Billy O’Callaghan’s new novel Life Sentences is the sweeping and immersive story of one ordinary family in Ireland, and their extraordinary journey over three generations and more than a century of famine, war, violence and love.
At sixteen Nancy leaves her small island for the mainland, the only member of her family to survive the Great Famine. Finding work in a grand house on the edge of Cork City, a love affair soon throws her into a fight for her life. In 1920, Nancy’s son Jer has lived through battles of his own as a soldier in the Great War. in the early 1980s, Jer’s youngest child Nellie is nearing the end of her life in a council house, moments away from her childhood home.
Set in Douglas village where Billy O’Callaghan’s family has lived for generations, Life Sentences is partly based on stories told by his parents and grandparents. His writing is imbued with truth and lived experience – creating a novel so rich in life and empathy it is impossible to let go of his characters.
‘O’Callaghan is one of our finest writers… and this is his best work yet.’ John Banville
‘Stops you in your tracks so you can savour its utter beauty.’ Anne Griffin
‘Eminently readable… My book of the year so far.’ Ryan Tubridy
Billy O’Callaghan is the author of the critically acclaimed novel My Coney Island Baby, which has been translated into eight languages. His story ‘The Boatman’ was shortlisted for the Costa Short Story Award. He lives in Douglas village on the edge of Cork City. His latest novel Life Sentences was published by Jonathan Cape in January 2021.