In praise of Anne Enright, by Nuala Ní Chonchúir
Celebrating Irish women writers: ‘She writes a kind of Irishness that is close to the bone: honest, hilarious, melancholic and a little bit painful to read. She is particularly good on women’s lives and thought processes’
Anne Enright rings home to give her husband the news that she had just been awarded the Davy Byrnes Irish Writing Award 2004. Photograph: Bryan O’Brien
Anne Enright is one of the writers who made me want to write well. I read her short story collection The Portable Virgin early on as a writer and thought, “I’m allowed write about Irish women and be wicked, funny and literary all at the same time? Great!”
She writes a kind of Irishness that is close to the bone: honest, hilarious, melancholic and a little bit painful to read. She is particularly good on women’s lives and thought processes. I love her non-fiction book on childbirth and motherhood Making Babies – it offers a fresh, forthright perspective on the confusing business of pregnancy and children. Equally, I enjoyed The Pleasure of Eliza Lynch, Enright’s historical novel based on a real Irish woman who went to Paraguay as the lover of a dictator. It’s bawdy, sensuous, full of gorgeous detail, and told in Enright’s stylised, audacious prose.
Anne Enright is the perfect writer for our times: she is opinionated, articulate, thoughtful, humorous, questioning, lyrical, literary, stylish and honest. She will do us proud as our inaugural Laureate for Fiction.
Other favourites: Edna O’Brien and Elizabeth Bowen
“You have to write through a great sense of loss, or impending loss, towards the end of a book, but there is also a gathering inevitability that makes ending it inescapable. I am never happy with a finished book, but I know that it is finished more or less…When you have changed all the semi-colons to dashes and back again, the thing is done. But it is never right."
Under her birth name, Nuala O’Connor, Nuala Ní Chonchúir’s third novel, Miss Emily, about Emily Dickinson and her Irish maid, appears this summer from Penguin USA, Penguin Canada and Sandstone Press, UK.