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Charming Billy by Alice McDermott

Charming Billy (original 1998; edition 1997)

by Alice McDermott (Author)

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1,989385,057 (3.42)86
Title:Charming Billy
Authors:Alice McDermott (Author)
Info:Farrar, Straus and Giroux (1997), Edition: 1st, 280 pages
Collections:Your library

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Charming Billy by Alice McDermott (1998)

  1. 00
    My Mamas Waltz: A Book for Daughters of Alchoholic Mothers by Eleanor Agnew (cammykitty)
    cammykitty: Non-fiction, but yes that painful realm - loving someone who is slowly disappearing before your eyes
  2. 11
    Hotel du Lac by Anita Brookner (nancyewhite)

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English (37)  Spanish (1)  All languages (38)
Showing 1-5 of 37 (next | show all)
The story of an extended family centered around the funeral of charming Billy, an alcoholic obsessed with his lost early love. About the disappointments of life, memories, redemption, and love. ( )
  snash | Aug 17, 2018 |
Framed by the narrative of the family funereal gathering for the late Billy Lynch, the novel recounts Billy's life, his early lost love, his struggle with alcohol, his never-lost charm. We're also given the lives of other members of the family and their close, everyday relationships, especially how Billy's live - and death - have influenced them. The real charmer here is the story itself, and the lovely way it is told, through the sweetness of its quotidian details, the mundane made holy, in some way. So excellently written, this one. Definitely recommended. ( )
  scaifea | Jul 25, 2018 |
Billy Lynch was a charmer and an alcoholic. He was a part of a very tightly knit Irish American family and extended family. When he was young, he and his council, Dennis, met two girls from Ireland who were working as nannies for a wealthy family on Long Island. Billy fell madly in love with Eva; Dennis dated Mary, the sister. Eva had to return to her family in Ireland and Billy, determined to marry her, sent money and letters to her constantly. She never returned. Mary told Dennis that Eva had taken the money and married another in Ireland. Dennis, hating to hurt his friend, told him that Eva had died. Billy grieved, but life went on.

Dennis went on to marry another but the two cousins remained as brothers. Dennis had a family and Billy went on to marry Maeve, the only daughter of a widowed alcoholic. Billy also turned to drink and Maeve quietly took care of both father and husband.

The book opens with the scene after Billy's funeral. He was found in the street drunk. The family reminisces and the truth is told. No one is ever sure if Maeve knows about the "Irish girl" or not.

Not a lot really happens in the book as it is more of a character study than plot although the lie Dennis tells colors the rest of Billy's life. It's a story of family loyalty, past memories, and sadness while always "carrying on." Maeve seems to me to be just another one of those Irish women whose life is dominated by family and events beyond their control.

(At the last paragraph, Maeve winds up marrying Dennis). ( )
  maryreinert | Oct 6, 2017 |
Tremendously crafted and compelling. ( )
  jconnell | Feb 8, 2017 |
O cómo construir tu vida a base de recuerdos, esperanzas auto engañosas y familia/amigos. Intentamos reconstruirnos partiendo de nuestros recuerdos de lo que queríamos ser, aunque la vida nos ponga trampas o nos empuje por distintos caminos. ( )
  naturaworld | Aug 12, 2016 |
Showing 1-5 of 37 (next | show all)
We all have books that rededicate us to the fantastic powers of fiction, and this is one of mine. McDermott makes the point that when a person’s life story is fully told they may become more mysterious—easy to say, but when fiction brings you to a realization like this, when an author can make this happen inside of you—there’s nothing like it.
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Somewhere in The Bronx, only twenty minutes or so from the cemetery, Maeve found a small bar-and-grill in a wooded alcove set well off the street that was willing to serve the funeral party of forty-seven mediium-rare roast beef and boiled potatoes and green beans amandine, with fruit salad to begin and vanilla ice cream to go with the coffee.
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Amazon.com Amazon.com Review (ISBN 038533334X, Paperback)

Charming Billy is a devastating account of the power of longing and lies, love's tenacity, and resignation's hold. Even at his funeral party, Billy Lynch's life remains up for debate. This soft-spoken, poetry lover's drinking was as legendary among his Queens, New York, family and friends as was his disappointment in love. But the latter, as his cousin Dennis knows, "was, after all, yet another sweet romance to preserve." After World War II, both young men had spent one sun-swept week on Long Island, renovating a house and falling in with two Irish sisters--nannies to a wealthy family--"marveling, marveling still, that this Eden was here, at the other end of the same island on which they had spent their lives."

By the end of their idyll, Billy and Eva were engaged, though she was set to return to County Wicklow. Determined to earn enough money to bring her, her family, and if necessary her entire village back to the U.S., Billy took two jobs, one of which would indenture him for years. But despite the money he sent, Eva never returned, and then was suddenly dead of pneumonia. The true tragedy is that she had simply kept her fare and married someone else--a secret Dennis keeps for the next 30 years as he watches Billy fall into a loveless marriage and the self-administered anesthesia of alcohol.

Alice McDermott's quiet, striking novel is a study of the lies that bind and the weight of familial wishes. She seems far less interested in the shock of revelation than in her characters' power to live through personal disaster. As Dennis's daughter pieces together Billy's real history, she also learns of the accommodations her own family had long made--and discovers that good intentions can be as destructive as the truth they mean to hide.

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:14:59 -0400)

(see all 5 descriptions)

Billy Lynch's family and friends have gathered at a 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. - Back cover of book.

(summary from another edition)

» see all 5 descriptions

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