I'm sending you the May issue of 'The HistWriter' from Wexford on the east coast of Ireland. This last month I’ve been working hard on final draft edits of the sequel to 'Heart of Cruelty'.
The backdrop to my second novel is Dublin in the famine years and the cholera epidemic of 1849. It’s a city of savage contrasts: wealth and grandeur alongside overcrowded tenements and rack-rent landlords. There’s deep anger at the suffering of the poor and the callousness of the authorities, but Irish nationalists are suppressed after last year’s failed rebellion and there’s an enthusiastic popular response to a royal visit.
Paula Campbell, my publisher at Poolbeg, didn’t like the title 'City of Famine' - so we settled on 'The Piano Player.'
In which Jane and Edmond - now successful in the theatre despite their troubled past - perform in Dublin. But they fall into hardship as Edmond, struggling with his demons, becomes ill. William is working as a physician in Dublin but trying to keep his distance. While epidemic disease threatens to engulf them all, other dangers lurk: secret poisons, illegal gambling, racketeering, and armed rebels.
My mock up of the cover, as pictured here, won’t be the final version.
As well as Paula I want to praise and thank Gaye Shortland, my editor at Poolbeg, who brings a bracing rigour and sometimes BLOCK CAPITALS to her work. As in: ‘THERE ARE PROBLEMS WITH THIS EPISODE.’ Gulp…
The Wexford Bohemian
Issue 3 coming soon - edited by Álanna Hammel
Issue 3 of the Wexford Bohemian is released on the 10th June 2022 and brings together the best of new writing - poetry, memoir and short fiction - from Wexford’s thriving creative community. It’s edited by Álanna Hammel, a talented young Wexford writer, and published by Red Books.
The previous two issues of the Wexford Bohemian have sold out soon after release. Publisher and bookseller Wally O’Neil deserves the credit for bringing together a huge range of writers under the Red Books imprint, creating something that’s by and for the local community and will also give enjoyment to a much wider readership.
Available from Red Books, St Peter's Square, Wexford, or online from theirishbookshop.com:
Laina West’s painstaking research into the Aldeburgh witch trials of the 17th century underpins a sinisterly atmospheric tale of misogyny and mass paranoia, setting vivid characters and strange omens against the cold beauty of the Suffolk coast.
This immersive narrative follows the viewpoints of Mistress Howldine, an innkeeper who becomes a jailer, and of Widow Wade, accused of witchcraft, when Master Hopkins the Witchfinder is summoned by the townspeople of Aldeburgh to hunt down and destroy witches.
I was delighted to have been invited to launch another writer’s book recently at White’s Hotel in Wexford.
‘Bronagh’ is a moving and compelling debut novel of a young woman’s fight for survival after sexual violence and also against a legal system that protects rapists. She is deeply traumatised - consumed by anxiety and by feelings of inadequacy in a world full of bullies and monsters.
Bronagh was a young woman whom I dearly wanted to see survive and thrive, to forge confident relationships and find a safe haven. Yet she was forced, through flashbacks and nightmares to re-experience her trauma on a daily basis. I stayed up at night reading, feeling every chill of fear that Bronagh endured and wanting to fight alongside her when her inner courage propelled her forward.
According to Plutarch: Courage consists not in hazarding without fear but being resolutely minded in a just cause. Bronagh was truly courageous. A survivor, not a victim. Even though every moment felt precarious, she lived a worthwhile life and battled a legal system that does so little for the victim.
And yes, the justice system is far from just. A theme of my own novel ‘Heart of Cruelty’ is how easy it is for disclosures of abuse to be discredited and the victims blamed. Although a historical novel I drew on my own first hand experience, as a paediatrician giving evidence in child abuse cases, of how the legal system protects abusers.
It’s meant to be the basis of a fair legal system that the court assumes the accused to be innocent until proven guilty. But to do that, logically, you have to assume that their accuser is lying. So this is structured in to the justice system at every level from the initial allegation up to the highest court in the land. Survivors of sexual violence therefore have a mountain to climb before they can even be heard. This has been in the news headlines so many times in recent years. In ‘Bronagh’, Aoife Rose O’Brien shows clearly why we continue to deny justice to so many, even in the modern day.
Published by Red Books, with 50% of profits going to the Wexford Rape Crisis Centre.