In praise of Nuala Ní Chonchúir by Cathy Dillon

Irish Women Writers: ‘Ní Chonchúir doesn’t shrink from tackling life’s pain, compromises and savagery, but her rich, original imagery captures its sensual delights also’

An American journalist friend, with Irish connections, asked if I had read Nuala Ní Chonchúir. I hadn't, though I had heard her name and knew she had written a novel called You and that she wrote in both Irish and English. "You must," my friend said. "She's wonderful". Not long after that Ní Chonchúir wrote a flash fiction piece for this newspaper about the murder of a middle-aged woman in rural Ireland. It was wonderful – short and shocking. Then I came across her poetry collection, The Juno Charm. The first poem I read imagined Frida Kahlo walking down a street in Ballinasloe. That was good enough for me. I reviewed her vivid short story collection, Mother America, for this paper. It was a pleasure. Her tiny chapbook, Of Dublin and Other Fictions, similarly, is a box of gems, among them the anarchic, hilarious Jesus of Dublin. Then came the poignant, semi-autobiographical novel The Closet of Savage Mementoes, which was recently the Irish Times Book Club choice. Ní Chonchúir doesn't shrink from tackling life's pain and compromises and savagery, but her rich and original imagery captures its sensual delights also. She is a modern feminist who embraces the Irish language and does more for its credibility than a dozen geansaí -wearing gaelgóirs. Unflinching as it is, her work is infused with empathy. I hope she writes lots more books.

Other favourites: Edna O'Brien and Dervla Murphy