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The Wren, the Wren

A novel by

An NPR 2023 "Books We Love" Pick • One of The New Yorker's Best Books of the Year • One of the Washington Post's Best Books of the Year • One of Time's Best Books of 2023 • One of Harper’s Bazaar 45 Best New Books of 2023 • One of New Statesman's Best Books of 2023 • A Publishers Weekly Top 10 Books of 2023 • A Kirkus Reviews Best Book of the Year

An incandescent novel from one of our greatest living novelists (
The Times) about the inheritance of trauma, wonder, and love across three generations of women.

Nell McDaragh never knew her grandfather, the celebrated Irish poet Phil McDaragh. But his love poems seem to speak directly to her. Restless and wryly self-assured, at twenty-two Nell leaves her mother Carmel’s orderly home to find her own voice as a writer (mostly online, ghost-blogging for an influencer) and to live a poetical life. As she chases obsessive love, damage, and transcendence, in Dublin and beyond, her grandfather’s poetry seems to guide her home.

Nell’s mother, Carmel McDaragh, knows the magic of her Daddo’s poetry too well—the kind of magic that makes women in their nighties slip outside for a kiss and then elope, as her mother Terry had done. In his poems to Carmel, Phil envisions his daughter as a bright-eyed wren ascending in escape from his hand. But it is Phil who departs, abandoning his wife and two young daughters. Carmel struggles to reconcile “the poet” with the father whose desertion scars her life, along with that of her fiercely dutiful sister and their gentle, cancer-ridden mother. To distance herself from this betrayal, Carmel turns inward, raising Nell, her daughter, and one trusted love, alone.

The Wren, the Wren brings to life three generations of McDaragh women who must contend with inheritances—of poetic wonder and of abandonment by a man who is lauded in public and carelessly selfish at home. Their other, stronger inheritance is a sustaining love that is “more than a strand of DNA, but a rope thrown from the past, a fat twisted rope, full of blood.” In sharp prose studded with crystalline poetry, Anne Enright masterfully braids a family story of longing, betrayal, and hope.
Genre: Literary Fiction

Praise for this book

"Somehow both classic and thoroughly contemporary. Very few writers could capably achieve such a thing and I remain, as ever, in awe of Anne's talents." - Sara Baume

"Sharp, sudden, mischievous, sublime - this is a dazzling novel; a glorious multi-generational novel of tangled relationships, secrets, bodies, sex. Nell must be one of the best young women I've read in recent Irish fiction." - Lucy Caldwell

"These pages practically crackle with intelligence, compassion and wit. Phil McDaragh is so real I almost googled him. As for the women he left ... Carmel's mothering made me blush with recognition and I wanted the world for Nell. The Wren, The Wren might just be Anne Enright's best yet." - Louise Kennedy

"Anne Enright's style is as sharp and brilliant as Joan Didion's; the scope of her understanding is as wide as Alice Munro's; her vision of Ireland is as brave and original as Edna O'Brien." - Colm Tóibín

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