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‘This is a female text’

As Anne Enright herself has tried and failed to define this book’s genre, I don’t feel too bad about not being quite able to sum it up myself. Here, however, is my attempt;

It reads like a history or a memoir, sounds like a poem and a personal essay in its lyricism, fascinates like a historical fiction, and obsesses and nitpicks like a research paper. It croons like poetic analysis and haunts like a tale of obsession and possesses you like a summoning, a seance.

It is all of these things. And none of them, all at once.

It is also a female text.

Confused yet?

This book, published by the inimitable Tramp Press, follows Doireann Ní Ghríofa’s journey to uncover the life of Eibhlín Dubh, the composer of an extraordinary poem keening her husband’s untimely death. But it is more than that. Ní Ghríofa’s text is haunted by the presence of the widow poet, following Ní Ghríofa through her journey of motherhood. And while at first glance, this may come across as a high-brow literary endeavour, what struck me most was its accessibility.

Every word she pens is loaded and immersive and almost scholarly in its poetic depth. But it is executed in such a deeply personal way that the book quickly becomes hard, fast and addictive. This is a book for the woman who was the girl who was ‘terrible at sums and at sports, a girl given to staring out windows, a girl whose only real gift lies in daydreaming’. This is a book for the Irish and poetry lovers, the social historians, the widows, the neighbour who lives alone, the new mother, the new mother’s mother, the person who feels like the present holds none of the passion of the past.

But what does a female text mean?

In one way, it means that the female body is held up to the light. There is no fading out from painful hospital scenes, to convey the birth is occurring and suddenly a perfect baby is swaddled in the arms of a perfectly made-up mother. This text shows the breathless, heart in your mouth, dread in your belly live action birth. It is insistently female, inherently, bodily, filthily female.  Female in its throat swollen with tears, female in the strange animalistic tendencies that dog the body after birth, female in the deletion of our own presence as mothers.

The clothes put away, the table wiped down, the clearing of space – motherhood, as Ní Ghríofa sees it is the obliteration of presence, of becoming the quiet answer to someone’s need;

‘I am one of The Many whose working day does not have a clocking-out time. Anyone whose days revolve around domestic work knows the satisfaction that can be found in such labour, … There is a peculiar contentment to be found in absenting oneself like this, subsumed in the needs of others; in such erasure for me lies joy…in this my work is a deletion of presence.’

The female body is a gift overflowing, depleted to be filled again, with milk, with children, with service, domestic and otherwise. It desires, it breaks, it creates and rewrites the history of a landscape. The ripples and reverberations it can create across time and history are written in the lines and curves, scars and breakages, the charged and mystical power of Ní Ghríofa’s body by the text’s end, in a triumphant joy – she is creation.

This is a female text.

It's so astounding that a woman can disappear to that extent':  Rediscovering the author of Ireland's greatest love poem


But the curious second part of being a female text is at odds with the quiet joy she finds in this self-erasure; the uncovering of a female presence. In these busy domestic hours she spends in deleting herself, her mind wanders to Eibhlín Dubh, a woman mostly lost in history.

Wandering thoughts quickly turn to obsession, as an act of translation becomes an act of recovery as if she wants to crawl inside Eibhlín’s skin and live there. Ní Ghríofa hoards her knowledge of Eibhlín like a dragon hoarding hoarding treasure. Nuggets of new information comes to light as she pores over male texts to uncover the female absences within, hoping they may lead to a deep, undiscovered domestic history. A history lovingly constructed, this is not a life found in political or historical textbooks, but an interior female life found in the gaps of information, from reading between the lines.

Ghostly and electric, Eibhlin hums by her side, the ghost growing more corporeal throughout the book until she mourns and laughs at her side. In constructing a female history, one is not concerned with knowing people through their relation to war or politics, but through their family and beliefs and household running. In the atmosphere of a home, of daily life and relationships and the small vitally important social and domestic pieces of life that made up people’s day to day; that is where Ní Ghríofa finds Eibhlín, and the women in the lives of these documented men.

Ní Ghríofa’s research is fascinating and weaves a dark and holy sense of lives disturbed by this probing two centuries later. A necromancer, she summons the dead, and in their voices echo the memories that were once held in long abandoned places, the domestically charged spaces of women written out of history. Ni Ghríofa raises them all and conducts her dance of the dead as if she wishes to be with them or they with her.

An Post Irish Book Awards » Doireann Ni Ghriofa

(Irish Book Awards)

She mourns the silences that punctuate these women’s lives, the gaps in the text unfilled, like Sappho’s fragmented poems, like missing jigsaw pieces, locks without keys. We will never know what Eibhlín Dubh felt or thought upon returning to her family home, a widow at fifteen and again in her twenties. A woman’s history is one of absence. But Ní Ghríofa, with a tenderness that is heart wrenching, resurrects every passing female figure, the lady gardener, the wives of Eibhlín's sons, the servant girls terrified by the mad men, the mare, no one is a passive character to her. Under her care they all become main characters, with their own stories and voices.

This is a female text.

‘How I wish that someone had thought more women’s words worthy of a place in that in that old secretaire. All the diaries and letters and ledgers I imagine in female handwriting, they must have existed once, until someone tidied them into a waste bin, tipping them neatly into oblivion.’

My notes for this review were a mess. My awe at this text was so wordless at times, all I could manage was a ‘page 91 so damn compelling’ or ’74-75 just…ugh’. Sometimes the prose literally just split my face in a grin, and I sat there smiling like a fool. That is the effect of this text. I was rendered momentarily illiterate, momentarily silent. Those who know Ní Ghríofa’s poetry will spot scenes that inspired some of her poetic work and will perhaps recoil a little at the goriness of the prose in these parts in comparison with the lyrical wandering of her poetry – I’m thinking specifically of ‘A Jaw Ajar’, one of my favourites. But nonetheless, fans will recognise the same brutal, interconnected, domesticity that hallmarks her poetry, the strange, feminine slant on seemingly everyday situations. Every word is laden with meaning, each sentence a thread pulled in a rich and unravelling tapestry.

The passion of Eibhlín lives within her, a safe vessel through which express her own constant longing and desire, insatiable, insurmountable, too old fashioned, too dramatic, too intense for this modern world. She gives us the shards of her soul, her story, herself and asks us not to fix it. To look at it in its parts, to construct our own whole, of how she had once been, of what she is now. It is through Eibhlín that we come to know Ní Ghríofa.


It’s been an incredible year for Irish writers. Some of the most heartwarming, hilarious and honest reads have been released this year, including Once, Twice Three Times an Aisling by Emer McLysaght and Sarah Breen and Overcoming by Vicky Phelan with Naomi Linehan.

We have teamed up with the wonderful people at the An Post Irish Book Awards to give one bookworm the dream prize. We have six of the best Irish fiction books up for grabs and you’re in for a real treat. All of these books have been nominated for the National Book Tokens Popular Fiction Book of the Year category.

The books include:

Once, Twice, Three Times an Aisling – Emer McLysaght and Sarah Breen (Gill Books)

Filter This – Sophie White (Hachette Ireland)

Postscript – Cecelia Ahern (HarperFiction)

When All is Said – Anne Griffin (Hodder & Stoughton)

Schmidt Happens – Ross O’Carroll-Kelly (Penguin Ireland)

Seven Letters – Sinéad Moriarty (Penguin Ireland)

To be in with a chance of winning this incredible prize then head over to our Instagram account here


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The An Post Irish Book Awards celebrate and promote Irish writing to the widest range of readers possible.

Each year it brings together a huge community passionate about books – readers, authors, booksellers, publishers and librarians – to recognise the very best of Irish writing talent across sixteen categories, including Novel of the Year, Children’s, Cookery, Crime Fiction, Popular Fiction, Nonfiction, Sports, Short Story, Poetry, Teen and Young Adult and Irish Language.

May the odds be ever in your favour.


A gorgeous and powerfully vivid collection of essays written by Emilie Pine has won the An Post Book of the Year for 2018.

Notes to Self sees Pine writing on a variety of important moments in her life, including sexual assault, fertility problems, sexism in the academia sector, feminism, depression and addiction.

Published by Tramp Press, the book has been widely read around Ireland since it's publication, and has deeply resonated especially with women nationwide who relate to the stark and emotional work.

Emilie tweeted her joy at hearing the news, writing on Twitter: "Delighted and honoured to win Book of the Year 2018….Thank you to everyone who voted."

She also paid tribute to Tramp Press for commissioning the work, which tugged at the heartstrings of Irish women and men nationwide with it's brutal and visceral honesty.

The An Post Irish Book of the Year 2018 was handpicked by a public vote from a list of category winners which were recently announced at the An Post Irish Book Awards.

The esteemed prize boasts previous winners such as John Crowley's Atlas of the Irish Revolution, written with Donal Ó Drisceoil, Mike Murphy and Dr. John Borgonovo, Solar Bones by Mike McCormack, Academy Street by Mary Costello, The Spinning Heart by Donal Ryan, Belinda McKeon's Solace, Staring at Lakes by Michael Harding and Asking For It by Louise O'Neill.

Chairperson of the An Post Irish Book Awards Maria Dickenson said; “Emilie Pine’s Notes to Self was one of the great stories in Irish bookselling in 2018 and I’m delighted that the voting public has chosen it as the An Post Book of the Year."

"The power and honesty of Emilie’s essays have captivated readers, and it’s truly gratifying both to see her talent rewarded and to see an Irish publisher like Tramp Press receive this well-deserved recognition," she continued.

Readers of the book couldn't put the engrossing work down. David McRedmond, CEO of An Post, commented on Emilie's wonderful win,

“2018 was a huge year for Irish writing and no book illustrates better why An Post is delighted to sponsor the Irish Book Awards: Emilie Pine’s book, a challenging read, is deeply human and Irish, emotional and clever. An Post thanks all the voters for engaging with the Awards in such large numbers.”

The An Post Irish Book Awards celebrate and promote Irish writing to a wide range of readers, bringing together a massive community who are passionate about writing. Readers, authors, booksellers, publishers and librarians unite to recognise Irish talent.

Congratulations to Emilie on her deserved achievement, we can't wait to consume her next piece of beautiful and fearless writing.


Last night marked the annual Irish Book Awards. Talented authors suited up and put on their best dress to anxiously await the final results.

Some of those included in the nominations were Emilie Pine, Graham Norton, Sally Rooney, James Kavanagh, and the Aisling girls Emer McLysaght and Sarah Breen.

The Late Late Show’s Ryan Tubridy was also in attendance to support the winner of RTE Radio 1’s The Ryan Tubridy Show Listener’s Choice Award: Skin Deep by Liz Nugent.

Nugent’s compelling thriller also took home the trophy for the Irish Independent’s Crime Fiction Book of the Year.

The rest of the 2018 results were as follows:

Eurospar Cookbook of the Year – Currabinny Cookbook by James Kavanagh and William Murphy

Ireland AM Popular Non-Fiction Book of the Year – The Cow Book by John Connell

Specsavers Popular Fiction Book of the Year – The Importance of Being Aisling by Emer McLysaght and Sarah Breen

Bord Gais Energy Sports Book of the Year – Game Changer by Cora Staunton

Love Leabhar Gaelige Irish Language Book of the Year – Tuatha De Danann by Diarmuid Johnson

Eason Book Club Novel of the Year – Normal People by Sally Rooney

Dept 51 Eason Teen & Young Adult Book of the Year – The Weight of a Thousand Feathers by Brian Conaghan

National Book Tokens Children’s Book of the Year – Blazing a Trail by Sarah Webb (Senior) and The President’s Cat by Peter Donnelly (Junior).

Sunday Independent Newcomer of the Year – Notes to Self by Emilie Pine

Listowel Writers’ Week Irish Poem of the Year – Birthday by Brian Kirk

Writing.ie Short Story of the Year Award – How to Build a Space Rocket by Roisin O’Donnell

The Journal.ie Best Irish-Published Book of the Year – Lighthouses of Ireland by Roger O’Reilly

Onside Non-Fiction Book of the Year – People Like Me by Lynn Ruane

The fantastic poet Thomas Kinsella also received The Bob Hughes Lifetime Achievement Award.

Congratulations to all the winners!