One of my Christmas presents this year was Sinéad Gleeson’s anthology of Irish women writers, The Long Gaze Back, which I’d been looking forward to reading since it was published earlier this year, and I certainly wasn’t disappointed. I’m not a huge fan of the short story genre, but I was captivated by all the stories in this book. However, I found myself growing increasingly chastened and ashamed as I realised how little I have read of the work of these great women, despite a general preference for Irish writing.

Strangely (or maybe not!), I’ve read more of the dead writers in the anthology than the living ones. I did my MA thesis on the novels of Maria Edgeworth, I read the work of Somerville and Ross many years ago, I studied Elizabeth Bowen as an undergraduate at UCC and I have long loved and read all the novels of Kate O’Brien. Of the living writers, Anne Enright is a favourite of mine, and in the past year, I’ve read Belinda McKeon’s Tender and Nuala Ní Chonchúir’s Miss Emily,  and that, dear reader, is it. Of the thirty women writers featured in The Long Gaze Back,  I have read the work of SEVEN. I am an English teacher, with an MA in Irish writing, and profess myself to be a prolific reader. And yet these amazing Irish women writers are strangers to me.

The stories in The Long Gaze Back are captivating, varying widely in their themes, subject matter and settings, and Sinéad Gleeson deserves huge credit for collecting them in this wonderful book, which has received widespread acclaim. I’m not one for New Year’s resolutions, but my literary goal for 2016 is to read at least one novel or story collection from each of the Irish writers featured in this book. That should keep me busy!

Writers and stories featured in The Long Gaze Back:

Maria Edgeworth The Purple Jar
Charlotte Riddell Frank’s Resolve
Somerville & Ross Poisson d’Avril
Kate O’Brien A Bus from Tivoli
Norah Hoult When Miss Coles Made The Tea
Elizabeth Bowen The Demon Lover
Mary Lavin In the Middle of the Fields
Maeve Brennan The Eldest Child
Anne Devlin Winter Journey (The Apparitions)
Evelyn Conlon The Meaning of Missing
Éilís Ní Dhuibhne The Coast of Wales
Lia Mills The Crossing
Christine Dwyer Hickey The Cat and the Mouse
Anne Enright Three Stories About Love
Susan Stairs As Seen From Space
Mary Costello My Little Pyromaniac
Molly McCloskey Frogs
Bernie McGill A Fuss
June Caldwell SOMAT
Nuala Ní Chonchúir Shut Your Mouth, Hélène
Niamh Boyce I’ll Take You There
Anakana Schofield Beneath the Taps: A Testimonial
Siobhán Mannion Somewhere To Be
Eimear McBride Through the Wall
Belinda McKeon Long Distance
Lucy Caldwell Multitudes
Lisa McInerney Berghain
Roisín O’Donnell Infinite Landscapes
E.M. Reapy Gustavo
Eimear Ryan Lane In Stay

 

 

 

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