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Paperback Charming Billy Book

ISBN: 038533334X

ISBN13: 9780385333344

Charming Billy

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Format: Paperback

Condition: Like New

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Book Overview

Billy Lynch's family and friends have gathered at a small Bronx bar. They have come to comfort his widow and to eulogize one of the last great romantics, trading tales of his famous humor, immense charm, and unfathomable sorrow. As they linger on into this extraordinary night, their voices form Billy's tragic story and their mourning becomes a gentle homage to all the lives in their small community fractured by grief, shattered by secrets, and sustained...

Customer Reviews

4 ratings

Painfully beautiful

I decided to read this again for a more substantive acknowledgement of St. Patrick's Day. Again, I found myself emotionally moved by this trully touching and profound work.While all McDermott's works speak with a distinctly metropolitan New York Irish Catholic voice I have found this novel almost eerie in how precisely it represents this subculture. She reflects a thorough understanding of the group's psyche: its dreams, fears, strengths, prejudices, passions, and most importantly its weaknesses. The author shows uncanny skill in assessing character through observations which convincingly depict the motivations that inspire behavior. Her prose is both beautiful and profoundly insightful, in a characteristically understated Irish fashion.Reading "Charming Billy" for me was unsettling. I felt as if McDermott was describing my family and the others with whom I grew up, revealing both those things we hid as well as those of we were proud. While this novel makes your heart ache its tremendous beauty is deeply satisfying.

A "tightly woven fabric of affection"

I'm sorry to read negative reviews of this book. It was exquisite, in simplicity of language, vividness of character, intracacies of plot and structure. What I love is the mirroring of lives as tales are told through the perspectives of the generations of this Irish American family. Billy's story is Dennis' story; Eva's story is Maeve's story; Kate's story is is Claire's story, and all stories are the narrator's story: that's what a family is. So much to explore and reflect upon here: youth, death, obsession, love, perception, truth, benevolence, mercy, generosity, guilt, selfishness, redemption, illusion, reality, to say nothing of alcoholism, marriage, family, success, racism and religion. My favorite line, which I think sums the book up tidily: "...then the story of his life, or the story they would begin to re-create for him this afternoon, would have to take another turn." There is the reality of a life, and quite separate from it are the perceptions that color it, in actuality and in memory. This book exquisitely explores perception and attitude, and the difference they make in a life. Hats off to Alice McDermott; this is such a rewarding, thought-provoking piece of work, I just thank her for creating it.

The truth about "Billy"...

I have to say that I am aghast at the few reviews on here I've read for "Charming Billy." I'm not even sure where I should begin. I guess I should start off by saying that it was a bit of school pride that prompted me to buy the book in the first place. Ms. McDermott teaches at my university, so when she won the National Book Award, of course it was great and wonderful news. Though, when I got the book, I read a little, but placed it aside, mainly because my workload at school was a little overwhelming. That, and I knew I wanted to give my full attention to the world of "Charming Billy" because even from the beautiful, supple prose of the opening scenes at the bar, I knew that reading this book was something I did not want to do half-heartedly. And how glad I am that I did that! "Charming Billy" is a perfect piece of a book. It's so wonderfully written -- phrases repeating throughout that accentuate the daily routine of life; elegance and restraint in the descriptions of even the tiniest quirks and personality traits; a insightful and ingenious examination into the way we live and the way we live off (both the positive and negative connotations) of others. To read a review on here where the reviewer said something to the effect of "Oh, well, I just can't like a drunk character," well...quite frankly, it bothers me. Yes, Billy was an alcoholic, and his death was a consequence thereof, but calling Billy a drunk is missing the point of the story. Reading "Charming Billy" means opening yourself to a magical experience. If you read it correctly, it will stay with you always.

Devastating emotional impact, masterful writing

Like the earlier reader with a 5 star review, I too had to comment on "Charming Billy" after reading the negative customer reviews which have recently been posted here. Though I read this book months ago, it remains one of the best written and most memorable books I have read in many years. It cannot be said to be an enjoyable book, unless can take pleasure in the level of artistry and characterization achieved by a subtle writer. It does not depend on plot, the story's main events are revealed early--both in the text and in all the reviews. There is no suspense, no submarine or serial killer, no cannibalism or girlish conversations. To witness Billy's destruction as a participant in the drama--for that is the achievement of the author, to have forced the reader beyond distant observation--is painful and wears on your ability to accept the depressing emotions that result. For those whose imagination can only be stimulated when their heart is accelerating, this book cannot satisfy, but reading it is a moving experience. It is an exploration of motivation, of self-destruction, of love and of the quality of 'unselfishness', of the sources of decay and of the misguided nature of those who take upon themselves the judgement of what is best for others. It makes you wish you could weep and find some relief.
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