Emer Martin's is a radical, vital voice in Irish writing, as she challenges the history of silence, institutional lies, evasion and the mistreatment of women across mid-to-late twentieth-century Ireland.
Two families inhabit this immersive polyvocal work, an intergenerational saga announced with The Cruelty Men (2018) and continued here as punk rockers and Magdalene laundries spiral into a post-colonial Ireland still haunted by its tribal undertow. Scenes surface from Ireland's mythological past, Tudor plantations, workhouses and industrial schools, the Troubles laid bare, the transformative pre-digital decades playing out in this propulsive narrative. Thirsty Ghosts is epic in scope while intimate in focus.
The Lyons, professionals in a newly independent state, are attacked by paramilitaries in their family home in Tyrone. The eccentric O'Conaills of Kerry, traumatized by displacement, find themselves in leafy Dublin 4. We encounter a servant who meets Henry VIII, a Lithuanian Jewish family who become part of the fabric of Dublin, and a wild young girl who escapes the laundry only to stumble into a psycho pimp.
Related with dark humour, verve and high literary style, Thirsty Ghosts is a revelatory exploration of Ireland combining themes of power, class, fertility, violence and deep love, forces as universal as the old stories that permeate and illuminate each character's life.