By: Martina Devlin
Publication Date: 12 May 2022
Edith by Martina Devlin
Martina Devlin, an award-winning columnist for the Irish Independent and podcaster for Dublin City of Literature #CityofBooks, has delivered a new novel based on the life of Edith Somerville of ‘Somerville and Ross’ fame – authors of The Irish R.M.
In this work, set during the turbulent period of Irish Independence 1921–22, Somerville finds herself at a crossroads. Her position as a member of the Ascendancy is perilous as she struggles to keep her family home, Drishane House in West Cork, while others are burned out. After years in a successful writing partnership with Violet Martin, Edith continues to write after her partner’s death, comforted in the belief they continue to connect through automatic writing and séances.
Against a backdrop of Civil War politics and lawlessness erupting across the country via IRA flying columns, people across Ireland are forced to consider where their loyalties lie.
In Edith, Devlin limns a vivid historical context in this story of proto-feminist Edith Somerville courageously trying to keep home and heart in one piece.
The story of Somerville and Ross is unique in the history of Irish women writers. Academic Shawn R. Mooney described these best-selling authors as ‘undeniably New Women: single, educated and economically independent writers whose lives and literary collaboration were unique manifestations of late-nineteenth century feminist strivings toward political and sexual equality’. Devlin depicts Edith in the round, suffering from loss, striving for safety, and keeping hold of hope in this captivating narrative set in the early years of a nascent state — a triumph of ventriloquism rooted in a society on the cusp of change.
‘Edith by Martina Devlin is a delicately layered novel. Warm, funny and authentic, its complexity is delivered with a charming and clever lightness of touch. Utterly beguiling.’ Dalkey Book Festival
‘Edith Somerville’s world is upended – her writing partner is gone; her safety, family home, and lifestyle are threatened by brewing civil war; and even her creativity is wavering. But Edith’s eponymous heroine is smart and sanguine, and she finds safety and comfort in esoteric practices as well as the arms of friends. This is a pacy novel of menace, intrigue, and nostalgia that examines the butting cultures of Independence Ireland with all the forensic joy in politics and language that readers expect from the wonderful Martina Devlin.’ Nuala O’Connor, author of NORA: A Love Story of Nora Barnacle and James Joyce
‘Edith is an engrossing and sensitive portrait of the writer Edith Somerville during the War of Independence when her writing partner Violet Ross is dead and her own career as a writer not flourishing. It is a portrait of a sensitive, solitary figure in a time of turmoil, of a woman striking out as an artist in a time when there were many barriers.’ Colm Tóibín, author of The Magician, and Laureate for Irish Fiction
‘Only a novelist as gifted as Martina Devlin could succeed in conjuring Edith’s complicated psyche, through moments of determination, exasperation and bewilderment, as the world transforms around her. Devlin’s bright imagination and keen ear for speech bring this book to life, vividly depicting a complex time, and a complex inner life.’ Doireann Ní Ghríofa, author of A Ghost in the Throat
‘Edith is a superbly entertaining historical novel, remarkable for the depth of its sympathies, the ease of its storytelling, and the complexity of its insights. I sped through it and found that it lingered in my mind afterwards – the real mark of a great book. This is the work of an author of enormous skill, patience, daring, and humanity.’ Kevin Power, author of The Written World, White City and Bad Day in Blackrock
‘A gripping, surprising, beautifully written story of a piece of untold history. Devlin brings an impressive level of authentic detail into all her writing, and Edith is no exception.’ Kate Kerrigan, author of The Dress
‘Utterly magnificent and beautifully written … I was charmed by it. Edith has such a convincing voice, with top notch dialogue and characterization that is nuanced and fully rounded; a complete delight.’ Marian Keyes, author of Again, Rachel
‘Edith is a rare account of a unique writer and a joy to read. Martina Devlin has given us a fascinating insight into the life and times of Edith Somerville as she battles to save her beloved Drishane House during Ireland’s War of Independence. Moving between West Cork and London’s literary world, Devlin has ensured that Somerville’s contribution to Irish literature is celebrated and will not be forgotten. A novel that delights as it manages to capture the essence of a wise, witty woman caught up in the turmoil of Irish politics – I absolutely loved it and just couldn’t put it down!’ Marita Conlon-McKenna, author of The Hungry Road
‘Wonderful‘ Liz Nugent, author of Our Little Cruelties
‘If you like historical fiction featuring remarkable Irish women you’ll love Edith‘ Sarah Webb, author of The Little Bee Charmer of Henrietta Street
‘Brilliant … A must for fans of Somerville and Ross.’ Edel Coffey, author of Breaking Point
‘sharp and crisp and effective; its also lucid and rich with insight and historical detail. It performs a public duty; it presents a person (Edith Somerville) to the public who is person who has not been seen enough in public, in my opinion … this book’s greatest virtue is its realistic and plausible and persuasive evocation of the life and practice of a writer, and particularly the business side of the writer’s life … manages brilliantly what I would have thought is the near impossible feat of bringing Mr and Mrs George Bernard Shaw to life on the page. Oh yes, it does, brilliantly.’ Carlo Gébler, author of I, Antigone
‘This is a gorgeous book, beautifully researched and with a fabulous cameo from Flurry Knox. Edith is worth getting to know.’ Sinéad Crowley, author of The Belladonna Maze
‘Set amid the havoc of 1921-22, Martin Devlin’s Edith deftly traces revolutionary Ireland’s shifting political, social and artistic terrain from the view of Big House author Edith Somerville. Deliciously tense, vividly rendered & richly textured re-envisioning of a fraught history. It’s a gorgeous read … Edith is rich in historical and personal detail, as well as cultural nuance, and it creates a truly transportive sense of atmosphere.’ Dr Dawn Miranda Sherratt-Bado, co-editor of Female Lines: New Writing by Women from Northern Ireland
PRAISE FOR EDITH
‘A century ago, one of Ireland’s most successful writers was engaged in something extraordinary. Edith Somerville convinced herself, and managed to persuade others, that she was collaborating beyond the grave with her dead writing partner to continue producing their popular Somerville and Ross novels.’ Martina Devlin writes on the remarkable figure behind here novel in the Irish Independent, here.
‘delicious dark tension and gothic sensibility … she exhibits a rare genius in delivering a layered, palimpsestic text full of themes that speak to the contemporary reader … The novel feels so truthful: it is as if Devlin embarked on her own automatic-writing session with Edith Somerville and tapped into the candle-flamed reality of those tumultuous times.’ Rosemary Jenkinson, Dublin Review of Books
‘the extensive research behind Edith is worn lightly. Vivid descriptions capture the sights, sounds and smells of the era … Devlin’s depiction of Edith is completely convincing; she comes across as witty, intelligent and — despite the spirit writing — smart and sanguine. Rather than sounding like a woman desperate to cling to an old way of life, she is pragmatic; understanding of the need to make the transition from the old order to a new way of life as an inhabitant of the Irish state. She understood her part in the Ascendancy, yet was also able to chart its demise with insight and humanity.’ Henrietta McKervey, Irish Independent
Alison Bray in Irish Independent: Writer Martina Devlin reveals she was barred twice from attending séance as she tried to research new novel. Read more here.
‘This pitch-perfect read … unfolds a story that is elegantly composed and brightly paced … Another example of history and imagination meeting at that sweet spot, one effortlessly complementing the other. [Hilary] Mantel would agree.’ Frank Coughlan, Irish Independent
‘Writer Edith Somerville left her mark throughout pretty Castletownshend’ Read a feature by Martina in the Southern Star here
Read an extract from Edith on RTÉ Culture here
‘In Devlin’s hands [Edith] is a witty and eccentric character who floats around London socialising, dabbling in the occult and writing; but she is always drawn back home … there’s a strong sense of nostalgia for the modern reader as Edith pulls into Skibbereen train station and fights to hold onto her home and identity.’ Southern Star
‘My book of the year for 2022 … thoughtful and beautifully written … Devlin exercises diplomacy at all times, and breathes life into this extraordinary woman.’ Tanya Farrelly, The Lonely Crowd
Irish Independent Best Book of 2022
‘A portrait of a brave woman told with lightness and grace’ Colm Tóibín
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Martina Devlin is a bestselling author and award-winning journalist, having published ten books to date. Devlin has won numerous awards for both her writing and journalism, including the Hennessy Literary Award 1996, GALA columnist of the year 2010, National Newspapers of Ireland columnist of the year 2011 and Royal Society of Literature’s V.S. Pritchett short story award 2012. She was also Writer-in-Residence at the Princess Grace Irish Library in Monaco in 2009. She has been shortlisted three times for the Irish Book of the Year awards, and her non-fiction account of the Irish financial collapse, Banksters, co-authored with David Murphy, topped the best-seller list for eight weeks. A former Fleet Street journalist, she writes weekly current affairs columns for the Irish Independent and has been named National Newspapers of Ireland columnist of the year. She frequently chairs literary and current affairs events and is a regular commentator on BBC and RTÉ. She was born in Omagh and lives in Dublin. Read more.
|156 × 234 mm
12 May 2022
Paperback with flaps, 288pp.