My Dream of You
A beloved colleague’s abrupt death propels travel writer Kathleen de Burca into a quest for personal and historical truths in this debut novel by O’Faolain, newspaper columnist and author of a bestselling memoir.
Work weary and world weary at 49, Kathleen takes a leave of absence from work. During that time she will research a Victorian-era divorce case in her native Ireland, in preparation for writing a fact-based novel. For years she has been intrigued by the incomplete history of Marianne Talbot, an English landlord’s wife, and her lover William Mullan, a worker on the estate. Eager to explore this ill-fated, incongruous love affair during the Famine, Kathleen departs for County Mayo. By doing so, she ends a stubborn, self-imposed exile from Ireland.
Kathleen’s story unfolds partly as memoir, as she reviews her own past, and partly as detective story. Her search for the truth about unlikely lovers leads her in unexpected directions. She manages to rediscover the charms of Ireland as well as its tragedies. Even as she grieves for her deceased friend and her bad choices, she gains a fresh appreciation for value of relationships.
All the while, she pursues her fact-finding mission. Woven in with Kathleen’s adventures and ruminations are sections from her historical novel, based upon her speculations about the errant Marianne’s love for William Mallan. But the facts of the case reveal themselves in unexpected ways, and Kathleen’s satisfying and promising encounters with her new lover force her into a difficult choice.
The combination of lyrical, effective writing, absorbing and poignant characterizations, and the determined quest for historical truth, will appeal to readers of contemporary and historical fiction alike. A moving and memorable novel, and highly recommended.