Friday, 3 July 2015


My sister Nessa would have been 50 today; no doubt there would have been a party. She was an artist, set designer, historian, writer and mother, and she loved a party.

The image above shows her local history book about our hometown, Palmerstown in County Dublin. It was published posthumously in 2003, two years after Nessa's death, and we had a launch in Lucan Library. My parents, with the help of artist, historian and conservationist extraordinaire Peter Pearson, made sure the book made it to print because Nessa ran out of time. It is a well-researched, beautifully written book.

If you would like to buy a copy - €10 including P&P - send me your request for number of copies, plus name and address, to nuala AT nualanichonchuir DOT com. Anywhere in the world!


While I'm at it, another sister, Aoife O'Connor, edited the magnificent Small Lives, which can be purchased here.

Three writers (so far!) in one family. What can I say? We have bookish parents :)

Thursday, 2 July 2015


I came to the novel Mayumi and the Sea of Happiness via Twitter, which happens more and more these days. I commented on the lovely cover and an on-the-ball PR person offered me a copy to read. I get sent a lot of books, many of them not that interesting, but the premise for this one captivated me: 41 year old librarian has an illicit affair with a 17 year old boy on an island that is probably Martha's Vineyard.

Firstly, I used to work in a library and I adore them; secondly I'm always fascinated by forbidden love; thirdly my friend lives on the Vineyard, on and off, and I'm intrigued by the place. And fourthly, I love both Nabokov's Lolita and Zoë Heller's Notes on a Scandal, so I was interested to see how author Jennifer Tseng would handle the younger lover scenario in this, her début novel.

Well, Tseng does the cross-generational relationship absolutely beautifully. Mayumi and the Sea of Happiness is an accomplished novel of obsession, aloneness, fulfilment and loss; it is also about motherhood, friendship and generosity. And best of all, it is screamingly funny a lot of the time.

Tseng, who has published two award winning poetry collections and is a librarian on the Vineyard, was raised in California by a Chinese immigrant engineer father and a first generation German American microbiologist mother. Her second novel Woo will be based on her father's life. Her début clearly draws in part from her own life and Mayumi, though a literary creation, has all the contrariness of any flesh and blood, perimenopusal woman who is aching with loneliness.

Tseng has managed, like Nabokov, to make a sympathetic, hilarious narrator of Mayumi because her voice is at once self-deprecating, intelligent and contradictory. There is a gorgeous honesty to her and you can't help but love her and follow her into the inexplicable obsession with the unnamed young man. His beauty is what draws her to him initially, and the sex scenes are delicately done, but she soon has a kind of maternal interest in his well-being and is fascinated with every aspect of his - and his mother Violet's - life.

Mayumi is a woman 'distracted by ideas', as the young man points out. She is also slightly unhinged by lust. The balance for her is keeping the affair secret while staying sane living with a neglectful, gnome-carving husband and being the best mother to her daughter Maria. The mother-daughter relationship is delightful and utterly believable - their mutual love sings from the pages.

All of this is woven through with literary references galore - Melville, Shakespeare, Nabokov; as well as lush descriptions of the food the lovers share in their secret woodland cottage: orange infused chocolate, bundt cake, pork ramen (Mayumi is part Japanese). The life of the library and the island both loom large and add richness and depth to Mayumi's comings and goings. Water, sand, woods, snow, heat, cold - everything is sensually and wonderfully described.

If I have niggles they are few, this was a book I would sneak away to read more of - always an excellent sign. The book did feel overly long to me - I would have welcomed more scenes between the lovers and less ruminating from Mayumi. It's a small gripe - the novel is stunning and the dénouement perfect. If you like your narrators wordy, nerdy, funny and lovable, and your sex scenes uncompromising, this is the book for you. You can buy it here.

Wednesday, 1 July 2015


The literary agency I am with, Fletcher & Co. in NY, have blogged about Miss Emily and its first American review, which was in Booklist (librarians - yay!). It's here.

Meanwhile I am writing essays, articles and listicles for promo purposes, organising my Dublin launch (28th August in The Gutter), and doing interviews.  It's all go!

The Irish Echo in NY features the details of my US book tour today, which is cool.

Monday, 29 June 2015


This just in from SiarScéal:

Hanna Greally Literary Awards 2015 including the Ger Hanily Memorial Cup

Theme: Centenary in Reflection
Submissions of poetry, prose, short stories on the theme are invited, subject to rules of entry - see below.

Prizes: The Overall Prize Winner will receive a cash prize of €200 Runners-Up prizes will also be awarded in categories that include International Poetry, International Prose/Short Stories, National Poetry, National Prose/Short-Story, Local Winner in both Poetry and Prose/Short Stories categories, prizes for Highly Commended and National Schools.
The Ger Hanily Memorial Cup will also be awarded from the entries submitted.

Competition Rules of Entry:
·         All entries submitted must be the author’s own unpublished work
·         Entries are limited to three entries (poems, short-story or prose) per person
·         Entries submitted must be typed and titled
·         Entrant’s name and address contact number, details, must be on a separate page to the written submission
·         Entries will not be returned and the judges’ decision is final
·         Festival organisers and guests are not eligible for entry
·         Entry into the competition implies acceptance of the competition rules and guidelines.

Competition Entry Fee: €5 per entry; €10 for three entries.
Please make cheques, postal orders, etc. payable to SiarScéal Festival Group. Include with your entry submission, which can be posted to SiarScéal Festival, c/o Richie Farrell, County Librarian, Roscommon County Council Library Services, Abbey Street, Roscommon.
Payments by credit/debit card can be made to the PayPal account of
You can also enter online. Please see our website for more information -

Closing Date: All entries, posted and online, must be received before 5pm on Friday 23rd October 2015.

Wednesday, 24 June 2015


The cottage by the sea below Knocknarea
I spent an enjoyable day last Saturday in the company of the Sandy Field Writers in Sligo, talking to them about short fiction. They are a dynamic group of nine and I got a warm welcome from them - and homemade coffee cake to boot. We yapped, discussed and laughed all day.

View from the dune at the cottage
One of the group has a tiny cottage below Knocknarea, right in the dunes, and she let us stay there for the night. It was magical - my mister and the baby were with me and we lit a fire, listened to music and generally enjoyed a night away from it all.

In the morning, after a soaked-through beachcomb, we had a Father's Day brunch in Shells Café in Strandhill (one of my favourite cafés in Ireland) and went to a market in the hangar at the airport.

Morning view from the kitchen
Beachcombing with Junior
Shells, Strandhill - a fab shop and café
Dippy eggs for brunch at Shells
'Quiet people have the loudest minds' plaque bought from Sarah J Jewellery at the airport market
The short story I am currently writing features Knock in Co. Mayo, so we veered there on the way home to soak up the rosary-and-BVM delights.

A festive mini Jesus - I bought him for my dashboard.
Mass underway in the apparition chapel
Knock excels at classy souvenirs
Juno - aged 6 - did not know what rock was. Score! (Or is she deprived...?)

Tuesday, 23 June 2015


Canadian friends - you can win a copy of my new novel, Miss Emily, out July 14th, from Penguin Canada, on Goodreads. There are 14 copies to win - spread the word with your pals in Canada! Click here.

And while I'm at it, here's the North American cover:

And my box of books arrived from Penguin Canada today too. Sweet :)

It has a step-back in pink (inside cover 'insert' with blurbs). So cute!

Monday, 22 June 2015


I can’t apply for this as I’ll be just back from the USA (my book tour!) but, wow, I so wish I could do this workshop. Here's the lowdown from Poetry Ireland and Kilkenny ArtsFestival:

When: Tuesday 11 August, 10.00am
Where: Heritage Council Garden, Kilkenny
Tickets: Free, by application

Polish your pantoums and hone your haiku in this workshop with the former US Poet Laureate.
In this workshop for poets, Robert Pinsky hopes to find examples of the relation between sound and imagination, discovery and purpose — some of the quick, intuitive processes of poetry.

Participation is by application. Anyone wishing to take part in the workshop should submit up to 4 poems for consideration together with a brief note outlining previous publication details (if any) to The deadline for applications is Wednesday 8 July, 5pm. Successful applicants will be contacted by 13 July. Places are strictly limited.