Irish poet Elaine Feeney’s “dazzlingly inventive” debut novel As You Were will be published by Harvill Secker following an auction.
UK and Commonwealth rights were bought at auction by Harvill Secker’s deputy publishing director, Kate Harvey, from Peter Straus at Rogers Coleridge and White. The novel will be published published by Harvill Secker in April 2020.
As You Were follows Sinead Hynes, a driven young property developer and a mother, who has a difficult past and a terrifying secret – something she has confessed only to Google and a shiny magpie. She is in bed in a failing hospital, reliant on the kindness of strangers, particularly two older women, Margaret Rose and Jane, to help her.
"Through a virtuosic weaving of voices and histories, and through hilarious, close-to-the-bone observations about life on the ward, As You Were engages with the darkly present past of modern Ireland: with women’s struggles for rights over their bodies, and with catastrophic institutional failure,” the synopsis reads. “It also celebrates generosity and community in the face of these struggles, and the possibilities of sharing stories as a means of strength. It is a dazzling, irrepressibly inventive novel and is very much of our times.”
Harvey described Feeney’s voice as "completely extraordinary". She added: "She has force, subtlety, inventiveness, fearlessness, the ability to floor you or have you take flight in an instant. She’s also incredibly funny. This is a novel that shows language in moments of great beauty and great strain, redolent as it is with love, fear and laughter, the horror and banality of pain, historic damage, and tender compassion. The three women at the heart of As You Were are unforgettable, and I believe that their stories will resonate deeply. I couldn’t be more proud to be publishing Elaine.”
Feeney said: “The language used around our health and wellbeing remains awkward, secretive, and different; the rules of engagement are also different. This I believe, remains in part due to our recent past. As You Were is a book born out of the trust and the chats women have in the most peculiar of spaces, their eagerness to open up and understand each other, and it critiques the patriarchal system within Irish institutions that has silenced their voices, through fear, for many decades. I feel as a writer and a woman that I owe a huge debt of gratitude to the chorus of women’s voices that came before mine: these covens that taught me so much and are rich in experience, they ultimately enabled me to write.”
The manuscript has already won praise from authors such as Lisa McInerney, Claire Louise Bennett, Sinéad Gleeson, Nicole Flattery, Mike McCormack and others. "As You Were is a powerful openhearted novel with an authentic visceral voice. It is a thrilling, hugely enjoyable read and a quite brilliant fiction debut from this superbly gifted poet," McCormack said.
Feeney has published three collections of poetry, Where’s Katie?, The Radio was Gospel and Rise (all published by Salmon Poetry), and a drama piece, "WRoNGHEADED", commissioned by Liz Roche Company. She teaches at The National University of Ireland, Galway and St Jarlath’s College. Her work has been featured in publications including Poetry Review, the Stinging Fly, the Irish Times, Copper Nickel and Stonecutter Journal.