Fiction – paperback; Faber and Faber; 327 pages; 2003.
Maria Tambini, the daughter of Italian immigrants on the tiny Scottish island of Bute, is destined to be a star. She has an amazing voice that captivates anyone who hears it. At the age of 13, she is discovered by a national TV show, and from there, there is no looking back. But the child star, who hungers for fame and glory, also starves herself and before too long, everything is not as it seems . . .
Overall, I found Personality to be a disappointing story. It never really “grabbed” me and I lost interest before I’d even got a 1/4 way through it.
The critics, however, seem to have loved it.
I can understand that they would appreciate O’Hagan’s often lush and descriptive language and his ability to capture time and place. His characterisation is also faultless. But the story was let down by O’Hagan trying to be too clever and experimental in places. The chapters jump all over the place, they go backwards and forwards in time, and are told from a diverse range of viewpoints. Nothing seems to hold it together – apart from the story of Maria’s climb to the top and her subsequent freefall to the bottom. But even that isn’t enough to keep the reader wanting more.
I think the book is weakened by not hearing from Maria; her story is told by players in her life and we never really get to know what is going on in her head.
And the best part of the story, where one fan, Michael, becomes her lover while another becomes her stalker, comes too late in the book (about 2/3 of the way through). A shame really, because I really enjoyed this part of Personality.
All in all, I thought the story was too fragmented and too multi-layered, and, because of that, it lacked coherence, drive and interest – for this fussy reader anyway.