The many admirers of the prize-winning Alice McDermott have waited seven years for her new novel. They will not judge her harshly for adding to the exhausting number of American novels that are now set in Brooklyn. Her pedigree as a three times Pulitzer Prize finalist and the winner of the 1998 National Book Award for her novel Charming Billy will insulate her from any casual critical assault. Her fans will be hoping that Someone will at last propel her to win the Pulitzer. New readers may ask whether there’s something about American literary fiction that verges on the formulaic.
Even sceptical new readers, however, won’t fail to be captivated by McDermott’s skills. One of the most powerful aspects of Someone is the superficially haphazard though meticulous structure of the book, as the life story of Marie, growing up in Irish-American Brooklyn between the world wars, is told in chronologically