Born secretly at night, the woman’s daughter has spent her life hidden in an upstairs bedroom, gaining only a tenuous idea of the world beyond her window through the nightly stories of her mother, which delve slowly back through the curious nightmare of the woman’s life, from her daughter’s birth and the incestuous love of her brother, through the factories and ballrooms of the 1960s, back to a time when they first came to the suburb on the open back of a swaying lorry.

Although the woman sees her own and her concealed daughter’s life in isolation, the novel begins to move backwards and forwards in time so that her story becomes part of the greater story around her. Back to the Victorian age and a young tutor obsessed with Bridget, a maid in the household where he works, who in turn is haunted by a chattering, childlike presence that makes her dread sleeping alone. And forward to Joanie, a modern street-wise girl consumed with nostalgia for a past she cannot have known.

These lives are linked by a sense of place, and by the figure who watches over them, the old man whose cottage is now overshadowed by a motorway and who finally confronts the young boy who has discovered the bedroom where the woman’s daughter lived.

The Woman’s Daughter is filled with characters who, in the words of the Sunday Tribune, are “the people who have been written out of history. Bolger’s work is an attempt to construct a history for them, an unofficial history, a preservation of the memory of wasted lives so that they may not, in the end, be in vain.".





"One of the essential Irish novels" - Sunday Tribune

"Dermot Bolger has delved beneath his country’s surface in an attempt to talk to its ghosts. The work of a fierce and terrifyingly uncompromising talent, The Woman’s Daughter is a novel of enormous ambition, an attempt to create a folk history for those whose dark sexuality (and Bolger writes about sex with an impressive power) has banished them into the underworld of their own country. … a serious and provocative work of fiction."  - Nick Hornby, Sunday Times

"A wild, frothing poetic odyssey… a brilliant and ambitious piece of writing."
- Sunday Telegraph

"Moving and powerful…a vivid recreation of a town on the outskirts of Dublin where famine pits and labourers’ cottages have been obliterated by shopping precincts and motorways, the women as the clue to the suppressed history of a whole community." - Independent on Sunday

"Classic Bolger territory… an astounding work of compulsive imaginative power." - Time Out



ISBN NO: 0007121202

PUB DETAILS: The Woman’s Daughter was originally published by Raven Arts Press in 1987. It was re-published in an extended edition with a new middle section by Penguin Books in 1991 and this edition was re-issued by Flamingo/HarperCollins. It was published in Swedish as Kvinnans Dotter (Albert Bonniers Forlag) and in French as Le Ventre de L’ange (La Lassuer) and will appear in Serbian in late 2009. The author’s radio adaption of the novel was broadcast in seven countries and won the Worldplay award for Best Radio Script. All other rights are available.


back to novels list