Cruelty Men Emer Martin Lilliput Press Book Cover

The Cruelty Men

By: Emer Martin

Publication Date: June 2018

(6 customer reviews)


The Cruelty Men is a tidal wave that drags you like a piece of debris through Irish history from the ice age to gangland Dublin. A bible of f–cked up Irishness.’ –Irvine Welsh

This novel is a new work from the prize-winning author Emer Martin. Her first novel, Breakfast in Babylon, won Book of the Year 1996 at the prestigious Listowel Writers’ Week.

This book is a sweeping multi-generational view of an Irish-speaking family who moved from Kerry to the Meath Gaeltacht and the disasters that befall their children in Irish institutions. Abandoned by her parents when they resettle in Meath, Mary O Conaill is faced with the task of raising her younger siblings alone. Padraig is disappeared, Bridget escapes and her brother Seamus inherits the farm. Maeve is sent to work as a servant to a family of shopkeepers in the local town—later, pregnant and unwed, she is placed in a Magdalene Laundry where her twins are forcibly taken from her.

Martin’s mother and baby homes and Magdalene Laundries are the Irish cousins of Dostoyevsky and Solzhenitsyn’s Gulags; her dispassionate depiction of the ordinary psychotic violence at the heart of families and society in rural Ireland is akin to that of Ferrante’s Naples. In this novel, two Ireland’s run in stark parallel. A gentle country of fairy rings, blackberry picking, and poker evenings with the local priest masks a system in which the Church and State incarcerate the vulnerable for profit. The intimacy of the first person accounts draws the reader into the world of each character. Their stoicism makes their suffering all the more moving and dignified.

A delightful abundance of poetic and surreal phrases, quips and curses in this book give it a vitality and authenticity. Poignant and swift, The Cruelty Men tells an unsentimental yet emotional tale of survival in a country proclaimed as independent but subjugated by silence.


Emer Martin is a Dubliner who has lived in Paris, London, the Middle East, and various parts of the U.S. Her first novel, Breakfast in Babylon, won Book of the Year 1996 at the prestigious Listowel Writers’ Week. More Bread Or I’ll Appear, her second novel, was published internationally in 1999. Her third novel, Baby Zero, was published in the UK and Ireland March 2007, and released in the U.S. in 2014. She has worked as a theatrical producer and publisher, founding publishing cooperative Rawmeash in 2014. Emer was awarded the Guggenheim Fellowship in 2000. She now lives between California and Co. Meath, Ireland.

‘Martin is a natural storyteller with a finely tuned ear for language and symbolism.’ IRISH INDEPENDENT





Also available as an ebook

6 reviews for The Cruelty Men

  1. Lilliput Press

    “History belongs to those who write it, Bravo to Emer for writing from the viewpoint of the spoils to share the stories of the native people of Ireland. In examining the role of Church in State Affairs and opening the blind eye turned to those victims with few options but to accept a handout but paid dearly. Historical Fiction of a time when hardscrabble living drove people to choices that altered thier fate. Lyrical prose make this novel truly unforgettable.” DONNA COLLINS

  2. Lilliput Press

    “Fantastic historical based novel, loved this, it has all I want in a novel, with real characters you can believe in, I read it in 5 days and make you think about all of the current issues, the role of women, church, and the role of Ireland post independence. Loved it, and it has to be made into a film..” M ROBERTS

  3. Lilliput Press

    Loved this book by Emer Martin! Was hoping would last recent travels over and back to US but such a page turner finished and started reread. Beautiful, poetic and honest writing about brutal and mostly hidden history of land ownership,lost folklore in a changing Ireland and the treatment of women and children by Ireland’s Church and State. A must read! Look forward to discussing in book club also! E. WHYTE

  4. Lilliput Press

    `Emer Martin has written a beautiful alternative history of Ireland … a book that traces the meaning of storytelling, mislaid culture and the boundless quest for belonging. The prose is captivating and seductive, it left me exhilarated and breathless, with new eyes on what it means to be Irish.’ JUNE CALDWELL

  5. Lilliput Press

    ‘This is savagely compelling … There’s an incandescent rage at the heart of The Cruelty Men that burns so brightly, it will sear itself into the consciousness of all who read this powerful and moving novel.’ THE SUNDAY BUSINESS POST

  6. Lilliput Press

    ‘An original, radical and vital new voice in Irish writing … [The Cruelty Men] should propel an already proven and prodigious talent to the forefront of contemporary Irish letters.’ THE IRISH TIMES

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Weight 0.680 kg
Dimensions 216 × 136 mm

Paperback: 448pp

Publication Date

June 2018

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