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We are Not Ourselves by Matthew Thomas
  

We are Not Ourselves

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Sarah Broadhurst's view...

September 2014 Debut of the Month.

Longlisted for the Guardian First Book Award 2014.

The life of Eileen Tumulty from 1951 to 2011, starting when she is 9 and from her point of view. In her mid-forties her son Connell becomes a teenager and we see how he feels too. Round the middle of this 620-page book Eileen’s 51-year old husband, Ed, is diagnosed with Alzheimer’s and from then on the disease seizes control of the story. Financial difficulties arise as he has to give up work and extra help is needed in the house. As Ed’s health declines so Connell’s story grows. Dividing into two parts, post and pre-diagnosis, this initially paints Eileen as a very self-centred, materialistic person, later we admire her compassion, tenacity and strength of character. An excellent reading group book for it will provoke much debate on Alzheimer’s, a patient’s decline and the financial impact on relatives.

If you like Matthew Thomas you might also like to read books by Chad Harbach, John Irving and Jonathan Franzen.

Who is Sarah Broadhurst

Reader Reviews

In addition to our Lovereading expert opinion some of our Reader Review Panel were also lucky enough to read and review this title.

  • Christine Waddington - 'This is Eileen`s story. It demands your complete attention and concentration and it will enthral you. It is an epic read.' Read full review >
  • Julie Bertschin - 'A sensitive and moving portrayal of a family dealing with the onset of early Alzheimer’s, this is a tender and emotive story that wraps you up and carries you along. Wonderful.' Read full review >
  • Glenda Worth - 'A brilliant insight into the life of someone with Alzheimer’s disease and living with someone who has this dreadful curse...Thoroughly enjoyed reading this novel.' Read full review >
  • Sarah Musk - 'A dark story but at the same time strangely uplifting.  Eileen Leary becomes a tough fighter in life when her clever husband becomes stricken down in middle age.' Read full review >
  • Diane Hinchley - 'Very well written and a joy to read - a book you won't be able to put down until the last page has been read.'   Read full review >
  • Beth Winsor - 'This is a huge doorstop of a book, with a rather unencouraging blurb about the story of a woman's life. I was surprised I enjoyed it as much as I did.' Read full review >

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Synopsis

We are Not Ourselves by Matthew Thomas

A stunning, heartbreaking debut - 'We Are Not Ourselves' is both the intimate story of a family and an epic of the American Century. The product of a stormy upbringing in an Irish Catholic enclave of New York City, Eileen craves stability. Coming of age in the early Sixties, she meets and marries a young scientist named Edmund Leary. But while Eileen wants more for her family, Ed won't give up teaching for a better-paid job. Inadvertently Eileen starts to climb her own career ladder in nursing. She pushes Ed into finding a new home, but it becomes clear that his resistance is part of a deeply troubling psychological shift. In this masterful debut, Matthew Thomas paints a sprawling, profoundly sympathetic portrait of a family coping with slow-burning tragedy. 'We Are Not Ourselves' is a grand testament to our deepest hopes and most human frailties.

Reviews

Advance praise for 'We Are Not Ourselves': 'I was really captivated by the real time decline and endurance in the story. It's a rich and hauntingly scrupulous account of an Irish American family.'
Hugo Hamilton

'We Are Not Ourselves is a powerfully moving book, and the figure of Eileen Leary
- mother, wife, daughter, lover, nurse, caretaker, whiskey drinker, upwardly mobile dreamer, retrenched protector of values - is a real addition to our literature.'
Chad Harbach

'The mind is a mystery no less than the heart. In We Are Not Ourselves , Matthew Thomas has written a masterwork on both, as well as an anatomy of the American middle class in the 20th Century. It's all here: how we live, how we love, how we die, how we carry on. And Thomas does it with the epic sweep and small pleasures of the very best fiction. It's humbling and heartening to read a book this good.
Joshua Ferris

'Okay, straight out, this novel is the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but. We Are Not Ourselves delivers the deepest, most involving and best pleasures of reading, the pleasures that have you lose your hours while curled up in a comfy couch, that have you sneaking looks and reading when you should be doing other things. A true epic in the best sense of the world, encompassing the big great gorgeous heartbreak that was our American Century. You doubt me. Please do not. Each page is suffused with a relentless and probing genius, as well as a generous and humane heart, and the result not only explodes across the darkening sky, but remains with you long after you've finished the last page and handed it to someone you love. So long as there are novels like We Are Not Ourselves , so long as there are writers like Matthew Thomas, the form of the novel is more than alive, it is thriving, palpitant.'
Charles Bock

About the Author

Matthew Thomas

Matthew Thomas has a BA in English from the University of Chicago, an MA in Fiction from the Writing Seminars at Johns Hopkins University, where he studied under Alice McDermott and Steve Dixon, and an MFA in Fiction from UC-Irvine, where he studied with Geoffrey Wolff and Jim Shephard. He has been working on 'We Are Not Ourselves' more or less exclusively for a decade. Briefly at the end of the last century, he was a reporter for the New York Observer.

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Book Info

Publication date

28th August 2014

Author

Matthew Thomas

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Author's Website

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Publisher

Fourth Estate Ltd an imprint of HarperCollins Publishers

Format

Hardback
640 pages

Categories

Family Drama
All Shortlists and Winners
Debuts of the Month
Literary Fiction
eBook Favourites
eBook Favourites

Modern & contemporary fiction (post c 1945)

ISBN

9780007548217

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