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Becoming Belle

Publication Day

Nuala’s fourth novel Becoming Belle is published in the USA and Canada to 7th August 2018.

Listen to an extract from the Audio version on Soundcloud.

Becoming Belle is available to buy online; and available to pre-order outside the US and Canada.


Becoming Belle Events August-October 2018

• Victorian Afternoon Tea, 1 Pery Square, Limerick, 19th Aug
• Dublin launch, The Gutter Book Shop, 5th September, 6.30pm
• Galway launch, Ballinasloe Library, 11th September, 6pm
• Shorelines Arts Festival, Portumna 15th September, 7pm. Venue TBC.
• Clifden Arts Week – 18th September with Alan McMonagle
• Hodges Figgis 200 year anniv. Reading series – Sep. – date TBC
• Red Line Festival, October – Victorian Mavericks with Bernie McGill & Caroline Busher, 7.30pm, Pearse Museum, Dublin

The latest issue of Ballinasloe Life has an article about Nuala’s recent Short Story Prize win.

Ballinasloe Life

2018 Short Fiction Prize

Nuala has won the 2018 Short Fiction Prize with a story about Nora Barnacle, wife and muse to James Joyce.

Judge Ríona Judge McCormack said the follow of Nuala’s winning story ‘Gooseen’:

“The winning entry, ‘Gooseen’, stood out for its freshness, its stunning use of language, and its warm, beating humanity. Joycean Dublin as a setting can be a risky endeavour, the path having been so well-travelled already, but this story rises easily above such comparisons to bring us something new and satisfyingly urgent. There is a finely-balanced weighting here between the raunchy, delicious beginnings of a love affair and the more poignant aspects of Nora’s inner life. Giving voice to someone known only through the letters and writings of another is an audacious undertaking, but one ‘Gooseen’ achieves with both a dancing lyricism and a deftly-executed sureness of touch”.

April Events


ONE CITY ONE BOOK, DUBLIN

Monday 23rd, Cabra Library, 6.30pm: The Long Gaze Back One City One Book event with Eimear Ryan, Susan Stairs and Sinéad Gleeson.

CÚIRT FESTIVAL, GALWAY

Tuesday 24th, Town Hall Theatre, Galway. Reading my flash ‘Pearl’ at the launch of ROPES.

Wednesday 25th, Charlie Byrne’s Bookshop. Launching three new Salmon poetry collections by the fabulous trio that are Moya Roddy, Paul Kingsnorth and Anne Casey.

Thursday 26th, Bite Club, Galway. Reading from my story ‘The Boy from Petropólis’ at the launch of the brand new Stinging Fly anthology.

Praise for Becoming Belle

Becoming Belle

“O’Connor wrote about Emily Dickinson in Miss Emily (2015); here she vividly reimagines the life of another nontraditional historical heroine. Though certainly less well-known than the poet, Isobel Bilton nevertheless leaves an indelible mark on the Victorian-Edwardian world she inhabited. … Grounded in real-life characters and events, this passionate tale of ambition and love has cross-genre appeal for fans of historical fiction and romance.”

Margaret Flanagan, Booklist Online

“Nuala O’Connor has the thrilling ability to step back nimbly and enter the deep dance of time?this is a hidden history laid luminously before us of an exultant Anglo-Irish woman navigating the dark shoals and the bright fields of a life.”

Sebastian Barry, award-winning author of The Secret Scripture and Days Without End

Becoming Belle is a glorious novel in which Belle Bilton and 19th century London are brought roaring to life with exquisite period detail. In her portrayal of Belle, Nuala O’Connor delivers a seductive study of a complex and fascinating woman, who deserves the stage provided for her in this wonderful book.”

Hazel Gaynor, New York Times bestselling author of A Memory of Violets

“O’Connor has a genius for finding the universal and unifying life essence of seemingly diverse women as they nurture their deepest sensibilities and draw upon their enduring strength. … O’Connor’s rendering of a now little-known nineteenth-century music hall dancer in Becoming Belle is thrillingly dramatic and achingly moving and profoundly resonant into this present era.”

Robert Olen Butler, author of A Good Scent from a Strange Mountain

“Nuala O’Connor is a gifted writer who, with incandescent characters and mellifluous prose, captivates the reader with the same command as magnificent theatre. Becoming Belle is so mesmerizing you will be distraught when it ends and you remember that she lives no more. O’Connor has resurrected a fiery, inexorable woman who rewrites the script on a stage supposedly ruled by men. Sensual, witty, daring, and unapologetically forward, Belle Bilton and her cohorts will dance on in your mind long after the curtains fall.”

Lisa Carey, author of The Stolen Child

“A thoroughly engrossing and entertaining read. O’Connor’s meticulous attention to period detail and scrutiny of the upper classes and their shallow lives [is] reminiscent of Edith Wharton at her very best. It also makes us question whether women have ever really escaped from the censorious judgement of Victorian times.”

Liz Nugent, author of Unraveling Oliver

“Masterful storytelling! I was putty in Nuala O’Connor’s hands. She made the unsinkable Belle Bilton and her down-to-earth sister Flo real to me, and brought 1880’s London to my living room. Encore! Encore!”

Lynn Cullen, bestselling author of Mrs. Poe

Becoming Belle is luscious, addictive and as satisfyingly wise as it is huge of heart. Nuala O’Connor has gone in deep to imagine the life of a fascinating woman, and from the dance floor to the townhouse to the bedroom, she renders Belle Bilton’s passion, determination and vulnerability bracingly real. A treat as well as a tribute; utterly absorbing”

Belinda McKeon, author of Tender

“O’Connor offers a stunning historical reimagining. Her eye for details, including Victorian dress, food, and technology, enhance her mastery of character and inner dialog.”

Library Journal Starred Review

Becoming Belle

Becoming Belle is a witty and inherently feminist novel about passion and marriage, based on a true story of an unstoppable woman ahead of her time in Victorian London.
In 1887, Isabel Bilton is the eldest of three daughters of a middle-class military family, growing up in a small garrison town. By 1891 she is the Countess of Clancarty, dubbed “the peasant countess” by the press, and a member of the Irish aristocracy. Becoming Belle is the story of the four years in between, of Belle’s rapid ascent and the people that tried to tear her down.
With only her talent, charm, and determination, Isabel moves to London alone at age nineteen, changes her name to Belle, and takes the city by storm, facing unthinkable hardships as she rises to fame. A true bohemian and the star of a dancing double act she performs with her sister, she reigns over The Empire Theatre and The Corinthian Club, where only select society entertains. It is there she falls passionately in love with William, Viscount Dunlo, a young aristocrat. For Belle, her marriage to William is a dream come true, but his ruthless father makes clear he’ll stop at nothing to keep her in her place.
Re-imagined by a novelist at the height of her powers, Belle is an unforgettable woman. Set against an absorbing portrait of Victorian London, hers is a timeless rags-to-riches story a la Becky Sharpe.
Becoming Belle will be published in August 2018, and is available to pre-order now.