Nuala O'Faolain

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Nuala O'Faolain (/ˈnlə ˈfwlɑːn/; 1 March 1940[1] – 9 May 2008) was an Irish journalist, TV producer, book reviewer, teacher and writer. She became well known after the publication of her memoirs Are You Somebody? and Almost There. She wrote a biography of Irish criminal Chicago May and two novels.

Personal life[edit]

O'Faolain was born in Clontarf, Dublin, the second eldest of nine children. Her father, known as 'TerryO' was a well-known Irish journalist, writing the "Dubliners Diary" social column under the pen name Terry O'Sullivan for the Dublin Evening Press. She was educated at University College Dublin, the University of Hull, and Oxford University.[2] She taught for a time at Morley College, and worked as a television producer for the BBC and Raidió Teilifís Éireann.

O'Faolain described her early life as growing up in a Catholic country which in her view feared sexuality and forbade her even information about her body.[3] In her writings she often discusses her frustration at the sexism and rigidity of roles in Catholic Ireland that expected her to marry and have children, neither of which she did.

O'Faolain was engaged at least once,[4] but she never married. In Are You Somebody?, she speaks candidly about her fifteen-year relationship with the journalist Nell McCafferty, who published her own memoir, Nell.[5] From 2002 until her death, O'Faolain lived much of the time with Brooklyn-based attorney John Low-Beer and his daughter Anna. They were registered as domestic partners in 2003.

O'Faolain split her time between Ireland and New York City.[6] She had been diagnosed with metastatic cancer and was interviewed on the Marian Finucane radio show on RTÉ Radio 1 on 12 April 2008 in relation to her terminal illness. [7] She told Finucane, "I don't want more time. As soon as I heard I was going to die, the goodness went from life".[8]

O'Faolain died during the night on 9 May 2008.[9] In 2012, RTÉ announced a major new documentary on her life.[10]


She became internationally well known for her two volumes of memoir, Are You Somebody? and Almost There; a novel, My Dream of You; and a history with commentary, The Story of Chicago May. The first three were all featured on The New York Times Best Seller list. Her posthumous novel Best Love, Rosie was published in 2009.

O'Faolain's formative years coincided with the emergence of the women's movement, and her ability to expose misogyny in all its forms was formidable, forensic and unremitting. However, O'Faolain's feminism stemmed from a fundamental belief in social justice. Unlike most commentators, who maintain a detached, lofty tone, O'Faolain, placed herself at the centre of things, a high-risk strategy that worked because of her broad range of erudition, worn lightly, her courage and a truthfulness that sometimes bordered on the self-destructive.[11]



  • Are You Somebody? The Accidental Memoir of a Dublin Woman, New York: Henry Holt and Company, 1996. ISBN 0-8050-5663-7
  • My Dream of You, Riverhead Books, 2001. ISBN 1-57322-177-5
  • Almost There: The Onward Journey of a Dublin Woman, Riverhead Books, 2003. ISBN 1-57322-374-3
  • The Story of Chicago May, Riverhead Books, 2005. ISBN 1-57322-320-4
  • Best Love, Rosie, New Island Books, 2009. ISBN 978-1-84840-045-0
  • A More Complex Truth, New Island Books, 2010. ISBN 1848400667, reprinted as A Radiant Life: The Selected Journalism of Nuala O’Faolain, Harry N. Abrams 2011. ISBN 0810998068

Further reading[edit]


  1. ^ "Nuala O'Faolain" (obituary). Telegraph, 11 May 2008. Retrieved on 12 August 2009.
  2. ^ "Are You Somebody". Editorial Review (Amazon). Retrieved on 14 April 2008.
  3. ^ "Are You Somebody?" Nuala O'Faolain, New Island 1996, Introduction ix
  4. ^ "Nuala O'Faolain Archived 5 August 2007 at the Wayback Machine". Penguin. Retrieved on 14 April 2008.
  5. ^ Nolan, Yvonne. "The Girl of Her Dreams Archived 4 June 2009 at the Wayback Machine". Publishers Weekly, 3 December 2001. Retrieved on 14 April 2008.
  6. ^ "Nuala O'Faolain Archived 20 March 2009 at the Wayback Machine"., 15 February 2001. Retrieved on 14 April 2008.
  7. ^ "Podcast of radio interview of O'Faolain by Marian Finucane". RTÉ. 12 April 2008. Archived from the original on 25 March 2009. Retrieved 10 January 2009.
  8. ^ "Nuala O' Faolain interview Archived 15 April 2008 at the Wayback Machine". Sunday Independent, 13 April 2008. Retrieved on 14 April 2008.
  9. ^ "Nuala O'Faolain dies at 68". RTÉ News. 9 May 2008. Archived from the original on 13 May 2008. Retrieved 10 May 2008.
  10. ^ "RTÉ launches Spring Season on TV". RTÉ Ten. 16 January 2012. Archived from the original on 16 November 2012. Retrieved 17 January 2012. There are also new documentaries about the Titanic, Nuala O'Faolain and Ireland's economic future.
  11. ^ "Nuala O'Faolain: Writer, journalist and broadcaster, she was a leading figure in modern Irish culture". The Guardian. 12 May 2008. Archived from the original on 20 November 2018. Retrieved 25 December 2018.
  12. ^ Caldwell, June (14 May 2008). "'She gave a voice to Irish women'". The Guardian. Archived from the original on 8 March 2016. Retrieved 12 November 2010.
  13. ^ "2006 Prix Femina winners announced Archived 22 April 2008 at the Wayback Machine"., 31 October 2006. Retrieved on 14 April 2008.

External links[edit]