Posted by: Lisa Hill | March 15, 2022

Favourite Irish women writers

Cathy at 746 Books is hosting Reading Ireland Month, and since I’m the lucky one who won the giveaway for Nora by Nuala O’Connor, it seems only appropriate for me to whip up a post about my favourite Irish women writers. I haven’t yet read anything by Nuala O’Connor, but I feel confident that she will join my other favourites because her novel Nora is the fictionalised love story of of Nora Barnacle, wife and muse of my favourite male Irish writer, James Joyce…

However, these are the Irish women writers who are my favourites so far.  Links are to my reviews:

Elizabeth Bowen 

The Heat of the Day, and a Sensational Snippet: The Heat of the Day

Mary Costello

The River Capture

The China Factory, Guest Review by Karenlee Thompson 


Evelyn Conlon

Not the Same Sky, and on the wishlist Skin of Dreams, Stars in the Daytime and a Glassful of Letters. (On the wishlist means that I have read an enticing review somewhere.)

Anne Enright


The Gathering, Winner of the Booker Prize in 2007

Eva Trout, read before blogging.  I wrote reams about this in my journal, which makes me want to read it again. And on the TBR, The Green Road.

Jennifer Johnston

The Captains and the Kings,


I owe my discovery of Jennifer Johnston to Kim from Reading Matters, who has read 13+ of JJ’s novels.

Edna O’Brien


and on the TBR, The Little Red Chairs, and August is a Wicked Month.  On the wishlist is The Country Girls, In the Forest and Girl with Green Eyes.  Yes, not having discovered O’Brien until  a couple of years ago, I am now hooked on her writing.

Kate O’Riordan, whose books I read before blogging.

Involved.: My journal entry begins with ‘This one is hard to put down; I read the last chapters with a mouth dry with fear.”

The Boy in the Moon: This was very bleak, but I concluded that ‘O’Riordan is a very powerful writer, and it is compulsive reading.’

I haven’t read anything by O’Riordan since The Angel in the House.  In my journal I dissed it as a film script not a novel, and it turns out that O’Riordan has gone on to have a career as a script writer, but I still count her as one of my favourites!

Update, the next day: taken to task by Tony for my failure to include Molly Keane in my list of favourites, I can only hang my head in shame and plead that I’d neglected to tag her as Irish at Goodreads, so she didn’t show up in my search.

I read Good Behaviour many years ago when I was a member of the Yahoo Booker group.  Good Behaviour was nominated for the Booker in 1981, and when it was chosen for the group to read in 2003, (the year before The Book Depository was founded in 2004) it wasn’t readily available at all.  Today we search, we find, we pay and it gets delivered, but back then it cost me more in time than money when I finally tracked down a copy through Abe Books Australia (which was not then owned by Amazon.) Which is a long-winded way of explaining why I didn’t buy any more of Molly Keane’s books, even though I loved Good Behaviour.

Now, you can buy a NYRB edition or a Virago of Good Behaviour, and her other books besides. If you want to see why you should seek her out, see Tony’s post about it here.



  1. Happy to see Jennifer Johnston on your list, but where is Molly Keane?


    • Where indeed?
      *pause* checks Goodreads to see if I tagged her as Irish…
      *gasp* No I hadn’t!
      That’s why she didn’t show up in my list….
      I shall amend it forthwith!

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Nuala O’Connor is one of my favourite Irish authors, Lisa! I highly recommend the novels You and Miss Emily. And now you’ve reminded me to order Nora :-)


  3. I’m looking forward to reading Nora in April, I’ve read a couple if Nuala O’Connor’s books and enjoyed them.

    Detested Good Behaviour.


    • No… no… say it isn’t so! I love that kind of bland satire where it takes a while to realise what she’s doing…


      • I’m afraid so you can check out my review here. I did learn a few things I wasn’t aware of, but I’m really not good with characters that lack empathy and bland satire for me it was not. I would even go so far as to say it was toxic.
        From my review:
        “I like a book in which a character can in some way redeem themself, can change or transform, ‘nasty, black comedies’ and characters that take pleasure in using their wounds as weapons against another isn’t entertaining for me”


        • I meant bland in the way that Keane has a character say or do something innocuous, until you think about it, and you realise, wow, that was really very cutting. Like Dame Edna Everage telling you that you’re wearing a nice little frock, and how clever you are to have made it yourself. *Ouch*
          I think, for Keane, there could be no redemption for her characters who talked about ‘good behaviour’ but never behaved well.


  4. I love Jennifer Johnston and Evelyn Conlon is seriously underrated so it is great to see her on your list!


  5. Glad to see you join the Edna O’Brien fan club. Molly Keane made it to my list so I am relieved to have escaped Tony’s wagging finger!
    Am kicking myself that I overlooked Anne Enright for my own list.


    • *Chuckle* We can’t list them all!


      • of course, today I am thinking of even more authors I could have highlighted.

        Liked by 1 person

  6. Glad to see Bowen in there – love her writing!


    • If I didn’t already have nine (9) books out from the library….

      Liked by 1 person

  7. Great post, Lisa, and thanks for the mention re: Jennifer Johnston!

    I’ve read a few of Nuala O’Connor’s books – they were all wonderful – she sometimes goes under her Irish name of Nuala Ní Chonchúir.

    And Mary Costello is a fave of mine, too, especially her novella ACADEMY STREET which is just beautiful and melancholy and heart-rending.

    The only Molly Keane I have read is Time After Time (on Tony’s recommendation), which was hilarious but quite dark and none of the characters is very likable! I think she must have been a desperately unhappy woman, TBH, and possessed a bit of a nasty streak!

    Not read any Kate O’Riordan – a new name to me, actually, so must see if there’s anything by her in the local library.

    I would add Claire Keegan to the mix, although she’s really only written short stories/novellas, Sara Baume, Anakana Schofield and Christine Dwyer-Hickey.


    • There is a wealth of Irish writing really, the hard part is choosing what to read first!

      Liked by 1 person

  8. Great list — and very helpful, as I’ve yet to read many of these writers. Molly Keane is also a favorite of mine; like you, I’ve noticed (and rejoiced in the fact) that her books are easily available these days.


    • I predict a worldwide splurge on Irish women writers and it’s all due to Cathy 746!

      Liked by 1 person

  9. Oh, my: Yahoo bookgroups. I’d all-but forgotten!
    Great idea to contribute a summary post in March!


    • Oh yeah, and didn’t we think they were just wonderful, uniting readers from around the world!


  10. Reblogged this on penwithlit.


  11. I remember that kimbofo loves Jennifer Johnston and I have one of hers on my TBR, but I don’t think I’ve reviewed one Irish writer since blogging! I can’t quite believe that. I did read a memoir by Nuala O’Faolain and Anne Enright’s The gathering in the decade before blogging but nothing since. Hmm … sorry Cathy. It’s not for lack of interest!


    • Well now, with your love of short stories, what about just one of James Joyce’s Dubliners?


      • Funny you should mention that. I haven’t read those since high school , but a couple of weeks ago I borrowed an audio version of it, but of course my plan to “read” more audio hasn’t gone to plan! However, as you say, I could read just one to get runs on the board!


        • I read them at uni when I was discovering Joyce, but I listened to a lovely Irish brogue recording when I was last having trouble with my eyes and couldn’t read myself to sleep. I hope your version is the same one. (ISBN: 586044744, it has different narrators if I remember correctly.)
          You might have noticed that my reading has slowed down a bit… The eye problem BTW is now back with a vengeance, and this time the optometrist has a new imaging thingy which has frightened me into compliance with his orders: the damage is like the Milky Way across my pupils. Repairable, he says, but only if I am assiduous about the treatment *sigh*.

          Liked by 1 person

          • Yes, in fact, I had noticed … have had a big couple of weeks but I was planning to email you. This ageing is not fun is it?

            And no, mine is a different ISBN. Narrator is the actor Chris O’Dowd whom I’ve seen and liked so he could be good.


            • Fingers crossed that things improve, there’s no way I could put up with a diet of just audio books.


              • It would be awful, I agree, I’d hate it too… But better than nothing? Can you do eBooks with the print enlarged alot or is the whole need to read the eyes?


                • Screens, mostly, but also close print. I have to keep stopping and do something that involves looking far away.
                  Amber is getting more walks…


                • Oh, then that’s that! At least someone is getting benefit – and, it explains the shoes!

                  Liked by 1 person

  12. […] Favourite Irish Women Writers – Lisa at ANZ LitLovers […]


  13. […] Favourite Irish Women Writers – Lisa at ANZ LitLovers […]


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