Longlisted for the 2020 Women's Prize for Fiction
A brilliant and moving novel about celebrity, sexual power, and a daughter’s search to understand her mother’s hidden truths.
Katherine O’Dell is an Irish theater legend. As her daughter, Norah, retraces her mother’s celebrated career and bohemian life, she delves into long-kept secrets, both her mother’s and her own. Katherine began her career on Ireland’s bus-and-truck circuit before making it to London’s West End, Broadway, and finally Hollywood. Every moment of her life is a performance, with young Norah standing in the wings. But the mother-daughter romance cannot survive Katherine’s past or the world’s damage. With age, alcohol, and dimming stardom, Katherine’s grip on reality grows fitful. Fueled by a proud and long-simmering rage, she commits a bizarre crime.
As Norah’s role gradually changes to Katherine’s protector, caregiver, and finally legacy-keeper, she revisits her mother’s life of fiercely kept secrets; and Norah reveals in turn the secrets of her own sexual and emotional coming-of-age story. Her narrative is shaped by three braided searches—for her father’s identity; for her mother’s motive in donning a Chanel suit one morning and shooting a TV producer in the foot; and her own search for a husband, family, and work she loves.
Bringing to life two generations of women with difficult sexual histories, both assaulted and silenced, both finding—or failing to find—their powers of recovery, Actress touches a raw and timely nerve. With virtuosic storytelling and in prose at turns lyrical and knife-sharp, Enright takes readers to the heart of the maddening yet tender love that binds a mother and daughter.
About the Author
Anne Enright is author of five novels, most recently Actress. The Gathering won the Man Booker Prize and The Forgotten Waltz won the Andrew Carnegie Medal for Excellence in Fiction. In 2015 she was named the inaugural Laureate for Irish Fiction. She lives in Dublin.
Anne Enright writes so well that she just might ruin you for anyone else…Stripped raw of any sentimentality, the result is a critique, a confession, a love letter—and another brilliant novel from Anne Enright.
— Ron Charles
Gorgeously written fiction…Enright’s unflinching portrait…is scrupulously developed and painfully moving.
— Wendy Smith
There is something that seems effortless about Ms. Enright’s writing—an illusion, of course, but one brilliantly sustained.
— Sam Sacks
— Sara Resnick
— Mary Gordon
Another triumph for Enright: a confluence of lyrical prose, immediacy, warmth, and emotional insight.
Enright’s indelible images of the primal love between mother and daughter that ebbs, flows, and ultimately abides will stick with readers.