by Niamh Mulvey
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Pub Date 18 Apr 2024 | Archive Date 18 Apr 2024
Pan Macmillan, Picador
'Rare is the novel that is as significant as it is enjoyable' Emma Stonex
'Engrossing and moving . . . gives voice to so much that's unspoken about Ireland' Emma Donoghue
'Wonderfully compelling . . . haunting' Joseph O'Connor
'Extraordinary. I loved it' Jessie Burton
Delving into the lives of three women in a changing Ireland, The Amendments is an extraordinary novel about love and freedom, belonging and rebellion – and about how our past is a vital presence which sits alongside us.
Nell and her partner Adrienne are about to have a baby. For Adrienne, it’s the start of a new life. For Nell, it’s the reason the two of them are sitting in a therapist’s office. Because she can’t go into this without dealing with the truth: that she has been a mother before, and now she can hardly bring herself to speak to her own mother, let alone return home to Ireland.
But to Ireland is where she must go. To the heat of her teenage years in the early 2000s, as Ireland unpicks itself from its faith. To 1983, where her mother Dolores grapples with the tensions of the women’s rights movement. And finally, to the farms and suburbs and towns that made and unmade the lives at the centre of this story, bound together by the terrible secret Nell still cannot face.
'A smart, subtle, engrossing and moving novel that gives voice to so much that's unspoken about Ireland and about youth.' Emma Donoghue, Booker prize-shortlisted author of Room
'An extraordinary achievement. The Amendments is about a lot of things - love, family, girlhood, growing up, sex, legacy, compassion - all blended into a moving plot, expertly handled. Wonderful.' Jessie Burton, bestselling author of The Miniaturist
'I loved The Amendments by Niamh Mulvey. Rare is the novel that is as significant as it is enjoyable: her characters glimmer with heart and soul, her writing is beautiful and her themes profound. It's a book about mothers and daughters, friendship, hope, bravery and what it means to believe in something. A fantastic and important achievement.' Emma Stonex, author of the Sunday Times bestseller The Lamplighters
'Niamh Mulvey's wonderfully compelling characters and deft, clear prose offer great pleasure. Her sense of political and cultural change is sharp, and the beauty she finds in days of struggle is haunting.' Joseph O'Connor, author of My Father's House and Star of the Sea
Available on NetGalley
Average rating from 6 members
The Amendments follows three generations of Irish women, from the 1970s to 2018 when Nell and her partner Adrienne are expecting their first child. Nell has agreed to attend therapy with Adrienne. The thought of a having a child terrifies her but she’s prepared to do everything she can to keep her partner, beginning to write the story of how she came to be a rackety young woman, working as a sous-chef in London with no apparent attachment to her family, a story that encompasses tragedy and sexual confusion.
Mulvey’s intricately plotted novel shifts perspectives between Nell and her mother Dolores. Rather like the characters in Mulvey’s short story collection, Hearts and Bones, both are women who reach a juncture in their lives when past events come to the fore. Overarching their stories is the theme of reproductive rights and the waning influence of the Church. Mulvey’s characterisation is strong, neatly confounding stereotypes. Through the experience of Brigid, Dolores and Nell, a carefully nuanced picture emerges of a country which has changed beyond recognition, from the 1970s, when Brigid had no choice but to carry seven children, to her granddaughter’s marriage to the biological mother of their son. A deeply immersive and enjoyable novel, insightful and compassionate.
Book blogging is a serious business. You have to read greedily, rapidly, objectively. So therefore, it was a genuine pleasure to read this. And if I had read it for pleasure, I’d class it as one of the best novels of recent years. I certainly don’t think I’ll read better in 2024.
It’s a family story, with Nell and Adrienne about to become parents; with Nell’s life, mirroring that of her Mother Dolores. Measured against this is about forty years of Irish history and how women interact with other women. But it’s broader than that, looking at the fulfilling of fighting with your own past when you could just settle for being happy.
For this of you who like comparisons, it has the wabisabi of Kate Sawyer, with the precision of Anne Enright. And as the latter is one of my favourites, I’ll say that she has that precise, slightly aloof edge to her prose. For her first proper novel, this is a stunning debut. My thanks go to Picador for a review copy.