Contemporary Irish Literature – Millennial Fiction and the Female Gaze

Are you looking for an authentic novel about modern-day life? You might find it among the works of the many brilliant female authors of Ireland.

Ireland is home to some of literature’s most famous names. From James Joyce and Oscar Wilde to Samuel Beckett, it seems that this tiny country is really full to the brim with talent, revolutionary ideas, and the ability to capture the human condition through mere writing alone.

This trend, though, seems to persevere to this day.  As we speak, Ireland is establishing itself in a new genre and a new kind of literary movement. It’s the crib of millennial fiction, brought to us through the works of incredibly gifted women who don’t shy away from portraying the reality of life through the female perspective. Today, we’re going to talk about four of them.


Sally Rooney

We can’t talk about millennial fiction without mentioning Sally Rooney. On the same note, we can’t talk about modern Irish authors without focusing on their oeuvre and their massive popularity in the past few years. After all, the phenomenon of Rooney is already establishing itself in the Western literary canon and her books have left us speechless more times than we can count.

Whether we’re looking at her debut novel Conversations with Friends, her masterwork Normal People, or her newest release titled Beautiful World, Where Are You, Rooney manages to do what so many before her could not. In her writing, she showcases an authentic experience of youth and coming of age in the 21st century, with minimalist prose and deeply layered characters.

Rooney’s books are a reflection of ourselves. She brings the tradition of realism to the table, mixing it successfully with cosmopolitan everyday life, our thoughts, our problems, and our relationships. She might not have been the first one to do so, yet she perfected her ability to a tee. It’s no wonder then that this young Irish author almost singlehandedly started a literary trend that will stick around for some time. At this point, Rooney is a must-read.


Naoise Dolan

Following Rooney’s footsteps, in 2020 Naoise Dolan published her debut novel „Exciting Times“ – a quick, readable, yet thought-provoking book following a young Irish woman throughout her time working in Hong Kong. The author excels at sharp and witty prose, with fantastic character work, exploring thus the female experience in a rather confusing world.

As a sort of investigation on the topics of youth, migration, relationships, romantic connections, and finding one’s purpose in life, Dolan crafts a highly contemporary and relatable novel, establishing herself already as an author to be watched. Exciting Times is so exciting, in fact, that you won’t be able to put it down.


Megan Nolan

Another recent literary debut coming to us from Ireland is Megan Nolan’s astounding first novel Acts of Desperation. While on the surface there most certainly seems to be a love story, Nolan’s book works as a sort of cautionary tale against manipulation and abuse.

Even though it might not be pleasant to read based on the content, which at times covers some extremely serious issues such as alcoholism and self-harm, the author manages to very intelligently portray the harm a toxic and violent relationship might do to a person, especially a young one. Aside from examining the way a partnership with a narcissist looks, Nolan also explores the themes of identity as well as self-expression and the need to define who we actually are on the inside. As dark as it is, Acts of Desperation is a true accomplishment.


Louise O’Neill

Praised and beloved author Louise O’Neill started out in the Young Adult age range. Today, she has already branched out into a variety of genres aimed at somewhat older readers, fitting very neatly into the millennial fiction niche with some of her newest books. Almost Love is most certainly one of them.

Similar in some regard to Nolan’s Acts of Desperation, this heavy yet short novel focuses on the character of Sarah before, during, and after her affair with a much older man. It’s a book about toxic obsession and losing oneself in the promise of a relationship that never comes to fruition. On the other hand, it’s a tender, raw and touching portrayal of the way we feel once we give up on our dreams. Brilliant, through and through.


If you’re looking for a gripping read that will help you feel seen, the works of female contemporary Irish authors might just scratch your itch. Don’t hesitate to pick them up as soon as you get the chance.

Photo: Good Mood/shutterstock


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