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The Rising of Bella Casey by Mary Morrissy

The Rising of Bella Casey

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This ambitious historical novel mixes fact and fiction to bring us the compelling and beautiful story of Bella Casey, sister to the famed Irish playwright Sean O'Casey.

Beginning during the Easter uprising in Dublin 1916 this intelligent, well-written and well-researched novel skips back in time recalling this fascinating character during a turbulent time in Ireland's history.


The Rising of Bella Casey by Mary Morrissy

'a wonderful book from one of our finest writers' Colum McCann Bella is a bright, clever girl who trains as a school teacher, determined to escape the limitations of her genteel impoverishment and become a mistress of her own life . However, the manager of her school, the Rev Archibald Leeper, a married clergyman, develops a morbid attachment to her, which is to colour the rest of her life. Leeper places Bella in an untenable position; her only escape is to seduce a young army corporal, Nicholas Beaver, to hide the fact that her reputation has been ruined by the clergyman. She marries Nicholas and they have five children. However, when Nicholas dies at the age of 40 from syphilis, Bella realizes belatedly that she is not the only one who has been keeping sexual secrets. Bella Casey was the sister of the playwright, Sean O'Casey. Tellingly, though, her brother chose to kill her off prematurely in his autobiography - at least 10 years before her actual demise.


'With great skill and vividness, Mary Morrissy gives voice to a fascinating but previously hidden woman. The result is a novel that is compelling and beautiful, no mere tale of historical restoration but a story full of strange resonances for our own time'-- Joe O'Connor

'In language that manages to be both elegant and unadorned at the same time, Mary Morrissy makes history rhyme with fiction. Morrissy tells the story of Bella Casey, but is well aware that the local becomes the universal. This is an intimate portrait of a woman and a profoundly necessary depiction of Irish history at its most extreme. From a piano left abandoned on the street, Morrissy has fashioned the notes between the ephemeral and the eternal. This is a wonderful book from one of our finest writers.' -- Colum McCann

'Mary Morrissy has a genius for lifting characters out of the dim backgrounds of history and brilliantly illuminating them. In The Rising of Bella Casey she evokes the rich Dublin world of the plays of Sean O'Casey, and creates a moving drama that O'Casey himself would have acknowledged.' -- John Banville

About the Author

Mary Morrissy

Mary Morrissy has published two novels, Mother of Pearl (shortlisted for the Whitbread Prize) and The Pretender (nominated for the IMPAC award), and a collection of short stories, A Lazy Eye. She is a winner of the prestigious US Lannan Prize and the Hennessy Award for short fiction. Her short stories have been widely published and anthologised in the UK and the US, most recently in the Faber Book of Irish Short Stories 2011. Her story ‘The Scream’ won honourable mention in Best American Short Stories 2010, edited by Richard Russo. The Rising of Bella Casey is her first novel with O’Brien Press.

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Book Info

Publication date

12th September 2013


Mary Morrissy

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Brandon an imprint of O'Brien Press Ltd


352 pages


Historical Fiction
Historical Fiction
Literary Fiction
Reading Groups
eBook Favourites

Historical fiction



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