O’Connor (Becoming Belle) expands on her Granta award-winning short story, “Gooseen” in this poignant, comprehensive portrait of Nora Barnacle as a young woman, mother, and literary inspiration for the Molly Bloom character in Ulysses. Nora and James Joyce’s inseparable attachment begins in Dublin on June 16, 1904 (forever remembered as Bloomsday for the setting of Joyce’s masterpiece) and stretches to 1951. Narrated in Nora’s robust voice and carried by details saturated in filth, such as a walk along the Liffey river that “smells like a pisspot spilling its muck into the sea,” the narrative traces Nora and Joyce’s nomadic life from Ireland to Trieste, Zurich, London, Rome, and Paris, and details their constant money worries, health concerns, struggles with two difficult children, and emotional despair. Despite their personal and professional achievements, and a circle of friends that includes Sylvia Beach, the Guggenheim sisters, Samuel Beckett, Ezra Pound, and other literati, the couple suffers loneliness and “mutual melancholy.” An inscription on a bracelet that Joyce gives Nora underscores their commitment to one another: “love is unhappy when love is away.” O’Connor’s admirable accomplishment adds to the abundant Joyceana with a moving examination of an unforgettable family. (Jan.)
I was awarded a COVID-19 Crisis Response Award for Literature, from the Arts Council of Ireland, to write and compile birdie, a collection of 16 historical and out-of-time flash and micro fictions.
You can buy a digital copy of birdiehere at Draft2Digital or a kindle edition here. It costs €5.99 / US$5.99 / £4.99.
Arlen House has produced a limited, hard-copy edition of birdie which can be bought from Kennys, Galway (Kennys now has signed copies!); Charlie Byrne’s Bookshop Galway; Hodges Figgis; The Reading Room in Leitrim; Forever Amber in Meath; Waterstones Cork; Dubrays; and O’Mahonys. Your local shop will order.
Love is the central force in birdie, a collection of sixteen historical and out-of-time flash fictions that sing with the voices of women loving and losing and learning. The characters here find strength, despite the sorrows of death and deceit: a ghost-child returns to Massachusetts to comfort her grieving mother; the daughter of a Spanish orange tycoon regrets her mother’s terrible choices; an English maid longs for, but can’t be with, her mistress’s son.
Birdie contains O’Connor’s signature ekphrastic work, drawing on artists as diverse as Matisse, da Vinci, and American painter Edwin Romanzo Elmer. The natural world looms large too: sheep and foxes roam these pages, while seawater washes through them.
Described by the Toronto Star as a writer of ‘magical imagination’ and by the Washington Post as ‘soaring’, O’Connor’s collection of historical flash will delight her readers, old and new.
My husband Finbar and I have set up a Little Free Library in the garden opposite our house in Ballinasloe (just in front of my writing cabin), so that during these lockdown days, friends and neighbours can have new books to read.
If you visit, please observe correct social distancing and use the hand sanitiser provided. Also help yourself to a free bookmark, made by my 10 yo daughter Juno and me.
If you can swap a book, please do, but there’s no requirement to do that. We have a lot of books and we’re happy to give them away.
Nuala has a new essay about perimenopause (and hope!) in the new non-fiction journal from Bay Path University, Multiplicity Magazine. In ‘The Hope Cure – Negotiations with the Peri-fog’, she touches on everything from ee cummings to ‘The Shawshank Redemption’. You can read the essay here.