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What Are You Like?: A Novel [Kindle Edition]

Anne Enright
3.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (10 customer reviews)

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Book Description

Anne Enright is one of the most exciting writers of Ireland's younger generation, a beguiling storyteller The Seattle Times has praised for "the ... way she writes about women ...their adventures to know who they are through sex, despair, wit and single-minded courage." In What Are You Like?, Maria Delahunty, raised by her grieving father after her mother died during childbirth, finds herself in her twenties awash in nameless longing and in love with the wrong man. Going through his things, she finds a photograph that will end up unraveling a secret more devastating than her father's long mourning, but more pregnant with possibility. Moving between Dublin, New York, and London, What Are You Like? is a breathtaking novel of twins and irretrievable losses, of a woman haunted by her missing self, and of our helplessness against our fierce connection to our origins. What Are You Like? has been selected as a finalist for the Whitbread Award. It is a novel, Newsday wrote, that "announces [Enright's] excellence as though it were stamped on the cover in boldface." "Richly descriptive ... Slightly surreal, revelatory images are hallmarks of Enright's writing, which beguiles throughout." -- Melanie Rehak, US Weekly "Cool, wicked, and quintessentially Irish ... Anne Enright tells a sharp, stylish tale in an accent all her own." -- Annabel Lyon, The National Post (Toronto)

Editorial Reviews Review

Some novels you nibble away at, half unthinking. Anne Enright's prose bites back. The Irish author of The Portable Virgin and The Wig My Father Wore has produced a third book as unexpected and lively as a miracle child--or is it twins? She tells the story of a Dubliner whose mother died in childbirth. Maria is now 20, living in New York, cleaning houses, taking drugs, sleeping with strangers, and generally being in a funk. In a lover's bag, she finds an old photo of a girl who looks just exactly like herself, dressed in clothes she's never owned, posing with people she's never met. But this isn't some gooey, alternate-reality identity fantasy. Maria has, in fact, a twin sister. Though each is unknown to the other, we learn both their lives inside out as they head toward a giddily inevitable meeting.

This twinning tale suits Enright's style right down to the ground: Her mandate is to bump us into awareness, and if it takes double heroines, so be it. Her language does the rest of the work. On the very first page, for instance, she freshens the simple act of holding a baby into a joke: "And they handed her on from arm to arm, with the dip that people make when they give away a baby--letting her body go and guiding her head, as though it might not be attached. Nothing worse than being left holding the baby, they seemed to say, except being left with the baby's head." In fact, Enright is transfixed by the weirdness of the body, as when Maria visits a dairy farm: "She is too old to dip her fingers in the milk and let the calves suck. Though when she does, a feeling she has never had before goes straight up her arm and into her right nipple. Hello, farming." Enright writes fiction meant to surprise. But her message is surprisingly traditional: biology matters. --Claire Dederer

From Publishers Weekly

After a flawlessly rendered first chapter, Enright, an Irish broadcast journalist, short story writer and novelist (The Wig My Father Wore), struggles to keep the assorted pieces of her novel together; it is fractured like the family it illuminates. Maria Delahunty is born in Dublin in 1965, delivered from her dying mother, who is comatose from a brain tumor. Maria's father, Berts, brings the baby home, and along with his new wife, Evelyn, they decide "to love each other if they could." But Maria grows up conflicted about herself, unable to decide whether she should live in her middle-class home in Dublin or in New York City, "the country of the lost." There, she imagines she can reinvent herself, but she ends up cleaning apartments. At 20, she falls in love with a man who carries in his wallet a picture of someone who looks strangely like her as a 12-year-old. Meanwhile, in England, a young woman named Rose, adopted by a wealthy family and also feeling curiously ill at ease about herself, decides she is not talented enough to pursue a career as a violinist, and begins to shoplift. At the same point, the two young women begin to search for each other, leading them back to that impulsive decision the bumbling though well-meaning Berts first made in the maternity ward. Enright's story is compelling, and she writes effectively and generously in the points of view of her various characters, especially in the flat, resigned voices of Evelyn and Berts. The facets of her plot keep multiplying, however, and the cut-and-paste sentences are more perplexing than evocative, e.g., "His head was full of saxophones that turned into fish, and ordinary matchboxes filled with dread." The narratives of unhappy Maria and unhappy Rose take on a whining redundancy that mars an otherwise boldly written work. Agent, Heather Schroeder. (Sept.) Cahners Business Information.
Copyright 2000 Reed Business Information, Inc.

Product Details

  • File Size: 381 KB
  • Print Length: 274 pages
  • Page Numbers Source ISBN: 0802138896
  • Publisher: Grove Press; Reprint edition (December 1, 2007)
  • Sold by: Amazon Digital Services, Inc.
  • Language: English
  • ASIN: B004I6DCV6
  • Text-to-Speech: Enabled
  • X-Ray:
  • Word Wise: Not Enabled
  • Lending: Not Enabled
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #869,126 Paid in Kindle Store (See Top 100 Paid in Kindle Store)
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Customer Reviews

3.5 out of 5 stars
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews
8 of 9 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Gorgeous language unlike anyone else September 3, 2000
To call Anne Enright an "exciting new writer" is, of course, a somewhat backhanded compliment. Her works haven't been available in the states, which is a real shame, as most decent Irish Lit programs in American universities can point to Enright's astounding first story collection, The Portable Virgin, as a major work in Irish Postmodernism. What Are You Like?, her first domestically-available novel, continues in her fine, and, yes, exciting narratological style. I've rarely enjoyed the craft of a sentence as much as I have reading Enright's works, and this novel does not disappoint. In fact, this novel makes a great starting point from which to discover all of Anne Enright's works (check out, such as her previous novel, The Wig My Father Wore, and, certainly, her mesmerizing story collection. Finally receiving critical notice in the states (including a featured short story in The New Yorker this year), it's surely fair to dub her "exciting and new." Now let's hope this is the beginning of something grand on this side of the Atlantic.
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars rewards September 19, 2001
By Mindy
I found this book an intriging mix of confusion and satisfaction. There were long stretches where I was utterly confused about what was going on or why the author was telling me such things interspersed with really beautiful descriptions or some other really satisfying passage that was truly enjoyable.
Do I recommend this book? Sure. Just remember that the disjointed feeling is intentional. If that sort of thing does not put you off, then you will enjoy this book for the hidden treasures it contains.
I can also say that despite the fact that Maria "sleeps around" quite a bit, it was not sexually explicit. I appreciated this. I get so sick of reading books that boldly refuse to leave any of the details to the imagination (or not as the reader chooses).
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10 of 13 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Out there. March 7, 2001
This is a strange and fractured narrative of the strange and fractured lives of identical twins separated at birth. When their mother dies of a brain tumor at the time of the girls' birth, their father, Berts, decides he can take care of only one of them. Naming her Maria, he quickly donates the other one, Marie (renamed Rose), for adoption. Maria stays with Berts in Dublin, while Rose moves around the world as the adopted daughter of a British doctor and his wife.

Both girls have big problems. Maria, from her earliest years, is always asking, "What are you like?" and looking into mirrors. Sometimes violent in arguments, she sleeps around, gets stoned, attempts suicide, and suffers a nervous breakdown. She believes she "does not have a talent for life." Rose is a sadist who taunts the foster children her parents take in, goading one boy into throwing a kitten through a window and later trying to drown him. She believes there is "a hole in her head, a hole in her life." Perhaps it is that hole she is trying to fill when she goes on her shoplifting expeditions. Neither girl seems to have profited in any way from "nurture"--only nature counts here, and finding your twin, even when you don't know you are a twin, is so compelling an urge that it overwhelms any attempt to live a normal life.

With her very staccato style of short sentences, most having the subject at the beginning, Enright machine-guns her story at the reader. Her in-the-face style is emphatic and unrelenting as her narrative jumps from 1965 to 1985 to 1971, etc., from Dublin to New York to London, and from Maria to Rose and, eventually, to Anna, their mother. The story is sometimes difficult to follow, as the connections which explain some of the episodes do not occur until later in the book.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Plumbing October 17, 2008
[2.5 stars] After reading THE GATHERING, the book that recently won Anne Enright the Man Booker Award, I picked up this earlier novel to see whether it would share the same preoccupations. It does, in its interest in exploring how women feel and think, its concern with the dynamics of mostly dysfunctional families, and its obsession with the grosser aspects of the human body. It shares the same ambience: Dublin and England, though here with some scenes in New York thrown in. Here too, Enright has the reader piece the story together in fragments as she jumps around in place and time. Here too, she comes up with passages that are unusual, even poetic, but too often maddening in their obliquity; the following paragraph is typical:

"That night Evelyn dreamed of sperm and the smell maddened her. It lingered in the morning and made her ashamed. It was her fifty-third birthday. Time to throw things out, she thought, and started with a plastic bag full of shoes that had taken the shape of her feet. Ghost steps, and all the wanderings she had never made, knotted at the top and left out for the bin men, waltzing in the quiet, in the rain."

The image of that bag of shoes is insightful and true. But although the final sentence is beautiful as poetry, it makes little sense as prose. And Evelyn's dream of sperm is entirely gratuitous, as are most of the physical references in the book. Here, for a comparatively innocuous example, is her description of children following their mothers into a department-store changing room: "They came in sometimes, the little Caesars, all new beside the bellies that they had sloughed off.
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars What is this book like?
This story will enchant and disturb, leaving you looking at life differently. With a touch of magical realism and the haunting family saga style that she is great at, Anne Enright... Read more
Published 19 months ago by kdillmanjones
5.0 out of 5 stars Be patient: The pieces come together to make a breathtaking novel
Yes, this amazing novel is comprised of beautifully, mysteriously worded sentences within story fragments. Read more
Published on June 30, 2012 by Char
2.0 out of 5 stars STRANGE
The story line could be really interesting but the style of writing is hard to take. It reads more like a poem than a novel. The story itself is all over the place. Read more
Published on June 16, 2006 by Laurie
1.0 out of 5 stars Twisted like candy thinking above the rainbow's shadow
The Author's concept of this odd book had to come from the seam of her eye where the mist and the rocks blow together like the brussel spouts of yesterday's backyard tire swing. Read more
Published on April 21, 2001 by Dave ZenVudo
5.0 out of 5 stars something extraordinary
This is the kind of thing that can get you a bit knotted as a reader but when I put it down I realised that I think I had read something that was extraordinary. Read more
Published on February 17, 2001
4.0 out of 5 stars Like, like
At first, I didn't like Anne Enright's novel at all. I found it very hard to identify with any of the characters. Read more
Published on January 27, 2001 by Mr. K. Mahoney
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