100 Books by Irish Women Writers

I found a big groove ready waiting for me when I grew up, and in that I was expected to live whether it suited me or not. It did not suit me. It was deep and narrow, and gave me no room to move.

Sarah Grand, 1893

When I started Reading Ireland Month three years ago, I pulled together a list of 100 Books by Irish authors. Since then, through reading and researching and particularly influenced by the publications of The Long Gaze Back and The Glass Shore, I have discovered a vast wealth of Irish women writers, many of whom have been entirely overlooked in the canon of Irish literature.

My original list contained around 40 women writers, but I had a feeling I could do better.

In celebration of International Women’s Day,  here is a list of 100 Irish women writers each of whom are fascinating and inspiring. Spanning three centuries and a range of genres, this list is by no means exhaustive and I’m aware that there are many writers I have left out. From Una Troy, whose feminist books were banned in Ireland, to Lady Caroline Blackwood, who is often better known as the wife of Lucien Freud and Robert Powell, these are memoirists, travel writers, children’s authors and journalists.

Many are writers who would undoubtedly be more widely read had they been male and all are worthy to be in any list of great Irish writers. If there is anyone you feel should have been included, please do let me know in the comments.

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Click on the book titles to go to the Goodreads, or other links and I do hope you find something or someone on this list who sparks your interest in terms of their writings and their lives.

  1. Memoirs of Miss Sidney Bidulph by Frances Sheridan (1761)
  2. The Sorrows of Edith by Anne Burke (1796)
  3. Castle Rackrent by Maria Edgeworth (1800)
  4. The Missionary: An Indian Tale by Lady Sydney Morgan (1811)
  5. Leolin Abbey by Alicia LeFanu (1819)
  6. St. Etienne, a romance by Mary Letita Martin (1845)
  7. Fashionable Life under the Regency by Barbara Hemphill (1846)
  8. Marmaduke Herbert; or, The Fatal Error by Margeurite Gardiner (1847)
  9. Fanny the Flowergirl, or Honesty Rewarded by Selina Bunbury (1856)
  10. Granny’s Wonderful Chair by Frances Browne (1857)
  11. Queenie by May Cromellin (1874)
  12. The Uninhabited House by Charlotte Riddell (1875)
  13. The Nun of Kenmare by Margaret Anna Cusack (1889)
  14. Grania by Emily Lawless (1892)
  15. The Heavenly Twins by Sarah Grand (1893)
  16. Strangers at Lisconnel by Jane Barlow (1895)
  17. An Isle in the Water by Katharine Tynan (1896)
  18. The Gadfly by Ethel Lilian Voynich (1897)
  19. The Girls of Banshee Castle by Rosa Mulholland (1900)
  20. The Passionate Hearts by Ethna Carberry (1903)
  21. The Trackless Way by Erminda Rentoul Esler (1904)
  22. John Chilcote M.P by Katherine Thurston (1905)
  23. Hero Lays by Alice Milligan (1908)
  24. Coral Queen by Beatrice Grimshaw (1919)
  25. The Wonder Smith and his Son by Ella Young (1927)
  26. The Last September by Elizabeth Bowen (1929)
  27. The Ante-Room by Kate O’Brien (1936)
  28. An Old Woman’s Reflections by Peig Sayers (1936)
  29. My Cousin Justin by Margaret Barrington (1939)
  30. The Visitor by Maeve Brennan (194?)
  31. Farewell, Leicester Square by Betty Miller (1941)
  32. The Uninvited by Dorothy McArdle (1942)
  33. There Were No Windows by Norah Hoult (1944)
  34. White Satin by Jessie Louisa Rickard (1945)
  35. The Green Orchard by Maura Laverty (1949)
  36. Mary O’Grady by Mary Lavin (1950)
  37. We Are Seven by Una Troy (1955)
  38. The Rebel’s Wife by Rosamund Jacob (1957)
  39. The Country Girls by Edna O’Brien (1960)
  40. The Group by Mary McCarthy (1963)
  41. The Irish RM by Somerville and Ross (1968)
  42. For All That I Found There by Caroline Blackwood (1971)
  43. Across the Bitter Sea by Eilis Dillon (1973)
  44. Shadows on Our Skin by Jennifer Johnston (1977)
  45. In Ethiopia with a Mule by Dervla Murphy (1978)
  46. The Sandcastle by Irish Murdoch (1979)
  47. A Belfast Woman by Mary Beckett (1980)
  48. Good Behaviour by Molly Keane (1981)
  49. All of Us There by Polly Devlin (1983)
  50. The Maiden Dinosaur by Janet McNeill (1984)
  51. The House by Leland Bardwell (1984)
  52. Necessary Treasons by Maeve Kelly (1985)
  53. Very Like a Whale by Val Mulkerns (1986)
  54. No Country for Young Men by Julia O’Faolain (1987)
  55. My Head is Opening by Evelyn Conlon (1987)
  56. To School Through The Fields by Alice Taylor (1988)
  57. Dangerous Fictions by Ita Daly (1989)
  58. Circle of Friends by Maeve Binchy (1990)
  59. Acts of Subversion by Liz McManus (1991)
  60. Damage by Josephine Hart (1991)
  61. The Light-Makers by Mary O’Donnell (1992)
  62. Titanic Town by Mary Costello (1993)
  63. Falling for a Dancer by Deirdre Purcell (1993)
  64. Watermelon by Marian Keyes (1995)
  65. Dancer by Christine Dwyer Hickey (1995)
  66. Fields of Home by Marita Conlon-McKenna (1996)
  67. Solomon’s Seal by Molly McCloskey (1997)
  68. One Day as a Tiger by Anne Haverty (1997)
  69. By Salt Water by Angela Bourke (1997)
  70. Pelleossa by Bridget O’Connor (1998)
  71. The Dancers Dancing by Eilis Ni Dhuibhne (1999)
  72. Publish and Be Murdered by Ruth Dudley Edwards (1999)
  73. The Walled Garden by Catherine Dunne (2000)
  74. An Grá Riabhach by Biddy Jenkinson (2000)
  75. My Dream of You by Nuala O’Faolain (2001)
  76. Molly Fox’s Birthday by Deirdre Madden (2003)
  77. Emma Brown by Claire Boylan (2003)
  78. P.S. I Love You by Cecilia Ahern (2003)
  79. Last to Know by Liz Allen (2004)
  80. The Alphabet Sisters by Monica McInerney (2004)
  81. This Human Season by Louise Dean (2005)
  82. The Gathering by Anne Enright (2007)
  83. The Sealed Letter by Emma O’Donoghue (2007)
  84. All Names Have Been Changed by Claire Kilroy (2009)
  85. The Hand that First Held Mine by Maggie O’Farrell (2009)
  86. The Butterfly Cabinet by Bernie McGill (2010)
  87. The Burning by Jane Casey (2010)
  88. Foster by Claire Keegan (2010)
  89. The Meeting Point by Lucy Caldwell (2011)
  90. Malarky by Anakana Schofield (2012)
  91. Unravelling Oliver by Liz Nugent (2013)
  92. A Girl is a Half Formed Thing by Eimear McBride (2013)
  93. Malcolm Orange Disappears by Jan Carson (2014)
  94. Only Ever Yours by Louise O’Neill (2014)
  95. Spill Simmer Falter Wither by Sara Baume (2015)
  96. Tender by Belinda McKeon (2015)
  97. Miss Emily by Nuala O’Connor (2015)
  98. The Glorious Heresies by Lisa McInerney (2015)
  99. The Trespasser by Tana French (2016)
  100. Conversations with Friends by Sally Rooney (2017)

 

If I were a corncrake I would feel no obligation to have my skin cured, my tarsi injected with formalin so that I could fill a museum shelf in a world that saw no need for my kind.

Biddy Jenkinson

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26 thoughts on “100 Books by Irish Women Writers

  1. Great list. Glad you included Elizabeth Bowen and Edna O’Brien. There is one prominent writer you’ve missed and that is Lady Gregory.

    Seems that there is a huge opportunity for a publisher to start a list called “Irish women writers” that would be like the Library of America and the Modern Library. It could publish them in a good edition with an introduction by a prominent contemporary writer. This would call attention to writers that may have been forgotten and bring them back for a general reading public.

    Liked by 1 person

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