Life Sentences

Life Sentences : the unforgettable Irish bestseller

4.11 (342 ratings by Goodreads)
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An unforgettable tale of love, abandonment, hunger and redemption, from a rising star of Irish fiction

'O'Callaghan is one of our finest writers . . . and this is his best work yet' JOHN BANVILLE


At just sixteen, Nancy leaves the small island of Cape Clear for the mainland, the only member of her family to survive the effects of the Great Famine. Finding work in a grand house on the edge of Cork City, she is irrepressibly drawn to the charismatic gardener Michael Egan, sparking a love affair and a devastating chain of events that continues to unfold over three generations. Spanning more than a century, Life Sentences is the unforgettable journey of a family hungry for redemption, and determined against all odds to be free.

This sweeping story of one family's fight for survival goes on making the heart lurch long after the final page, and confirms Billy O'Callaghan as one of the finest living Irish writers.


'A lovely, piercing book' SEBASTIAN BARRY

'Stops you in your tracks so you can savour its utter beauty' ANNE GRIFFIN

'Momentous and epic storytelling' BERNARD MACLAVERTY

'So good and true it feels almost magical' SADIE JONES

'Eminently readable . . . My book of the year so far' RYAN TUBRIDY
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Product details

  • Hardback | 240 pages
  • 144 x 222 x 25mm | 361g
  • Jonathan Cape Ltd
  • London, United Kingdom
  • English
  • 1787332446
  • 9781787332447
  • 59,326

Review Text

People who read Sebastian Barry, Donal Ryan, Liam O'Flaherty will really love [Life Sentences] . . . It's my book of the year so far.
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Review quote

Billy O'Callaghan's writing is so good and true it feels almost magical; Life Sentences is a beautiful book, a small epic, a joy. -- Sadie Jones O'Callaghan is amongst the finest storytellers and wordsmiths in Ireland today. -- Anne Griffin A beautiful novel. -- Eithne Shortall * Sunday Times Culture * The strength of Life Sentences lies in its long range but intimate style . . . A reader could profitably finish the book and go straight back to its beginning -- John Self * Spectator * People who read Sebastian Barry, Donal Ryan, Liam O'Flaherty will really love [Life Sentences] . . . It's my book of the year so far. -- Ryan Tubridy * RTE Radio One * A lovely, piercing book. -- Sebastian Barry Momentous and epic storytelling. -- Bernard MacLaverty A superb and moving novel . . . O'Callaghan is one of our finest writers, in the tradition of John McGahern and Brian Friel, and this is his best work yet. -- John Banville * Sunday Independent *Books of the Year* * Life Sentences brilliantly immerses us in its respective time periods, and . . . O'Callaghan's natural gifts as a writer . . . the author often coming out with a stunning turn of phrase. -- Barry Pierce * Sunday Times * Lyrical, poignant, gripping . . . O'Callaghan weaves together a narrative that is compelling and dazzlingly rendered. -- James Moran * Tablet, *Novel of the Week* *
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About Billy O'Callaghan

Billy O'Callaghan is the author of the critically acclaimed novel My Coney Island Baby, which has been translated into nine languages and was shortlisted for the Encore Award 2020. Stories in his short-story collection The Boatman and Other Stories were shortlisted for the Costa Short Story Award and for Short Story of the Year in the An Post Irish Book Awards. He lives in Douglas, a village on the edge of Cork City.
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Rating details

342 ratings
4.11 out of 5 stars
5 37% (127)
4 41% (141)
3 18% (61)
2 3% (9)
1 1% (4)
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