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Personality (edition 2004)
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Amazon.com Amazon.com Review (ISBN 0571217753, Paperback)Andrew O'Hagan's Personality opens on Scotland's Isle of Bute with three generations of the Tambini family struggling for success in their adopted home. The blanket of charm that envelops the Tambini's gradually discloses many secrets: forgotten children, torrid affairs, closeted homosexuality, and suppressed ethnic tension. Thirteen-year-old singer Maria Tambini seems to be everybody's antidote to past failures. After she leaves Bute for and audition with the television show Opportunity Knocks in London, she rapidly achieves both fame and fortune buoyed by a voice "like Barbara Streisand['s]" and charisma beyond her years. Friends and family mourn her loss to stardom while taking solace that someone has escaped Bute and achieved success as they imagine it must be on television.
But Maria's abrupt transformation into a personality leads to obsession with body image, clothes, hairstyles, and make-up; she sees herself as only an object for other people's entertainment: "Her body was apart from her. The person with thoughts was different from the person with arms and legs, a stomach and a face." For Maria, a life of surfaces, a life of pleasing, means self-annihilation. As her self fades into the image that others project on her, her body literally withers away.
O'Hagan experiments with virtually every narrative form in Personality (even including an epistolary chapter). Not all of these attempts work, and the story--driven by its strong characters and not plot--occasionally bogs down in details unnecessary to the development of either. But even in these rare lapses O'Hagan, whose previous work has been short-listed for the Booker Prize, carries his reader through his finesse with Scottish dialect and the wit of his rich supporting characters. --Patrick O'Kelley
(retrieved from Amazon Sat, 23 Apr 2011 22:42:36 -0400)
"Maria Tambini is a thirteen-year-old girl with an amazing singing voice. Growing up above her mother's shop on the Scottish island of Bute, living at the centre of her family's dream of fame, Maria is an extraordinary girl making ready to escape the ordinary life." "We first meet her amidst the faded grandeur of the seaside resort of Rothesay, with the Argyll hills and the Eighties in front of her, and behind her a long shadow: the secret story of her Italian-immigrant family. When Maria wins a national TV talent show she is taken to London and becomes an instant star of what used to be called light entertainment; she sings with Dean Martin and tours America, can fill the London Palladium, yet all the while 'the girl with the giant voice' is losing herself in fame and waging a private war against her own body. Maria becomes a living exhibit in the modern drama of celebrity: is it possible that she can be saved by love? Or is she to be consumed by an obsessive culture, by family lies and her number-one fan?" "Personality includes a cast of characters so vivid and complex that they seem to encompass within their enthralling stories a portrait of a whole society, its history and its spirit."--BOOK JACKET.
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