May 17, 2022

Audrey Magee

Harvard Book Store's virtual event series welcomes Irish novelist and journalist AUDREY MAGEE—acclaimed author of The Undertaking—for a discussion of her new book The Colony: A Novel. She will be joined in conversation by NINA MACLAUGHLIN—author of Wake, Siren: Ovid Resung and Summer Solstice: An Essay.


It is the summer of 1979. An English painter travels to a small island off the west coast of Ireland. Mr. Lloyd takes the last leg by currach, though boats with engines are available and he doesn’t much like the sea. He wants the authentic experience, to be changed by this place, to let its quiet and light fill him, give him room to create.

He doesn’t know that a Frenchman follows close behind. Jean-Pierre Masson has visited the island for many years, studying the language of those who make it their home. He is fiercely protective of their isolation, deems it essential to exploring his theories of language preservation and identity.

But the people who live on this rock—three miles long and half a mile wide—have their own views on what is being recorded, what is being taken, and what ought to be given in return. Over the summer, each of them—from great-grandmother Bean Uí Fhloinn, to widowed Mairéad, to fifteen-year-old James, who is determined to avoid the life of a fisherman—will wrestle with their values and desires. Meanwhile, all over Ireland, violence is erupting. And there is blame enough to go around.

An expertly woven portrait of character and place, a stirring investigation into yearning to find one’s way, and an unflinchingly political critique of the long, seething cost of imperialism, Audrey Magee’s The Colony is a novel that transports, that celebrates beauty and connection, and that reckons with the inevitable ruptures of independence.

About Author(s)

Audrey Magee is the author of The Undertaking, a novel shortlisted for several prizes including the Women’s Prize for Fiction and France’s Prix du Premier Roman. She worked as a journalist for 12 years, writing extensively for The Times, the Irish Times, the Guardian and Observer as well as broadcasting for RTÉ and the BBC. Between 1996 and 2001, Magee worked as the Ireland Correspondent for The Times, covering events in Northern Ireland and the Irish Republic, including the Good Friday Agreement, the Omagh bomb and the Drumcree stand-off. She lives in Wicklow, Ireland.

Nina MacLaughlin is the author of Wake, Siren: Ovid Resung (FSG/FSG Originals), a re-telling of Ovid's Metamorphoses told from the perspective of the female figures transformed, as well as Summer Solstice: An Essay (Black Sparrow). Her first book was the acclaimed memoir Hammer Head: The Making of a Carpenter (W.W. Norton). Formerly an editor at the Boston Phoenix, she worked for nine years as a carpenter, and is now a books columnist for the Boston Globe. Her work has appeared on or in The Paris Review DailyThe BelieverAgniAmerican Short Fiction, the Los Angeles Review of Books, the Wall Street JournalMeatpaper, and elsewhere. She carves spoons and lives in Cambridge, Massachusetts.