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February 23, 2011

Joseph O’Connor

Joseph O’Connor reads from Ghost Light


Harvard Book Store is delighted to welcome acclaimed Irish novelist JOSEPH O'CONNOR for a reading from his newest work, Ghost Light, an historical novel based on the lives of Irish playwright J.M. Synge and actress Molly Allgood.

Dublin 1907, a city of whispered rumours. An actress still in her teens begins an affair with a damaged older man, the leading playwright at the theatre where she works. Rebellious, irreverent, beautiful, flirtatious, Molly Allgood is a girl of the inner city tenements, dreaming of stardom in America. Witty and watchful, she has dozens of admirers. But in the backstage of her life, there is a secret.

Her lover, John Synge, is a troubled, reticent genius, the son of a once prosperous landowning family, a poet of fiery language and tempestuous passions. Yet his life is hampered by Edwardian conventions and by the austere and God-fearing mother with whom he lives. Scarred by a childhood of immense loneliness and severity, he had long been ill, but he loves to walk the wild places of Ireland. The affair, sternly opposed by friends and family, is turbulent, sometimes cruel, often tender.

Many years later, an old woman makes her way across London on a morning after the city has been struck by a hurricane. Christmas is coming. As she wanders past bombsites and through the forlorn beauty of wrecked terraces and wintry parks, a snowdrift of memories and lost desires seems to swirl. She has twice been married: once widowed, once divorced, but an unquenchable passion of life has kept her afloat as her dazzling career has faded.

"Within a specific political and historic context, O'Connor has fashioned the delicate bloom of a love story, from its pollination in the Dublin theatre to its wistful autumn in the steady decline of Allgood's stage career. Unlike the biographer, more or less tethered to the obduracy of facts, 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." —The Independent (UK)

About Author(s)

Joseph O’Connor was born in Dublin, Ireland. His books include six previous novels: Cowboys and Indians (short-listed for the Whitbread Prize), Desperadoes, The Salesman, Inishowen, Star of the Sea, and Redemption Falls. Star of the Sea became an international bestseller, winning the Irish Post Award for Literature, and France’s Prix Millepages, Italy’s Premio Acerbi, and the Prix Madeleine Zepter for European Novel of the Year. His work has been published in thirty-five languages.