Actress by Anne Enright: a writer performing at the peak of her powers

Book review: Actress does what novels so rarely do: it shows us both sides of everything, the performance and the reality

Anne Enright: Actress shows us both sides of everything, the performance and the reality, up close and distant, the division between the person we know and the person we see. Photograph: Dara Mac Dónaill/The Irish Times

Anne Enright: Actress shows us both sides of everything, the performance and the reality, up close and distant, the division between the person we know and the person we see. Photograph: Dara Mac Dónaill/The Irish Times

If you’re reaching for a stage metaphor to describe Anne Enright’s new novel, I suggest something involving screens, or trapdoors, or an illusionist’s mirrored boxes. It’s the only explanation for how Actress contains much more than seems possible for a 264-page novel.

The setting is family, the subject fame, and the two go at it like knives from the start. Our narrator Norah FitzMaurice is working out the story of her mother, Irish actress Katherine O’Dell, and telling it to us as she goes. Who, the story asks, pays the price of celebrity?

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