Establishment Wives by Caroline Brandenburger & Rachel Silver - review by Joseph O'Neill

Joseph O'Neill

Brightman or Barnacle?

Establishment Wives


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Given the chance, would James Joyce have married Sarah Brightman? It was one of Joyce’s complaints that he received absolutely no star treatment from Nora Barnacle, his life-long partner, and in a letter to his Aunt Josephine he grumbled: ‘Nora does not seem to make much difference between me and the rest of the men she has known and I can hardly believe that she is justified in this … after all, I suppose I am an artist …’ In contrast to Nora, who referred to Ulysses as ‘ein Schwein,’ Sarah Brightman is, to say the least, appreciative of Andrew Lloyd Webber’s output: ‘What my husband has done is create a new musical genre. There used to be rock and roll music, pop music, classical music and he seems to have combined them all. What he is bringing out is modern opera … If you look at Puccini or Verdi, their operas are like musicals in their own way.’

It is perhaps doubtful that Joyce had this type of appreciation in mind. What is more certain is that he would not have put up for a minute with his wife putting any career ahead of procreation, as Brightman does: I don’t want to have a baby, plonk it in

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