Her debut novel, Only Ever Yours, is drawing parallels with Margaret Atwood, but who inspired this Irish writer to set pen to paper?
Louise O’Neill, a Clonakilty native, published her debut novel last year. Only Ever Yours is a dystopian tale about young women trained from birth in the art of pleasing men. It’s a cleverly disturbing critique on the the aesthic standers imposed on women by a nightmarish patriarchial society, and has been drawing comparisons with Margaret Atwood.
The 30-year-old, it was her birthday this week, is a English graduate from Trinity who spent some time in New York after college working in fashion magazine Elle. We caught up with Louise to talk about the books that have made her into the writer she is.
The book you first fell in love with
The first book that I remember being completely enchanted by was, fittingly enough, The Enchanted Wood by Enid Blyton. It’s the first book in The Faraway Tree trilogy. I was obsessed with those books and utterly desperate to find a way to get to top of the Faraway Tree – particularly the Land of Take What You Want which sounded amazing.
The book that made you want to write
I came to Harry Potter rather late in life. I had dismissed them as children’s books until my friend, Aine, bought me the first book when I was 22 and insisted I read them. I barely left my bedroom in the next ten days. After closing the last book, I was inconsolable because I had come to care so much about the characters. I knew then that I wanted to write. I wanted to impact someone else’s life the way JK Rowling had impacted mine.
The book with your favourite sentence or paragraph
Your Voice In My Head by Emma Forrest is one of those books that you read with a pen in hand in order to underline all the beautifully crafted sentences. It’s really difficult to pick just one but I loved how she described the difference between how she felt when she was depressed and when she was manic.
“Mania flows like a river approaching a waterfall. Depression is a stagnant lake. There are dead things floating and the water has the same blue-black tinge as your lips. You stay completely still because you’re so afraid of what is brushing your leg.”
The book you wish everyone else would read
Margaret Atwood’s The Handmaid’s Tale is a book that everyone should read but it should be mandatory for women and young girls. It’s so frighteningly plausible that it will make you think about what it means to be a woman in a patriarchal society. A blistering read.
The book that hit a nerve
There are a few I could mention here. The Virgin Suicides had a huge impact on me as a teenager, Revolutionary Road made me despair about the futility of romantic love. I read Rachel’s Holiday when I was hospitalised with anorexia and it was the first time I realised that I suffered from addiction. I read Oranges Are Not The Only Fruit, and The Awakening when I was 18 and they helped me to understand that one didn’t have to be conform to a certain idea of femininity to be a ‘real’ woman. Prep made me feel vicariously awkward and self conscious. Wintergirls, although brilliantly written, I found highly triggering as it such a vivid and accurate depiction of the horrors of anorexia.
The book you return to
I rarely, if ever, re-read books. There are always so many new books that I’m anxious to read that I just don’t see the point. However, one book that I do return to all the time is Ariel, a collection of poems by Sylvia Plath. I’ve had a crush on Plath since I was a teenager. I felt she was the only person who understood me then – and a tiny part of me still thinks that. (I try not to read any of her work before bed though as it gives me the weirdest dreams.)