Vicky Phelan's 'Overcoming' wins the An Post Irish Book of the Year 2019

  • by IMAGE

You voted in your thousands, and finally we can reveal that Vicky Phelan's Overcoming is the An Post Irish Book of the Year 2019.


Vicky Phelan has won the An Post Irish Book of the Year 2019 for her autobiography Overcoming.

Vicky's story was brought to life by writer Naomi Linehan after the CervicalCheck campaigner was catapulted into the limelight in 2018 when she successfully sued the US-based lab that botched her smear test results.

The mum-of-two, from Co Limerick, had been told her smear test results, which were tested in Texas on behalf of CervicalCheck, were negative in 2011. She was later diagnosed with cervical cancer.

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Speaking of the win, Vicky said, "I’m truly honoured that my book Overcoming has been voted An Post Book of the Year. I could not have done this without my wonderful ghostwriter, Naomi Linehan, who brought life to my story on the page in a way that I did not think was possible.

"To my publisher, Hachette, thank you for taking a chance on me and to all the booksellers, thank you for championing my book. Finally, a huge thank you to the public, for whom I wrote this book, who supported and voted for me."

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Vicky Phelan chats to Sophie White as part of the InstaStory Club with An Post, sponsor of the Irish Book Awards. Photo: Jake Browne

Overcoming charts Vicky's journey from a plucky teenager in Paris, to a wife and mum embroiled in one of the biggest medical and political scandals of our times.

Since she successfully sued the Texas lab and was awarded €2.5m from the High Court in 2018, Vicky has become an advocate for women's healthcare in Ireland, and has campaigned for access to the Pembro drug, as well as better communication within CervicalCheck and the HSE.

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Along with women and their families who were among the 220 women affected by the smear test scandal, Vicky set up the 221+ support group.

Speaking to image.ie last October as part of the InstaStory Club with An Post, sponsor of the Irish Book Awards, Vicky admitted that she wasn't sure she'd finish writing Overcoming after she was initially told she only had six months to live following her cancer diagnosis.

"I didn’t know if I’d see the end of the book. I wrote it for two reasons: one was for my kids, and the other was for people in Ireland to understand my strength comes from layers and layers of hardship," she said.

In Overcoming, Vicky also describes how, aged just 19, she broke 70% of the bones on the left side of her body after a car accident in Paris. Her then boyfriend and two of her friends were killed.

Her French medical team had advised her not to sit up for two weeks so as not to damage her pelvis. When she returned to Ireland for further treatment, Vicky says she was advised to begin rehab straight away.

"It was terrible to turn them [physiotherapists] away, but I’d been told not to move for two weeks [by the doctors in France]. It's not that I was being disrespectful, I was challenging them," she told image.ie.

"It was an eye opener, to see another health system and the way it can work. I do think that definitely helped with what happened with the smear scandal.

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"I'm human like everybody else, but I think that has actually stood to me, the fact that I have had so much other stuff happen has built me up to what happened last year, to the point where I can take so much on."

Vicky Phelan's autobiography 'Overcoming' has won the An Post Irish Book of the Year 2019. Photo: Supplied

Overcoming went on to win the RTÉ Radio 1 Listeners' Choice Award at the Irish Book Awards, sponsored by An Post, last November. The public have been voting in their thousands since then for the overall An Post Irish Book of the Year 2019, crowning Vicky's debut the winner.

And Vicky is in good company, with previous winners of An Post Irish Book of the Year including Emilie Pine's Notes To Self, Louise O'Neill's Asking For It, and Solace by Belinda McKeon.

Chairperson of the An Post Irish Book Awards Maria Dickenson congratulated Vicky, saying, "The entire book trade rose to its feet for a lengthy and moving standing ovation when Overcoming won the RTE Listener’s Choice award at the An Post Irish Book Awards.

"Vicky is an absolute inspiration and a powerful advocate for Irish women, and along with Naomi Linehan she has written a book that perfectly expresses her strength, her warmth and her legacy. A thoroughly deserving Book of the Year."

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David McRedmond, CEO of An Post, said, "We are delighted that Vicky Phelan is the recipient of the An Post Book of the Year 2019 award for her autobiography Overcoming.

"Readers have a unique relationship with writers but especially so with Vicky because of her personal courage in telling her story. As this award is a public vote, this  truly demonstrates just how much Vicky’s story resonated with readers across the country."

For more on the An Post Irish Book Awards, click here.

For more on the InstaStory Cub with An Post, sponsor of the Irish Book Awards, click here

The InstaStory Cub with An Post, sponsor of the Irish Book Awards is shortlisted for a Digital Media Award. For more information on IMAGE's nomination, click here

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