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Book Reviews of Charming Billy

Charming Billy
Charming Billy
Author: Alice McDermott
ISBN-13: 9780385333344
ISBN-10: 038533334X
Publication Date: 1998
Pages: 243
  • Currently 3.2/5 Stars.

3.2 stars, based on 178 ratings
Publisher: Dell Publishing
Book Type: Paperback
Reviews: Amazon | Write a Review

37 Book Reviews submitted by our Members...sorted by voted most helpful

reviewed Charming Billy on + 337 more book reviews
Helpful Score: 8
A graceful tale, an extended wake and reflection on the life of a man. Poignant, well-written characters, can't exactly say it was a pleasure to read but the author is very skilled in helping us see a man's life -- the joys, the despairs, the rejection.
reviewed Charming Billy on + 45 more book reviews
Helpful Score: 7
Good ol' Irish immigrant story set in NY. The story is beautiful and sad. Floats between the past and the present with each character.
reviewed Charming Billy on + 14 more book reviews
Helpful Score: 4
Book in excellent condition. This story will touch your heart. A secret between friends changes their lives forever. Billy's tragic sorrow juxtaposed against his ability to be generous and charming to everyone he meets makes him a true hero.
Froggie avatar reviewed Charming Billy on + 55 more book reviews
Helpful Score: 4
I actually thought this book dragged on waaay to much. About half-way through the book I realized that I didn't care about the characters.

I don't recommend this book.
reviewed Charming Billy on + 25 more book reviews
Helpful Score: 3
I couldn't get into this book at all. I found it a little strange and boring. The characters were lame, the topic was weird, the setting was boring and the story didn't seem to grab me. I strated the book about 4 times and honestly couldn't finish the book.
reviewed Charming Billy on + 6 more book reviews
Helpful Score: 3
A slow detailed start but a good read once you get into it. It is on Oprah's book Club list.
reviewed Charming Billy on + 92 more book reviews
Helpful Score: 2
A National Book Award winner about the Irish-American family and relationships.
reviewed Charming Billy on + 54 more book reviews
Helpful Score: 2
Well-written but not for me as it was hard to keep my train of thought and follow the narration; partly because of the use of pronouns when too many relations of the same sex were being referred to and partly because of the subject line and the underlying questions being asked not holding enough interest for me.
reviewed Charming Billy on
Helpful Score: 2
"An astoundingly beautiful novel about the persistence of love, the perseverance of grief, and all-but-unbearable loneliness, as well as faith, loyalty and redemption."
reviewed Charming Billy on + 10 more book reviews
Helpful Score: 1
Charming Billy is a small, lyrical book that primarily focuses on relationships. It unwinds slowly, with an emphasis on detail that makes the Irish and Irish-American characters and their lives in NY very vivid - you can practically hear their voices in your head. The story, as many have said, centers on the life of Billy, a recently deceased man who was an alcoholic. There is basically only one plot element, involving the death of Billy's first fiancee, which is why I say it is a small book, and the book wraps its way around this story, filling it out richly and ultimately building to a gentle climax. The narrator moves back & forth in time, and only gradually reveals who she is, which I suppose is why some readers have said they found it confusing or couldn't get into it. So if you're looking for a plot-driven or fast moving book, this is not for you. But if you'd appreciate a richly woven tale from an author who understands human character, and the complicated ways that people love each other, Charming Billy is a good bet.
reviewed Charming Billy on + 65 more book reviews
Helpful Score: 1
Humorous, yet filled with compassion.
reviewed Charming Billy on + 5 more book reviews
Helpful Score: 1
A charming and doomed alcoholic in an Irish-American family.
Zydeco avatar reviewed Charming Billy on + 80 more book reviews
Helpful Score: 1
Too many characters with hard to follow relation to one another plus very lttle happening made this book a real snooze!
reviewed Charming Billy on + 4 more book reviews
Helpful Score: 1
This book is hard to put down.
reviewed Charming Billy on + 3 more book reviews
Helpful Score: 1
Very interesting from an Irish Catholic from NYC point of view.
Froggie avatar reviewed Charming Billy on + 55 more book reviews
Helpful Score: 1
This book was ok. There are quite a few characters in the book and at times I found myself going back a few chapters to see who exactly these people were.
LaurenTW avatar reviewed Charming Billy on + 37 more book reviews
Helpful Score: 1
Excellent, excellent writing style. This author is amazing. Her attention to detail enables you to feel like you're right there with the characters with every head nod, facial expression, clearing of the get the idea. I couldn't stop reading this, anxious to see how Billy's life unfolded and how it affected all those he met along the way. Get it --- read it!
getinmybellykelly avatar reviewed Charming Billy on
I found this book to be extremely hard to follow. It jumps all over the place between different people and different time periods and honestly I did not finish it. I have a whole shelf of books to be read and I'd rather just move on to the next one than try to continue chugging through this when I'm getting nothing out of it. And I normally ALWAYS finish books.
jazzysmom avatar reviewed Charming Billy on + 907 more book reviews
Beautiful even though it is a sad story of a man that has
passed. Friends and family have gathered to eulogize Billy.It is not maudlin but the tale of trading stories paying homage to the life of Billy. Many secrets come out and much sorrow has been in Billy's life. He was funny, a charmer, and a romantic. I liked this read. It was wonderfully written, and left me thinking about what my own friends and family will say when i am gone. Alice McDermott writes stories that leave you thinking and have depth.
lectio avatar reviewed Charming Billy on + 88 more book reviews
A complex book that's beautifully written despite the subject matter - an Irish American family's struggles to love, support and come to terms with the relationships they have to each other, one of whom is an alcoholic. What I loved about this book in addition to Alice McDermott's brillian way of telling a story, was the fact that there were no villains. Things were not black or white and there wer no solutions - only very real problems and very real people who loved on another not necessarily as well as they should have, but as best they could.
SanJoseCa avatar reviewed Charming Billy on + 328 more book reviews
While "Charming Billy" will make your heart ache, you will love the beautiful writing and the emotionally moving story about a New York Irish Catholic family. The novel reveals how good intentions can be as destructive as the truth they mean to hide. The author won the National Book Award for this work.
sari-lynn avatar reviewed Charming Billy on + 207 more book reviews
Alice McDermott can *write*! This story of two cousins from a large Irish-American family is lyrically told.
reviewed Charming Billy on + 80 more book reviews
Really enjoyed it-- I think the author is extremely gifted.
reviewed Charming Billy on
I was very disappointed in this book. I read it because it won a National Book Award, expecting something more. She explored the surrounding characters fairly thoroughly, but at the end of the book I was left wanting for any real understanding of the character of Billy. I also found the Irish cliches a bit overdone. It was a pretty depressing book with a rather fatalistic end, but I also found the writing style poor. She is the undisputed queen of run-on sentences and it makes the reading muddled in many places. In the latter half of the book I actually laughed out loud because she had an entire paragraph spanning two pages that was literally one sentence. No kidding, a single sentence that was over 165 words long (Out of sheer incredulity I had to count) How that type of writing qualifies for winning an award is beyond me.
suzeeq avatar reviewed Charming Billy on + 18 more book reviews
Super story teller and a fast read.
reviewed Charming Billy on + 47 more book reviews
"An astoundingly beautiful novel about the persistence of love, the perseverance of grief, and all-but-unbearable loneliness, as well as faith, loyalty and redemption."
reviewed Charming Billy on + 216 more book reviews
From Library Journal
When Billy, the glue of a tight Irish community in New York, dies as a result of lifelong alcohol abuse, mourners gather around roast beef and green bean amandine to tell tales and ruminate on his struggle for happiness after he lost his first love, Eva. With carefully drawn character studies and gentle probing, McDermott, who won the National Book Award for this work, masterfully weaves a subtle but tenacious web of relationships to explore the devastation of alcoholism, the loss of innocence, the daily practice of love, and the redeeming unity of family and friendship.
emeraldfire avatar reviewed Charming Billy on
The people who knew and loved Billy Lynch the best have all come to comfort his widow Maeve, and to eulogize a man whom many considered to be one of the last great romantics. From all accounts, the late Billy Lynch was such a wonderful man - a man who was an extraordinarily unique soul. As forty-seven members of his funeral party gather together at a local Bronx bar to reminisce over their memories of the past; each trading their own tales of his legendary humor, immense charm, and deepest, most profound sorrow - Billy Lynch will be remembered most by the people whose lives were touched by his presence.

As the mourners linger on into this extraordinary evening, their voices will eventually blend together to tell Billy's own tragic story. What is finally revealed to all present is a complex portrait of an enigmatic man; a loyal friend, a beloved husband, a functional alcoholic. While Billy's loved ones continue to hold Maeve in the highest esteem and admire her strength, there are those among the mourners who cannot remember Billy without also recalling the source of his unfathomable grief and sadness: "There was that girl." Their various stories weave together to become a gentle homage to all the lives in their close-knit community fractured by grief, shattered by secrets, yet sustained by the simple dream of love.

In a voice that is resonant and full of deep feeling, Alice McDermott tells the tale of Billy Lynch within the complex confines of a tightly knit Irish-American community. Charming Billy is a poignant masterpiece about the unbreakable bonds of desire and memory. Ms. McDermott's striking novel, is an intricate study of the lies that bind and the weight of familial love, of the way good intentions can be as destructive as the truth they were meant to hide.

I must say that I really enjoyed reading this book. In my opinion, this was a poignant and well-written story; one that I found both intriguing and intricately detailed. Having said that, I will admit that I found the book somewhat confusing with regards to some of the relationships between the characters and the frequent shifts back and forth between the past and the present. I would still give this book an A! and am happy to note that I have three or four more books by this author on my bookshelf.
crisislady avatar reviewed Charming Billy on + 15 more book reviews
I was expecting so much more from this book because I attended a lecture by Anna Quindlen where she listed it as one of the books that had a great influence on her. I found it basically pretty boring.
paisleywings avatar reviewed Charming Billy on + 232 more book reviews
I read this some time ago and found it boring. It never caught my interest, so I fell asleep.
reviewed Charming Billy on + 227 more book reviews
I loved this book. The characters are richly drawn, and the descriptions of the times and struggles of Irish immigrants is well done. More importantly, the moral dilemmas and errors (or rights?) are exactingly described. It was enjoyable, well written and thought provoking.
reviewed Charming Billy on + 300 more book reviews
The wake for Billy Lynch, held at a small Bronx bar and attended by many of Billy's family and friends, becomes Billy's tragic story. Their mourning becomes a homage to all the lives in their small community.
reviewed Charming Billy on + 69 more book reviews
A good read.
reviewed Charming Billy on + 36 more book reviews
I felt there needed more character development as well as plot development, but overall it was a charming story.
reviewed Charming Billy on + 255 more book reviews
From Kirkus Reviews
McDermott extends her view of Irish-American life with this gentle portrait of an alcoholic freshly dead from drink, and of the family he leaves behind to reveal and remember. Everyone at the wake agreed that Billy Lynch was a fine man -- when sober. But they also knew something of his pain, born from the long-ago death of his fiancee just before she was to come back to Brooklyn after a trip to Ireland. Only his cousin and best friend Dennis, though, knew the whole story: Eva didn\'t die, but she did marry her Irish love -- a fact he concealed from Billy for 30 years, not knowing that Billy would mourn what might have been for the rest of his life, even after he met and married the gentle, love-struck Maeve. Then, in Ireland in 1975, to take The Pledge after years of hard drinking, Billy learned the truth by chancing to meet Eva as he was on his way to visit her grave -- and promptly took back his Pledge. As he had in times previous, Dennis helped Maeve through the years that followed, answering Billy\'s wee-hours phone calls and bringing him to bed whenever he\'d passed out, even as Dennis\'s own wife sickened of cancer and died. And now Dennis\'s daughter, grown with children of her own, has come home to support him after Billy was found dying in the street -- just as Dennis supported Billy and Maeve, and as his father before him supported countless penniless Irish relations as they made the leap across the Atlantic to a new life. It\'s this daughter who puts the pieces of Billy\'s sad but profoundly loyal existence together, mingling them with her father\'s and her own in a special way that leaves her well prepared for the turn of events to come. A softly resonant and nostalgic tale told so masterfully, so movingly, that it seems to distill a human essence on virtually every page.
mccoffield avatar reviewed Charming Billy on + 76 more book reviews

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reviewed Charming Billy on + 115 more book reviews
Billy's family and friends have gathered at the small Bronx bar to comfort his widow. As they trade tales of his famous humor, charm and sorrow, their voices from Billy's tragic story and pays homage to all the lives in their small community.
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