Out of Print

Before The House Burns

By: Mary O’Donoghue

Publication Date: April 2010

(2 customer reviews)


Set on Ireland’s Atlantic coast, Before the House Burns is a tender, implosive first novel by an award-winning short story writer and poet. It concerns the lives of its three young narrators, children of a bereaved father and witnesses to a shared grief.

This nuanced and heart-breaking account of one family’s struggle – for work, shelter and happiness – enters the imagination through this braided, pitch-perfect tale of a family whose lives fracture around two tragic events. It is a story of what happens when self-sustenance turns to isolation, a story about the hard scrabble to find a home.

Despite their sufferings, Before the House Burns is not yet another tale of an unhappy Irish childhood. What makes this novel unique is not only the calibre of the writing, but also its depiction of the love that binds the family together as they suffer blow after blow to their lives.

‘Electric, real, utterly modern: this is a voice to welcome and to watch.’ – Anne Enright.

‘Award-winning short story writer and poet Mary O’Donoghue (right) doesn’t pull any punches with her debut novel.. O’ Donoghue is a gifted writer, her voice disquieting and evocative. Her themes are modern and ambitious and the characters delicately developed. On reading Before The House Burns Anne Enright called Mary O’Donohue “a voice to welcome and watch”, and indeed it is.’ The Independent


Mary O’Donoghue was born in 1975 and grew up in Co. Clare. Her short stories have been published in Agni, Salamander, The Dublin Review, Literary Imagination and elsewhere. Her awards for fiction include Hennessy/Sunday Tribune, New Irish Writer and a writer’s bursary from Massachusetts Cultural Council. She is the author of poetry collections Tulle (Salmon Poetry, 2001) and Among These Winters (Dedalus Press, 2007). She teaches in the Arts and Humanities division at Babson College, Massachusetts, and lives in Boston.

Out of stock

Also available as an ebook

2 reviews for Before The House Burns

  1. Lilliput Press

    “This book was so good that I wanted to start all over but so emotionally overwhelming that I will have to wait a bit.” DOLORES

  2. Lilliput Press

    “Very well written, not as harrowing as the blurb might suggest – sad, yes, but also a celebration of the spirit of children, and a wonderful account of a child’s perception of the adult world. Evocative of an Irish childhood, it can almost be tasted and smelt!” ANN WALSH

Add a review

Weight 0.25 kg
Dimensions 136 × 215 mm
Publication Date

April 2010


Paperback, 216pp