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by Andrew O'Hagan

Maria Tambini is a 13-year-old girl with an amazing singing voice, growing up above her Italian-immigrant mother's chip shop on the Scottish island of Bute, living at the centre of her family's dream of fame. When Maria wins a national TV talent show she is taken to London and becomes an instant star of what used to be called the London Palladium, yet all the while 'the girl with the giant voice' is losing herself in fame and begins a private war against her own body. Maria becomes a living exhibit in the modern drama of celebrity: is it possible that she can be saved by love? Or is she to be consumed by an obsessive culture, by family lies and her number one fan? Featuring a wonderful cast of characters who encompass a whole society, its history and its spirit, Personality is a profoundly affecting and beautiful novel by one of the finest writers of prose today.
Download Personality epub
ISBN: 0571219004
ISBN13: 978-0571219001
Category: Literature
Subcategory: Contemporary
Author: Andrew O'Hagan
Language: English
Publisher: Faber & Faber; Export e. edition (April 7, 2003)
Pages: 336 pages
ePUB size: 1782 kb
FB2 size: 1156 kb
Rating: 4.5
Votes: 397
Other Formats: lrf mobi lrf mbr

Besides originally coming from near Bute, a fascinating script and memories of the language used, His prose is so enjoyable
There is a "note to the reader" prefacing this book which proclaims it it not based on any one person ,a disclaimer that will ring hollow in the ears of British readers above a certain age who will clearly see the similarities between its main protagonist Maria Tambini ,and the late Lena Zavaroni ,whose tragic career so closely prefigures that of Maria -a child star who died of anorexia nervoso at a tragically early age .

It opens in the Jubilee year of 1977 on the Isle of Bute in Scotland .Maria ,a small child of 13 possesses a powerful singing voice ,and she is discovered by a scout for the TV programme Opportunity Knocks (an actual show ,presented by Hughie Green ,who also appears in the novel ,under his own name ).She is taken to London ,taken on by am ambitious agent ,Marion ,and swiftly enrolled at the prestigious Italia Conti stage school(also a real institution ).She wins Opporunity Knocks numerous times and is eventually retired from the show on the ground she is unbeatable .A hit single follows ,along with a round of TV appearances and sea side variety shows ,as well as sell out shows at the London Palladium ,trips to Vegas and a White House performance .Sadly also featuring are bouts os self starvation ,a heavy lazative ingestion and prolonged bouts of hospitalization .

This is pure Zavaroni -even the interview featured in the book ,whwre she appeared on the Wogan chat show is lifted almost verbatim from the actual programme .It is impossible at least for British readers to escape the " roman a clef "elements of the novel .This is not to downplay its merits as imaginative fiction -merely to point out its reliance on actual people .There are plenty of real people namechecked in the book ,from the unctuous Hughie Green whose oleaginous personality is captured faithfully ,to doyens of British comedy such as Les Dawson .Diana ,Princess of Wales -herself a victim of eating disorders -appears as does Nancy Reagan ,saying it is impossible to be too thin .

Aside from the passages devoted to Maria's career the emotional epicentre of the book lies back on Bute with the family from whom Maria sprang and the milieu of the island and the Italian community in particular is evocatively captured .

The narrative proceeds through a variety of voices particularly various family members ,interviews and letters from Maria's childhood friend Kalpana and her stalker Kevin .Especially vivid are the voices of her neurotic mother ,Rosa ,and her uncle Alfredo ,a womanising barber ,not to mention her grandmother Lucia ,although the cumulative impact of so many narrative voices is a detriment and even confusing at times .

The book works as an account of one person's rise to fame and the world in which it takes place ,a world which is changing and becoming more ruthless. If the narrative now and again bogs down -which it does -there are ample compensations namely in the strongly drawn characters like the Italian clan and Maria's protector ,Michael ,and the pathetic celebrity stalker Kevin .

Its a rich and rewarding book full of incidental detail and some fine minor figures ,like Kalpanna's father ,Dr Jaggadanam .

Enjoy it for its insight into the corrosive impact of too early fame and as a study in deracination -the plight of the person who takes flight from a small place to a larger stage only to discover they are at home in neither one .

The ending is upbeat and cautiously optimistic -would that its inspiration were around to read it .
There's a lot to admire in this beguiling and heartfelt story. O'Hagan deftly whisks us away to the picturesque island of Bute and the beautiful sounding town of Rothesay. Growing up in Australia, and being familiar with British television or "telly" as the British like to call it, there was much in this novel that was familiar to me and so much of it bought back memories: the Basil Brush Show, sausage rolls, LWT, and Opportunity Knocks etc. O'Hagan really brings back to life the 70's TV variety shows and the people who starred on them. And there's no doubt that his research of the period is absolutely meticulous.
Personality is so much more than an account of one young girl's rise to fame and fortune as a "Cilla Black" style variety singer. The Italian immigrant experience - which I must confess I knew nothing about - the terrible disease of bulimia and anorexia nervosa, the meaning of family ties, and the culture of celebrity in Britain are all issues that O'Hagan tackles in this work with differing success. The many multiple story lines and secondary character confessions do, at times, clutter and stifle the central chronicle of Maria's rise to stardom and her battle with eating disorders. However, the secondary characters are still beautifully developed: Rosa, Maria's mother, spends her days running the family "fish and chip" ship in Rothesay, supportive of her daughter, but also regretful of what "might have been"; Lucia, the Italian immigrant grandmother who holds terrible family secrets from World War 2; Mrs. Gaskell the work obsessed entertainment agent who drives Maria to the brink of no return, and Michael, Maria's childhood friend who falls in love with Maria and comes to her rescue later in the novel. There are also many other characters equally rich in detail.
O'Hagan is also a wonderfully descriptive writer and he experiments with different styles throughout the novel - he uses newspaper reports, the epistolary form, and various chapter-like monologues to reflect the characters' inner-most thoughts, and to help tell us the story of Maria, her struggles, and her journey to stardom. This works well in some sections and not in others, and sometimes the novel becomes cluttered with too many subplots. There's also a rather unnecessary twist involving a stalker in part three, which seems hurried and tacked on, and at times, particularly in part three, the story meanders too far from the central plot. But this novel is still worth reading and the fact that the author can authentically transport you to Great Britain in the 1970's and present an era in such vivid detail shows tremendous talent and literary creativity. Anyone who grew up watching 70's British variety shows and has an appreciation for them will just love this book!
Fast Lovebird
the story of maria tambini, the teenage pop star who rises to fame and then nearly dies of anorexia nervosa, is the main plot device, yet it is not the high point. the strength of the book is the depiction of maria's family, italian immigrants in scotland whose lives were traumatized by world war II, when italians in scotland were attacked for their link to the nazis. the family's fish and chip shop is trashed and maria's grandmother, lucia, is taken to a refugee camp. she is reunited with her daughter, sofia, and tries to escape on a ship, but the ship is bombed and she loses her daughter. the loss cripples her for the rest of her life and o'hagan makes the point in a fascinating way, through a suitcase with items from sofia's life that is returned to lucia 30 years later. o'hagan actually lists the items at the end of the chapter on the saga, which is a beautifully sad moment, one of a few in this fantastic book that doesn't let the main story steal the show. it's amazing how all the reviews you read focus only on maria's saga. how can they have missed the best parts of the book?
In a run-down resort town on a Scottish island, a family pins its hopes on the youngest daughter, Maria, who is working on her singing and her looks. As an early teen, she is whisked off to London, where she wins a televised talent contest. Three years later, she is a famous pop singer. By twenty, she is anorexic, looney, and is being stalked.
The characters in Personality are astonishingly complex & well described, the plot is not particularly compelling. Still a fine effort by Mr. O'Hagan, and well recommended!