We Are Not Ourselves by Matthew Thomas

We Are Not Ourselves - Matthew   Thomas

Description by the publisher:

Destined to be a classic, this "powerfully moving" (Chad Harbach, The Art of Fielding), multigenerational debut novel of an Irish-American family is nothing short of a “masterwork” (Joshua Ferris, Then We Came to the End).

Born in 1941, Eileen Tumulty is raised by her Irish immigrant parents in Woodside, Queens, in an apartment where the mood swings between heartbreak and hilarity, depending on whether guests are over and how much alcohol has been consumed.

When Eileen meets Ed Leary, a scientist whose bearing is nothing like those of the men she grew up with, she thinks she’s found the perfect partner to deliver her to the cosmopolitan world she longs to inhabit. They marry, and Eileen quickly discovers Ed doesn’t aspire to the same, ever bigger, stakes in the American Dream.

Eileen encourages her husband to want more: a better job, better friends, a better house, but as years pass it becomes clear that his growing reluctance is part of a deeper psychological shift. An inescapable darkness enters their lives, and Eileen and Ed and their son Connell try desperately to hold together a semblance of the reality they have known, and to preserve, against long odds, an idea they have cherished of the future.

Through the Learys, novelist Matthew Thomas charts the story of the American Century, particularly the promise of domestic bliss and economic prosperity that captured hearts and minds after WWII. The result is a riveting and affecting work of art; one that reminds us that life is more than a tally of victories and defeats, that we live to love and be loved, and that we should tell each other so before the moment slips away. 

Epic in scope, heroic in character, masterful in prose, We Are Not Ourselves heralds the arrival of a major new talent in contemporary fiction.


Pages: 608

Price: 11,34 € Kindle Edition, 19,38 € Hardcover (today prices @ Amazon.de)

Note: Expected publication date is September 2nd 2014 so there might still be changes possible. It is available @ Netgalley.com.


My honest opinion:

This book is a family story with epic dimensions which impressed me very much. I still feel emotionally touched and some scenes come back to my mind hours after putting that book down (and I feel like I'll think about this book tomorrow and next week ...).

This book wasn't perfect though: I had some hard times reading the first half of the book because the author is very detailed sometimes and I never knew whether an event would be important for the further story. In fact I hardly knew where the story would lead, what's the point of it. But after the first half and discovering the 'real issue' of the book I thought it was brilliant to invest that much time into character developement.

And I have to just say that. The characters of this book are very very well described. They came very much to life for me. For instance I talked with my best friend about this book (He will not read this book because he's a pure science-fiction reader.) and every time when I talked with him about the characters it was as if I really knew that people. I said: "Oh man, I hope [The Character]'s going to be alright" or "Do you want to know what's further happened with [the character]?" and then we talked about this people and their problems. Generally it doesn't happen often I talk so intensively about a book but I wanted to talk a lot about this one.

As I said the first half of the book wasn't that good and I think it could have been a little bit shorter. But once I was through I almost couldn't stop reading although I knew what the logical conclusion of that 'inescapable darkness' that enters the life of the family must be. I will not give away what that 'darkness' or 'the real issue' might be because I think it is important the reader does not know beforehand. For instance while reading the book I speculated very often and I also think it would keep some potential readers from reading this touching and somewhat important book.

Most of the story is told by Eileen, starting in 1950 and ending in the 2000s.Later in the book there are some changes in perspective. The first one did disturb me a little bit. The following ones very easier to read as they happened more frequently. I did not always like Eileen but she's still a rather strong character with a well defined will. I liked his husband Ed - a scientist - very much although I rolled my eyes when Eileen met him in the book (he seemed to be the perfect guy: athletic, intelligent, good looking - all the clichés). But he's also modest, likeable and a passionate teacher at the university. I'm also into science so I could identify whith him a little bit. 

Although the book wasn't perfect in every sense I rate it 5 stars. I feel like that book deserves them for touching me so immensely.

Thanks to Simon and Shuster for a digital copy of that book.