Canongate signs Kerri Ní Dochartaigh debut after six-way auction

Derry author’s Thin Places combines memoir, history, nature writing and political commentary

Kerri Ní Dochartaigh: “This story is one about crossing borders, of courage and hope; it speaks of things once thought unnameable.”

Kerri Ní Dochartaigh: “This story is one about crossing borders, of courage and hope; it speaks of things once thought unnameable.”

 

Irish nature writer and essayist Kerri ní Dochartaigh has signed a deal with Scottish publisher Canongate to publish her debut book, Thin Places, after a six-way auction. It will be published in spring 2021, according to the Bookseller.

Commissioning editor Jo Dingley said: “Kerri ní Dochartaigh was born in Derry at the height of the Troubles, to a mixed-religion teenage couple. As a result, her childhood was one of trauma and violence – not least when, aged 11, a homemade petrol bomb was thrown through her bedroom window. The ‘thin places’, spaces in nature where it feels as though anything is possible, were what saved Kerri in this period – and continue to do so now.”

Thin Places combines memoir, history, nature writing and political commentary. Canongate said it “explores how nature comforted her and helped her heal; how violence and poverty are never more than a stone’s throw from beauty and hope, and how we are, once again, allowing our thin places to become solid, our borders to become hard and violence to creep back in”.

Ní Dochartaigh won the 2016 Mark Avery Wildlife and Politics Prize, and writes about nature, literature and place for publications such as Caught By The River, New Welsh Review and the London Magazine. She also has a blog.

The writer said: “This story is one about crossing borders, of courage and hope; it speaks of things once thought unnameable. Canongate are a brave, dedicated and deeply inspiring publisher. More than that, though, they are a group of humans who want the right words to make their way into our world; and that is a truly special thing indeed. Jo’s understanding of this story, coupled with her commitment to its delicate telling, made it very clear she is the editor for this book. I am incredibly grateful for the chance to work alongside this team.”

Dingley says: “Kerri is an exceptionally talented and sensitive writer with a unique way of seeing the world – always finding the beauty in it. Hers is a story with many moments of darkness, but it is ultimately about compassion, acceptance and hope. With the recent horrifying and tragic events in Derry, there can be no doubt that we need writers like Kerri more than we ever have.”

Thin Places is the story of a girl who grew up on both sides of the banks of the River Foyle; a body of water that once divided those on either bank of that beautiful city of oaks.

Kerri ní Dochartaigh left Ireland at the very first chance she got, dragging untold darkness around with her, following the pull of an invisible migratory path; one that finally called her back ‘home’ to the land she grew up on.

This book charts a journey through places that are not found on any map, liminal spaces, neither here nor there, then or now; held in the gaps in between. We are called back to places that, in times of difficulty, hold the power to give us what we need to get through.

“There are themes to our lives – leitmotifs that run through the river of our selves, sometimes on the surface like leaves that have landed gently, or like apples ripped from branches in autumnal storms. Other times they are carried in the current; ferried from high places to those below; deposited in the largest body of water to be found. Sometimes, though, the through-line of our existence lives so deep in us that we cannot even sense it, let alone locate it.

“The tropes that could hold power to shine light on our lives can sometimes live in such a sunken place that they reach the river’s bed. They get stuck at the very deepest part, and the river flows on and on, on its course; making for the sea. Sometimes we have to make our way back to the very beginning; to our source, to try to dig for what it is we must try to unravel; the muddy, unfathomable images that both haunt and define us; those things that, if really unpacked, could hold the power to heal us.”

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