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General literature studies

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Published in The Irish Times, Saturday August 19th, 2017.


In 1992, I remember reading Mary O’Donnell’s debut novel, The Light Makers, with a mixture of awe and excitement: awe that a novel could be this well-written, excitement at what I perceived to be the advent of a significant new voice in Irish fiction. Two other novels followed in the 1990s – Virgin and the Boy (1996) and The Elysium Testament (1999) – that failed to capture the public imagination in the same way. They are both good novels, but they are not nearly as compelling as The Light Makers. We had to wait 15 more years for O’Donnell’s early promise to be confirmed with Where They Lie (2014), a subtle treatment of a Protestant family’s grief in the wake of the disappearance of the bodies of two of their members, victims of sectarian violence.