Martina Devlin, an award-winning columnist for the Irish Independent and podcaster for Dublin City of Literature #CityofBooks, has delivered a new novel based on the life of Edith Somerville of ‘Somerville and Ross’ fame – authors of The Irish R.M.
In this work, set during the turbulent period of Irish Independence 1921–22, Somerville finds herself at a crossroads. Her position as a member of the Ascendancy is perilous as she struggles to keep her family home, Drishane House in West Cork, while others are burned out. After years in a successful writing partnership with Violet Martin, Edith continues to write after her partner’s death, comforted in the belief they continue to connect through automatic writing and séances.
Against a backdrop of Civil War politics and lawlessness erupting across the country via IRA flying columns, people across Ireland are forced to consider where their loyalties lie.
In Edith, Devlin limns a vivid historical context in this story of proto-feminist Edith Somerville courageously trying to keep home and heart in one piece.
The story of Somerville and Ross is unique in the history of Irish women writers. Academic Shawn R. Mooney described these best-selling authors as ‘undeniably New Women: single, educated and economically independent writers whose lives and literary collaboration were unique manifestations of late-nineteenth century feminist strivings toward political and sexual equality’. Devlin depicts Edith in the round, suffering from loss, striving for safety, and keeping hold of hope in this captivating narrative set in the early years of a nascent state – a triumph of ventriloquism rooted in a society on the cusp of change.