The July Nonfiction Book Group will be meeting via Zoom
Monday, July 26th • 6:30 PM ET / 11:30 PM IST via Zoom
Session open to all, no registration required.
‘When we first met, I was a child, and she had been dead for centuries.
I am eleven, a dark-haired child given to staring out window … Her voice makes it 1773, a fine day in May, and puts English soldiers crouching in ambush; I add ditch-water to drench their knees. Their muskets point towards a young man who is falling from his saddle in slow, slow motion. A woman hurries in and kneels over him, her voice rising in an antique formula of breath and syllable the teacher calls a caoineadh, a keen to lament the dead.’
A true original, this stunning prose debut by Doireann Ní Ghríofa weaves two stories together. In the 1700s, an Irish noblewoman, on discovering her husband has been murdered, drinks handfuls of his blood and composes an extraordinary poem that reaches across the centuries to another poet. In the present day, a young mother narrowly avoids tragedy in her own life. On encountering the poem, she becomes obsessed with finding out the rest of the story.
Doireann Ní Ghríofa has sculpted a fluid hybrid of essay and autofiction to explore the ways in which a life can be changed in response to the discovery of another’s – in this case, Eibhlín Dubh Ní Chonaill’s Caoineadh Airt Uí Laoghaire, famously referred to by Peter Levi as ‘the greatest poem written in either Ireland or Britain during the eighteenth century.’
A devastating and timeless tale about finding your voice by freeing another’s.
‘ONE OF THE BEST BOOKS OF THIS DREADFUL YEAR’
‘Billed as a genre-busting blend of ‘autofiction, essay, scholarship, sleuthing and literary translation’, the book is an extraordinary feat of ventriloquism delivered in a lush, lyrical prose that dazzles readers from the get-go …’
‘The book’s triumph rests on several factors: the translation project is admirable; the authorial voice is empathetic; the treatment of issues that may not reflect well on teh author are delivered with honesty; and, above all, the language is sumptuous, almost symphonic, in its intensity … When you write like this there is almost nothing a writer cannot get away with.’
– The Sunday Times
‘A book like this comes along once every few years and obliterates every clear definition of genre and form. I mean no exaggeration here: A Ghost in the Throat is astounding and utterly fresh.’
‘This is no tepid and stuffy reimagining of an 18th-century life. It is borne of great personal scholarship, without ever seeming polemical. This book has a long life ahead of it, burning bright and inspiring many.’
– The Irish Independent
‘With luminous language and candid details, this book shimmers with honesty and scholarship. A truly original read.’
– The Sunday Independent
‘a rich and compelling “oblique kind of holding”, and a work of deep love.’
– Totally Dublin
‘an extraordinary piece of work.’
– RTÉ Culture
‘A love story, a poem, a reflection, an enchantment, a shimmering, beautiful and moving book about the nurturing sustenance of reading and rereading, how words can make time disappear.’
– JOSEPH O’CONNOR
‘A strange, beautiful, and entirely unique book by a wildly talented and exciting writer.’
– MARK O’CONNELL
‘brilliant and heartfelt … brought me joy’
– LAUREN ELKIN
‘A wholly original hybrid of essay and auto-fiction’
– DAVID NICHOLS
‘An extraordinary book that braids the past and present, self and other into a new kind of poetry. Doireann Ní Gríofa writes with a magical kind of knowledge of herself and the world, and of the remembered and imagined, Eibhlín Dubh. This is a book about life, its wonder and its pain, written with hunger and grace, every line a charm.’
– EMILIE PINE
‘I was utterly absorbed by this beautifully written book. In her search for the 18th century poet Eibhlin Dubh, the author turns up mysteries about the past and present, about bees and ghosts, about child bearing, and the many layers of her own psyche. It cannot be synopsised. Except to say that this is the real thing; a fascinating story bristling with poetic power that must be read.’
– MICHAEL HARDING
‘This book is an absolute marvel. Doireann Ní Ghríofa does so much here with the body, poetry, womanhood, the way that literature lives. Everything.’
– SEÁN HEWITT
About the Author
Doireann Ní Ghríofa is a poet and essayist. Her most recent book is the bestseller A Ghost in the Throat, which finds the eighteenth-century poet Eibhlín Dubh Ní Chonaill haunting the life of a contemporary young mother, prompting her to turn detective. Doireann is also author of six critically-acclaimed books of poetry, each a deepening exploration of birth, death, desire, and domesticity.
Awards for her writing include a Lannan Literary Fellowship (USA), the Ostana Prize (Italy), a Seamus Heaney Fellowship (Queen’s University), the Hartnett Poetry Award, and the Rooney Prize for Irish Literature, among others.
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