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  • Published: 16 February 2021
  • ISBN: 9781529112139
  • Imprint: Vintage
  • Format: Paperback
  • Pages: 272
  • RRP: $22.99


From the greatest living Irish author, a brilliant and moving novel about fame, sexual power, and a daughter’s search to understand her mother’s hidden truths

‘Written with all the ingenuity and twisty tautness of a thriller’ The Times
From the Booker-winning Irish author, a brilliant and moving novel about fame, sexual power, and a daughter’s search to understand her mother’s hidden truths.

This is the story of Irish theatre legend Katherine O’Dell, as told by her daughter Norah. It tells of early stardom in Hollywood, of highs and lows on the stages of Dublin and London’s West End. Katherine’s life is a grand performance, with young Norah watching from the wings.

But this romance between mother and daughter cannot survive Katherine’s past, or the world’s damage. As Norah uncovers her mother’s secrets, she acquires a few of her own. Then, fame turns to infamy when Katherine decides to commit a bizarre crime.

Actress is about a daughter’s search for the truth: the dark secret in the bright star, and what drove Katherine finally mad . . .

  • Published: 16 February 2021
  • ISBN: 9781529112139
  • Imprint: Vintage
  • Format: Paperback
  • Pages: 272
  • RRP: $22.99

About the author

Anne Enright

Anne Enright was born in Dublin, where she now lives and works. She has written two collections of stories, published together as Yesterday’s Weather, one book of non-fiction, Making Babies, and six novels, including The Gathering, which won the 2007 Man Booker Prize, The Forgotten Waltz, which was awarded the Andrew Carnegie Medal for Excellence in Fiction, and The Green Road, which was the Bord Gáis Energy Novel of the Year and won the Kerry Group Irish Fiction Award. In 2015 she was appointed as the first Laureate for Irish Fiction, and in 2018 she received the Irish PEN Award for Outstanding Contribution to Irish Literature.

Also by Anne Enright

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Praise for Actress

Gripping drama and a pitch-perfect evocation of the stages of Seventies Dublin and London’s West End.

Stephanie Cross, Daily Mail, *Books to Look Our For in 2020*

A delicate, knotty reflection on familial relationshipsbrilliant.

Dazed Digital, *Books to Look Our For in 2020*

Anne Enright, the unofficial rock star of literary fiction, cements her stardom with Actress.

Niamh Donnelly, Irish Times

[A] literary force to be reckoned with... [Anne Enright] is one of Ireland's most significant authors - and Actress will be a must-read for many in 2020.

Nadine O'Regan, Sunday Business Post

Actress absolutely enthralled me… [An] immersive, masterful novel.

Anya Meyerowitz, Red Magazine

Another compelling effort filled with Enright’s trademark psychological insight.

Paul Nolan, HotPress

A warm and generous portrait of a relationship between a daughter and her famous motherskilfully interwoven with Norah’s own story, and the twists and turns of her own life and marriage.

Hugh Linehan, Irish Times

A perfect jewel of a book, a dark emerald set in the Irish laureate’s fictional tiara, alongside her Man Booker Prize winner The Gathering (2007) and The Green Road (2015). Its brilliance is complex and multifaceted, but completely lucidActress is a deeply humane, often darkly funny novel about the exercise of power over sexually attractive women. The grim subject matter is illuminated by Enright’s acute sensitivity to languageEnright proves, once again, her genius.

Ruth Scurr, Spectator

Sentence after sentence is laid down with the solidity of a line of bricks, transforming ordinary life into something beautiful and strangeEvery word feels right.

Robert Douglas-Fairhurst, The Times

Anne Enright has an unmistakable diction and a genius for arresting detail. Her novel, a daughter’s account of her once-famous actress mother’s life, is a many-sided thing… Actress is especially good in its evocation of an Ireland and a Dublin that is vanished, highly developed in civility and language, voracious for gossip, sociable, religious, hypocritical, louche, drunken and with a sensitivity to the nuances of speech.

Melanie McDonagh, Evening Standard

A potent brew of fame, sexual power, hypocrisy and bad men.

Hephzibah Anderson, Mail on Sunday

The best novel involving theatre since Angela Carter’s Wise Children… This novel achieves what no real actor’s memoir could… Enright triumphs as a chameleon: memoirist, journalist, critic, daughter – her emotional intelligence knows no bounds.

Kate Kellaway, Observer

The narrative dances through plays, boozing and parties… Enright dwells, intriguingly, on passivity, a state common in acting, womanhood and living in Ireland… a winning read.

Francesca Carington, Sunday Telegraph, *Novel of the Week*

Enright focuses on the complexities of human connection… gradually the subtleties form into something profound and complexwitty and really rather brilliant.

Lucy Atkins, Sunday Times

Enright is quick, knowing, enjoyably sharp... There are leaps of joy in Actress... It sparkles with light, rapid, shrugging wit; cliches are skewered in seconds… The magic of pre-war touring players, holding audiences rapt in country halls, is richly done.

Alexandra Harris, Guardian, *Book of the Week*

A powerful novel.


Actress is a remarkably positive story of female creativity, courage, survival and love… a tour de force of half-concealed effects and slow-burning revelations that splutter suddenly into flame.

Clare Pettitt, Times Literary Supplement

AbsorbingEnright’s prose is so beautiful that even the shadows are graced with flickers of light… Actress is an elegant novel.

Eithne Farry, Daily Express

Actress is a fabric of musings… The characters in Enright’s novels are absorbing because they seem recognisable in an unassuming way: they’re as lovely, boring and complex as the people outside the books.

Cal Revely-Calder, Daily Telegraph

Brilliantly and delightfully done… [Actress] is always interesting, and…very enjoyable.

Allan Massie, Scotsman

Enright, herself a former actress, captures all the comedy and pathos that comes from living the strange, unreal life of an actor.

Charlotte Heathcote, Sunday Express

A raw, tender portrayal of a woman undone by her work, and the men who control it. Seamlessly wrought, it is quite bewitching.

UK Press Syndication

In Katherine O’Dell, her fictional fallen star of stage and screen…Enright has created a heroine as irresistible to the reader as to her audiences… She has become a byword for contemporary Irish literary fiction at its finest.

Lisa Allardice, Guardian

May I recommend Actress by Anne Enright. Her writing is always pitch perfect, but this is truly exquisite. If there is such a thing as the perfect novel, this is it.

Nigella Lawson

Actress is yet another typically luminous story from Irish author Anne Enrighta raw, tender portrayal of a woman undone by her work, and the men who control it. Seamlessly wrought, it is quite bewitching.

Ella Walker, Irish News *Book of the Week*

This book could easily, and mistakenly, be lumped together with other #MeToo novels; work that seems to feed the patriarchy rather than challenge it. Enright, sensibly, doesn’t care if she has your sympathy – she’s too cold, too sharp…so effective. No one understands rage, or the lucid, bleached moments that follow it, better than Enright… If these stories took a physical form, I imagine they would be a well-dressed woman screaming into a silk pillowcase. Which is to say, I love them.

Nicole Flattery, London Review of Books

Actress is a poignant tale of the vicissitudes of fame and its effects on the loved ones of the famous.



James Moran, Tablet

The next stage in an illustrious writing careerstuffed full of dark wit, memorable lines and striking images.

Sarah Hughes, Scotsman

Enright is to Dublin as Didion is to California.

Ana Kinsella, AnOther

I've just started reading Anne Enright's Actress. I very much enjoyed her previous novel, The Green Road. This one has glorious lines even in the opening pages.

Tracey Thorn

I would definitely recommend Actress by Anne Enright, it is her at her very best.

Marjorie Brennan, Irish Examiner

Few reviews said how absolutely hilarious [Actress] is. Enright skewers beautifully those creepy provincial aesthetes of Dublin of the sixties and seventies.

Conor O'Callaghan, Irish Times

Written with all the ingenuity and twisty tautness of a thriller…[Actess], which vividly recreates the bohemian world of the theatre, is a study of love that is all the more uplifting because it is unsparingI read Actress absolutely rapt from cover to cover.

Melanie Phillips, The Times

Enright is formidable in combining the concrete detail of lives – think of the extraordinary array of sibling portraits in her last novel, The Green Roadwith an acute understanding of the inchoate lives of families: the push and pull of loyalty; the projection of desires; the smothering of disappointment and unhappiness. Here she conjures [a] rollicking story.

Alex Clark, Oldie *Novel of the Month*

A rich, impressively imagined work about a stage and screen star who may never have existed but seems considerably more human than many real-life figures as seen through their own eyes or those of any but the finest biographers.

Philip Fisher, British Theatre Guide

This story is about mothers and daughters, but also secrets in families and women in Ireland. It's an easy read, with a quintessentially Irish tone... It's brilliant.

Jess Phillips, Observer

Anne Enright's gorgeous book Actress raised an enviable bar: uniquely, in modern fiction, a novelist who can do justice to portraying a modern actor.

David Hare, New Statesman *Books of the Year*

Anne Enright's Actress is up there as one of my favourites this year.

Elaine Feeney, Irish Times *Books of the Year*

Actress by Anne Enright is a brilliant, lyrical, powerful novel... It's dazzlingly sharp and unnervingly intimate.

Danielle McLaughlin, Irish Times *Books of the Year*

Anne Enright's Actress remains vivid in my mind many months after reading. No one is better on mothers and daughters. Actress is absorbing, entertaining and beguiling and stole the show for me in 2020.

Helen Cullen, Irish Times *Books of the Year*

When you hit the last page of Anne Enright's Actress you take a breath and dive straight back in again. Showcasing her mastery of the sentence and her extraordinary emotional intelligence...it's moving but never sentimental, funny but never pastiche.

Estelle Birdy, Independent *Books of the Year*

Anne Enright's brilliant novel is a darkly glittering account of the cost to both the mother and her daughter of Katherine's complicated fame.

Jane Shilling, Daily Mail

A gem from a former Booker winner.

Susie Mesure, i, *Summer Books of 2021*

Anne Enright['s]...writing is simply glorious. Comedy and tragedy in one.

Mary Lawson, Daily Mail, *Books of the Year*

Discover more

A useful guide to Anne Enright

A guide to author Anne Enright and her books.