Martina Devlin, an award-winning columnist for the IrishÂ Independent and podcaster for Dublin City of LiteratureÂ #CityofBooks, has delivered a new novel based on the life of EdithÂ Somerville of ‘Somerville and Ross’ fame – authors of The Irish R.M.
In this work, set during the turbulent period of Irish IndependenceÂ 1921-22, Somerville finds herself at a crossroads. Her position asÂ a member of the Ascendancy is perilous as she struggles to keepÂ her family home, Drishane House in West Cork, while others areÂ burned out. After years in a successful writing partnership withÂ Violet Martin, Edith continues to write after her partner’s death,Â comforted in the belief they continue to connect through automaticÂ writing and sÃ©ances.
Against a backdrop of Civil War politics and lawlessness eruptingÂ across the country via IRA flying columns, people across IrelandÂ are forced to consider where their loyalties lie.
In Edith, Devlin limns a vivid historical context in this story ofÂ proto-feminist Edith Somerville courageously trying to keep homeÂ and heart in one piece.
The story of Somerville and Ross is unique in the history of IrishÂ women writers. Academic Shawn R. Mooney described theseÂ best-selling authors as ‘undeniably New Women: single, educatedÂ and economically independent writers whose lives and literaryÂ collaboration were unique manifestations of late-nineteenthÂ century feminist strivings toward political and sexual equality’.Â Devlin depicts Edith in the round, suffering from loss, striving forÂ safety, and keeping hold of hope in this captivating narrative setÂ in the early years of a nascent state – a triumph of ventriloquismÂ rooted in a society on the cusp of change.