Shortlisted for the Walter Scott Prize for historical fiction 2011
Chosen as the One City One Book in Dublin in 2011
Shortlisted for LA Times Book Prize in Fiction category 2012
||UK Reviews (Harvill Secker 2010)
‘A brilliant novel.’
Joseph O'Neill, author of NETHERLAND
‘As I read GHOST LIGHT, I found myself going more and more slowly, because I didn’t want to miss a single sentence. I found myself calling friends and reading passages aloud to them over the phone. This is a rare experience indeed. It is a rare and wonderful book. ’
Michael Cunningham, author of THE HOURS
‘It's always a tremendous thing when the old ghosts climb the walls of history and come alive in the sidestreets of fiction. Open the alleyways to Molly Allgood: the smart sassy sweetheart of J.M Synge who whispers a 20th century tale in our ears. This is a great ambitious novel about love, loss, lamentation. Joseph O'Connor has the magic touch, he brings whole eras alive with a touch of his cycloramic pen. I can't imagine many better – or braver – novels coming out this year.’
Colum McCann - Winner of the National Book Award 2009
‘When I think of GHOST LIGHT, the words climb over each other to be first in the queue: brilliant, beautiful, exhilarating, heartbreaking, masterly. It's that good.’
‘Joseph O'Connor's GHOST LIGHT is absolutely brilliant – a beautifully written love story.'
Roddy Doyle, The Guardian, Books of the Year 2010
‘It has an astonishing command of voice and period detail, and offers an intimacy with the lives of others which is rare in fiction.’
‘Thus her story comes alive in brilliant bursts of poetic language. She loves, hates, longs for vengeance, and despairs of redemption in luminous prose.’
Barbara Fisher, The Boston Globe
'This is a dream of a novel, beautifully written, the tragedy of a disappointed life wrapped in the chewy crust of indomitable humour...take GHOST LIGHT away somewhere quiet and listen to its music for yourself. You won’t regret it.'
Arminta Wallace, Irish Times
'O’Connor’s writing is compellingly beautiful and Molly is marvellously drawn.
A captivating read.’
Jane Housham, The Guardian
‘GHOST LIGHT displays an astonishing command of voice, using tones that are both tender and powerfully emotional, with brilliant command of the period.’
Colm Tóibín, Daily Telegraph, Books of the Year 2010
‘For me, the one that got away in this year's Booker submissions. One (critical) wintry day in the life of an actress fallen on hard times, interwoven with her love affair with John Millington Synge. Moving and beautifully written.’
Tom Sutcliffe, Mann Booker Prize judge 2010, The Independent, Books of the Year 2010
‘This involving novel puts you inside the mind of Molly Allgood, an elderly actress wandering around the brilliantly evoked 1950s London of crumbling lodging houses and uncleared bombsites. Contrasting with the down-at-heel circumstances to which she is reduced are memories, rendered with sensuous freshness and vernacular wit, of her rich past, especially her love affair in 1907 Dublin with the Abbey Theatre playwright John Synge in whose The Playboy of the Western World she starred.’
Peter Kemp, Sunday Times, Books of the Year 2010
‘I can’t think of any book I’ve read recently which has so enthralled me and worked at every single level. GHOST LIGHT is a wonder.’
Peter Carey, twice winner of the Booker Prize, on Sky Books programme, Sky TV
‘GHOST LIGHT puts Molly Allgood, lover of John Millington Synge, on stage as she makes her last journey through London to the BBC in 1952. The wealth of her memories transforms the poverty of her circumstances as she recalls a love affair of opposites by religion, class and temperament. A fascinating voice returned to a woman silenced when, on his death, her letters to Synge were destroyed by his family.’
Niall Crowley, The Irish Times, Books of the Year 2010
'This involving novel puts you inside the mind of Molly Allgood, an elderly actress wandering round the (brilliantly evoked) 1950s London ... Contrasting with the down-at-heel circumstances to which she is reduced are memories, rendered with sensuous freshness and vernacular wit.' Sunday Times, Books of the Year 2010
‘Remarkable, radiant and captivating novel…On top of the biographical information concerning these two, Synge and his Molly, Joseph O'Connor has imposed a fictional overlay, and makes a vivid performance of it … O'Connor's novel carries all the pungency and resonance of a particular era of the past.’
‘Engrossing stuff … Within a specific political and historic context, O'Connor has fashioned the delicate bloom of a love story…O'Connor has been able to pick and choose the emphasis and style of his presentation, fleshing out his own drama on the skeleton of what is known or imagined of Synge's affair with Molly. Their month's dalliance in a Wicklow cottage…is a detour from fact that dramatically reveals the emotional heart of this tender novel…Beautifully written and charming.’
The Independent on Sunday
‘The author displays typical imaginative virtuosity and emotional depth … As well as being impressively well crafted, the novel is wreathed in language of Joycean richness. O'Connor[’s] …prose is tuned to a singular lyrical frequency.’
The Sunday Times
'Masterful … With his previous novels, STAR OF THE SEA and REDEMPTION FALLS, O’Connor carved out a unique way of playing his storyteller’s hand over a wide landscape, with the use of invented documentation and textual adventure. GHOST LIGHT brings that achievement to a new dimension, more specifically located and yet all the more masterful in its management of re-
imagined lives and the time they inhabit … The writing is lyrical and moving.'
Hugo Hamilton, The Financial Times
‘An involving novel that takes us inside the mind of an elderly actress drifting around 1950s London. Contrasting with her reduced circumstances are her memories, rendered with sensuous freshness.’
The Sunday Times, Best 100 Holiday Books
‘A moving tale … Readers – of which Joseph O’Connor has legions – will … be delighted with a story which melds fact and fiction.’
The Sunday Telegraph
'GHOST LIGHT will give days of pleasure to tens and tens of thousands of readers. It is a great love story, with extras: a virtuoso display of literary talent, a tribute to the Hiberno-English heritage of lore and lyricism and an interpretation of the Irish literary revival as the fruit of settler and native, Protestant and Catholic … brimming with sympathy and skill.'
'Under O'Connor's magnifying gaze the story becomes much more than a titillating anecdote … he brings to life the joys and disappointments of a doomed romance with a rare and sparkling intensity.'
‘O'Connor's cross-cutting between past and present is confident and assured, and one of the incidental pleasures of the novel is the cast of cameo appearances ... The sense of the past is complemented by a lively sense of place…GHOST LIGHT is a tender and compassionate love story, and a fine stepping stone to the majesty of Synge.’
Times Literary Supplement
‘The novel is artfully constructed … O'Connor's evocation of such a difficult, morbid and yet morally beautiful man through the memory of an earthy and vivacious woman is remarkably ambitious and imaginative. Ghost Light is full of…sly pleasures and there is a great deal of broad comedy’
The Irish Independent
‘A spellbinding read’
‘I was hooked by this novel, about a frail old woman as she approaches death because I realised O’Connor had taken me right into this person’s head. He’s excellent ... here we have two stories, beautifully interwoven.’
William Leith, Evening Standard
‘Joseph O'Connor is one of the most exciting Irish novelists of his generation ... It is a simple tale, but O'Connor delivers it in language so finely honed that every word counts.'
Mail on Sunday
‘A truly unputdownable, moving, beautiful tale.’
‘A tender, haunting tale…original and moving love story.’
‘Lyrical and moving.’
The Sunday Tribune
‘Superbly written, magically evocative novel.’
'O’Connor has fashioned a deeply moving, beautifully written story … It is a profoundly sad story, but triumphant'
‘GHOST LIGHT is a spirited novel … Like her namesake Molly Bloom, Allgood is an earthy, wily and sexually magnetic creation but O’Connor’s real feat is in his careful deployment of Hiberno-
English by which he not only doffs his cap to Synge but gives flesh and blood to Molly’s neglected life story.’
'With his usual deftness and intelligence, O'Connor brings to life the intense love affair between young actress Molly Allgood and the great Irish playwright JM Synge. Brilliant.'
The Daily Mirror
||US Reviews (FSG 2011)
‘GHOST LIGHT is not merely a fictional rendering of factual events, although it contains razor-
sharp portraits of William Butler Yeats and Lady Augusta Gregory and a nuanced assessment of the riotous Dublin premiere of Playboy [of the Western World]. This is Molly's story as imagined by a sensitive, empathetic artist, and the conclusions O'Connor draws from it have less to do with her professional life than with her qualities as a human being ... it's an apt reflection of Molly's character and experience. O'Connor, who similarly touched the heartstrings in such previous novels as STAR OF THE SEA and REDEMPTION FALLS doesn't gloss over the grim particulars of Molly's final days, he simply suggests they matter less than her generous spirit.’ Wendy Smith, The Washington Post
‘O'Connor is superb at holding the reader's attention across scenes drawn from O'Neill's youth as a rising actress at the Abbey Theatre, to her ominous middle years, to the waning moments of her life. There is a noticeable physicality to his writing...a literary work that is as inviting as a liquid indulgence.'
Christopher Byrd, Barnes and Noble Review
‘This is a remarkable book...a book written by someone who adores and has fully mastered the English language, someone who also adores and lovingly observes every bit of the world around him....Anyone who appreciates a well-told, well-crafted story will be sure to delight in this book.’
Susan Fish, The Record (online)
‘Joseph O'Connor's new novel, "Ghost Light," is a moving, smart inter-generational love story.’
‘Bestselling Irish author O’Connor divides his powerfully imagined, poetic narrative between two eras and cities...O’Connor’s impressionistic, intense style delivers a mismatched love story and a social landscape dominated by forceful characters such as W.B. Yeats and Synge’s formidable mother, but it is Molly’s perspective which prevails, the voice of a comical, intuitive, irrepressible life force. An empathetic act of literary homage offering nuggets of emotional intensity.’
Starred Review, Kirkus Reviews
‘GHOST LIGHT is O'Connor's vivid and sometimes visionary reimagining of the love affair between Molly Allgood and the Irish dramatist John Millington Synge ... In GHOST LIGHT, O'Connor allows himself to ride the wave of Irish eloquence.’
New York Times Book Reivew
‘Forbidden love, humor, and O’Connor’s attention to the sentence highly recommend this.’ Library Journal, starred review.
‘The voice of old, broken Molly is an impressive creation, and the narrative convincingly plunges the reader into a tumultuous and tender account of a tortured romance.’
'O'Connor's prose in his portrait of Molly's diminishing life is lyrical. Like the theatrical superstition that gives the novel its title, Synge's spectral presence haunts the story ... O'Connor has created a credible, moving story that derives much of its appeal from the way it transcends the particulars of their biographies to tell a universal tale of love and loss.'
'It's a haunting story, and O'Connor has a writerly touch ... he knows how to tell a rousing story.'
The Review of Arts, Literature, Philosophy and the Humanities (online)
‘Sentences flow like a river in GHOST LIGHT. The adjectives and metaphors used have been enviously well chosen... O’Conner knows how to reach the core of our existence.’
Fleur Speet, Financieele Dagblad
‘GHOST LIGHT is the grandiose finale of Joseph O’Connor’s Irish novelistic trilogy.
Upsala Nya Tidning, Norstedts
‘GHOST LIGHT is brilliantly translated by Inger Johansson and it’s a wonderful novel, despite its darkness and misery, also a linguistic masterpiece and a tribute to love and to a couple hopelessly in love. Ghost light is the type of novel that I surrender to.’
Malin Ullgren, Dagens Nyheter
‘It’s a splendid novel; brilliant, breath-taking and totally unputdownable. It’s hard to read it, at the same time as the reader feel exhilarated and happy and I don’t hesitate to characterize it as a masterpiece.’
Mats Gellerfelt, Svenska Dagbladet
‘This book is exquisitely written ... The prose glides along so elegantly ... GHOST LIGHT is well worth a read.’
‘You must read this book. If you have to borrow it, do so. Borrow it from the library or steal it from a friend. I have been trying to think of words to describe this book, but it has left me speechless. I have it sitting on my desk as a talisman to brilliant writing ... the language makes you savour the words and read slowly, lingering in images and turns of phrase ... Do read.’
'If you appreciate beautifully written prose...you will thoroughly enjoy this delicate love story.'
Lovely Treez Reads (blog)
‘O’Connor’s new book GHOST LIGHT is…a contender for novel of the year...GHOST LIGHT is a stately and poetic piece of work...there’s hardly a word wasted.’
Blog of Revelations
‘GHOST LIGHT is an amazing novel and a wonderful literary composition. Thoughts of the story have stayed in my head long after putting the book down.’
Queen of Pots (blog)
‘If Joseph O'Connor's GHOST LIGHT doesn't make the longlist for this year's Booker Prize, I'll eat my hat. This is an accomplished novel that should firmly cement O'Connor in the cannon of contemporary Irish literary fiction ... He has crafted an amazing story ... meaningful and brilliant.’
Reading Matters (blog)
‘Entertaining ... well written.’
'With O'Connor's lyrical use of language, you can almost hear his ... voice as you read. A rich and beautiful novel.'
People Love Presents
‘Wonderful stuff … Twenty four carat gold … I could read it over and over again and not tire of it … The whole novel … hit the right spot for me … It is both down-to-earth and very, very funny. O'Connor has written a tour de force. Highly recommended.’
‘The really beautiful new novel by Irish writer Joseph O'Connor...is a very "Joycian" novel, wonderfully "Joycian"...with punctuation, thank God!'
Marialia Piccone, WUZ (online)
‘Joseph O’Connor always impresses us with the accuracy of his writing and his art of creating a setting and atmosphere , which is as poetic as it is charged with mystery.’’
Alain Favarger, La Liberté
‘One of the best novelists of the Irish ‘nouvelle vague’.’
Le Quotidien Jurassien
‘… a magnificent book… A brilliant, gentle and terribly poignant novel.’
‘GHOST LIGHT is a reflection of poetic creation; with a formidable mirror effect, O’Connor tries his hand at exploring the entwined paths of his protagonists’ minds.’
La Quinzaine Littéraire
‘Joseph O’Connor is at the height of his art.’
‘One of the most brilliant in Irish literature.’
‘… if Joseph O’Connor got rid of facts, dates and places, it’s only to get closer to the mystery and the beauty the surrounds the love story.’
Le Figaro Littéraire
‘An ode to passion.’
‘GHOST LIGHT asserts itself as the strongest and richest of Joseph O’Connor’s novels.’