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A Ghost in the Throat is a seance, summoning a keening woman drinking the blood of her murdered husband in handful gulps, the time both devoured and enriched by daily tasks, the haggard old woman who watches over so many last moments. This is a genealogy, a book-length translator's introduction, a bonfire. Ni Ghroifa's investigation of a famous Irish poem and its neglected author digs into the flesh a motherhood, womanhood, history, language, and poetry. A truly astonishing achievement.— Josh
An Post Irish Book Awards Nonfiction Book of the Year - A Guardian Best Book of 2020 - Shortlisted for the 2021 Rathbones Folio Prize - Longlisted for the 2021 Republic of Consciousness Prize
When we first met, I was a child, and she had been dead for centuries. I am eleven, a dark-haired child given to staring out window ... Her voice makes it 1773, a fine day in May, and puts English soldiers crouching in ambush; I add ditch-water to drench their knees. Their muskets point towards a young man who is falling from his saddle in slow, slow motion. A woman hurries in and kneels over him, her voice rising in an antique formula of breath and syllable the teacher calls a caoineadh, a keen to lament the dead.
In the eighteenth century, on discovering her husband has been murdered, an Irish noblewoman drinks handfuls of his blood and composes an extraordinary lament that reaches across centuries to the young Doireann Ní Ghríofa, whose fascination with it is later rekindled when she narrowly avoids fatal tragedy in her own life and becomes obsessed with learning everything she can about the poem Peter Levi has famously called "the greatest poem written in either Ireland or Britain" during its era. A kaleidoscopic blend of memoir, autofiction, and literary studies, A Ghost in the Throat moves fluidly between past and present, quest and elegy, poetry and the people who make it.