to do. Love was required of me now—to be given, not merely to be sought and returned. My presence on earth was never more urgently needed. And yet even the certainty of that fact seemed reason to throw away caution, not to heed it.”