Eggshells by Caitriona Lally, described by Declan Kiberd as “a fairy tale of contemporary Dublin, edgy and eloquent, a remarkable debut”, is the new Irish Times Book Club choice.
Over the next four weeks, we will publish a series of articles by the author, fellow writers including Anthony Glavin, Declan Kiberd, Rosita Sweetman, critics and academics, which will explore the work, culminating in a podcast with the author discussing her work.
This witty, unusual debut novel is the story of Vivian, another of contemporary Irish fiction’s memorably eccentric outsiders, and her detailed daily explorations of Dublin. As such it is also a portrait of the Irish capital with an obvious debt to James Joyce’s Ulysses.
Vivian doesn’t feel like she fits in – never has. She lives alone in a house in north Dublin that her great-aunt left to her. She believes that she is a changeling, left by fairies on Earth, replacing her parents’ healthy human child. Now, as an adult, she’s trying to get back to the “other world”, where she feels she can finally belong. The thing is, Vivian is having some difficulties going back, so she’s forced to go about her Earth life in the meantime.
Vivian’s everyday routine, meticulously mapped out on parchment paper, takes her all over Dublin in her effort to get “home”. She encounters nosy neighbours, pernickety social workers and her condescending older sister – who is also named Vivian. From making lists in her journal to posting “wanted” advertisements for a friend named Penelope, Vivian leads an eccentric life.
Eggshells was selected as one of twelve finalists in the Irish Writers Centre Novel Fair 2014.
‘Any book that makes you think this much is a good one. To sustain such an odd voice is a difficult task. Lally pulls it off by being inventive, funny, and, ultimately, rather moving. A daring debut. ‘ —The Guardian
‘A book full of one liners...the black comedy gives the book a jaunty quality that complements the dazzling trip around Dublin.’ —The Irish Times
‘Delightfully quirky...Vivian’s voice alone is enough to keep us reading, charmed by her unique brand of manic, word-hoarding wit.’—Irish Independent
‘A wonderful debut, funny and touching, with skillful wordplay at work. Vivian’s difference intrigues.’ —Irish Examiner
‘Highly original, Lally has a unique voice as a writer.’ —Sunday Independent
‘Engaging and humorous...the perfect gift to send to expats of Dublin.’ —Dublin Inquirer
‘Eggshells expresses a Joycean sense of the ordinary. A brilliantly realised first-person narrative...a memorable debut.’ —Totally Dublin
‘Caitriona Lally has created a character of almost maddening originality.’ —Wales Arts Review
‘A highly impressive debut...a touching account of difference, showing how life must feel for somebody who cannot conform’ —Books Ireland
Lally studied English literature in Trinity College Dublin, after which she worked as an abstract writer and copywriter at home and as a home help in New York and an English teacher in Japan.