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The Sway of Winter

By: Orla Murphy

Publication Date: October 2002


The Sway of Winter tells the story of Birgit, a young Scandinavian woman who has moved to the island of Inis Breac to paint, and to recover from a suffocating relationship. Geoff, an English widower, shattered by years of hard drinking after his wife’s drowning, runs the local bookshop. Birgit visits Africa in a quest to decide her future in working among the deprived, but finds there only a mirror of an inner poverty.

This finely wrought debut novel is a potent revelation of how lives converge in the passage between trauma and resolution, leading to emotional renewal. With a fresh and unusual voice new to Irish fiction, Orla Murphy captivates the reader with her passionate and nuanced narrative.

‘Orla Murphy writes with painterly poise. Her canvas may be small-town life but her territory is the emotional offshore. The Sway of Winter shimmers – a wry and luminous exploration of both the terrible wreckage and the tentative redemption of love.’Mary Morrissy, author of The Pretender


The Sway of Winter is a wonderful evocation of the healing power of love. The descriptions of the sea and landscape within which she sets her characters and their story are precisely and exquisitely realized. Her two protagonists, the recovering alcoholic Geoff, and Birgit, are beautifully drawn and their struggles to find peace and fulfilment are profoundly moving. All together a superb achievement.’Julie Parsons, author of Mary, Mary


ORLA MURPHY was born into a family of artists in County Cork. Her father was the sculptor Seamus Murphy, author of Stone Mad. After training as a conservator of books and manuscripts at Trinity College Dublin, she worked freelance, chiefly for England’s National Trust but also for Trinity College Library and various private collectors. She studied music at University College Cork with Sean Ó Riada and Aloys Fleischmann. Her work has been short-listed for Hennessy Awards and for the Fish Short Story Competition, and has also been selected by David Marcus for New Irish Writing and The Phoenix Short Stories Anthology (1999). Her short stories and drama have been broadcast on BBC Radio 4 and RTE Radio 1. Her poetry has appeared in Cyphers and other journals.

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Weight 0.5 kg
Dimensions 135 × 210 mm
Publication Date

October 2002


Paperback, 226pp