COUNTY GALWAY writer Elaine Feeney is well known, and has won acclaim for, her poetry, but in 2020 she will make her debut as a novelist when As You Were is published by Harvill Secker on April 16.
As You Were follows Sinead Hynes, a young, driven, property developer and mother, who has a difficult past and a terrifying secret – something she has confessed only to Google and a shiny magpie. She is in bed in a failing hospital, reliant on the kindness of strangers, particularly two older women, Margaret Rose and Jane, to help her.
The novel engages with the darkly present past of modern Ireland: with women’s struggles for rights over their bodies, and with institutional failure. It also celebrates generosity and community in the face of these struggles, and the possibilities of sharing stories as a means of strength.
"The language used around our health and wellbeing remains awkward, secretive, and different; the rules of engagement are also different," said Elaine. "This remains, in part, due to our recent past. As You Were is a book born out of the trust and the chats women have in the most peculiar of spaces, their eagerness to open up and understand each other.
"It critiques the patriarchal system within Irish institutions that has silenced their voices, through fear, for many decades. I feel as a writer and a woman that I owe a huge debt of gratitude to the chorus of women’s voices that came before mine: these covens that taught me so much and are rich in experience, they ultimately enabled me to write."
UK and Commonwealth rights were bought at auction last autumn by Harvill Secker’s deputy publishing director, Kate Harvey, from Peter Straus at Rogers Coleridge and White. The book has already received praise from other writers.
"As You Were is a powerful openhearted novel with an authentic visceral voice," said Mike McCormack. "It is a thrilling, hugely enjoyable read, and a quite brilliant fiction debut from this superbly gifted poet."
"Rendered with searing honesty, biting humour, and most importantly layers of compassion that creep up on you like a fragile child, Elaine Feeney's As You Were is a comet’s tail of loss, regret, hurt, damage, sass, wit, and courage," said Alan McMonagle. "An artfully braided paean to resilience, to not giving up, to the small ways we find to bandage our broken selves. We should be grateful for this wonderful debut."
Elaine has published three collections of poetry - Where’s Katie?, The Radio Was Gospel, and Rise, and a drama piece, WRoNGHEADED, commissioned by Liz Roche Company. She teaches at The National University of Ireland, Galway and St Jarlath’s College, Tuam.
Elaine will also chair the next Scrutable literary event in The Black Gate Cultural Centre, St Francis Street, this Saturday [December 14] at 5.30pm, which will feature a conversation between the writers Nuala O’Connor and Celeste Augé.