The best supernatural books written by Irish women

Celine Kiernan Author Of Resonance
By Celine Kiernan

The Books I Picked & Why

Savage Her Reply

By Deirdre Sullivan

Book cover of Savage Her Reply

Why this book?

The Children of Lir is one of Ireland’s best-known myths. Over the years it has been more than a little sanitized, and as a consequence almost entirely relegated to a children’s beloved fairytale. With her rich, poetic prose and unflinching honesty, Deirdre Sullivan brings the story right back into the adult sphere. Her characters emerge, flawed and seething, from the magical fog of myth to hurt and help each other, and to drag the enthralled reader with them through aeons of vengeance, loyalty, and, eventually, peace.

I can’t stress how beautiful this novel is. An epic poem almost, it satisfies my hunger for beautiful prose, and for thematic depth and emotional resonance. If you love gorgeous writing as much as I do, you will love this one.

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The Boughs Withered: When I Told Them My Dreams

By Maura McHugh

Book cover of The Boughs Withered: When I Told Them My Dreams

Why this book?

Reminiscent of Ray Bradbury at his very finest, this absorbing collection of supernatural tales has it all: fascinating characters, palpable atmosphere, and delicious, chewy plots. McHugh brings the uncanny into the every day, most often through the experiences of women, and often using a distinctly Irish lens. From the Irish countryside, in all its windswept, boggy, or tangled forms, to modern office life, this is a glorious kaleidoscope of experiences that feel real even as the surface of human experience is punctured to expose the void beneath.  Each story in this collection has a lot to offer, and - another thing this writer has in common with Bradbury - you’ll find yourself returning time and again for rereading 

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Things in Jars

By Jess Kidd

Book cover of Things in Jars

Why this book?

I adore magic realism and Things in Jars follows the best traditions of the genre. Set in Victorian England, the supernatural and uncanny are seamlessly intertwined with reality. Jess Kidd avoids whimsy, instead, she uses the magical elements to add grit and atmosphere to an already dark story. The characters - both alive and dead - are beautifully drawn. They take in their stride natural floods, supernatural omens, murderous humans, pugnacious ghosts, and lethal mythological creatures as they navigate the intriguing plot. Both characters and setting have lived with me long after reading. I still yearn for a sequel.

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All the Bad Apples

By Moïra Fowley-Doyle

Book cover of All the Bad Apples

Why this book?

More beautifully written magic realism, with compelling characters and a fascinating plot. Fowley-Doyle uses the obliqueness of the supernatural and the compelling tropes of a mystery story to explore Ireland's troubled history with women and children. There's something of the road trip to this one, with a warm, supportive, found-family providing kindness and companionship to the main character in a story that otherwise might be too bleak to bear. Release yourself to the prose and to the experience, let the book carry you. It’ll be worth the journey.

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The Treachery of Beautiful Things

By Ruth Francis Long

Book cover of The Treachery of Beautiful Things

Why this book?

Beneath the surface of this beautifully written old-style fairytale there lies a compelling examination of free will. This thematic depth adds a delicious, chewy meat to what is already an enjoyable romantic read. I loved the characters here. Jenny’s repeated struggle to overcome the fairytale roles that are imposed upon her, and the properly dark consequences of failure in the fairy realm, make this an excellent YA romance adventure that's hard to forget.

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