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  • Published: 12 April 2022
  • ISBN: 9781529113013
  • Imprint: Vintage
  • Format: Paperback
  • Pages: 288
  • RRP: $22.99

Acts of Desperation

A bitingly honest, darkly funny debut novel about a toxic relationship and secret female desire, from an emerging star of Irish literature


'Crushing...intensely vital' Observer

'It's impossible to tear yourself away' The Times

'Such brilliant writing about female desire...honest and visceral' Marian Keyes

She's twenty-three and in love with love. He's older, and the most beautiful man she's ever seen. The affair is quickly consuming.

But this relationship is unpredictable, and behind his perfect looks is a mean streak. She's intent on winning him over, but neither is living up to the other's ideals. He keeps emailing his glamorous ex, and she's starting to give in to secret, shameful cravings of her own. The search for a fix is frantic, and taking a dangerous turn...

We're all looking to get what we want - but do we know what we need?


  • Published: 12 April 2022
  • ISBN: 9781529113013
  • Imprint: Vintage
  • Format: Paperback
  • Pages: 288
  • RRP: $22.99

About the author

Megan Nolan

Megan Nolan was born in 1990 in Waterford, Ireland, and is currently based in London. Her writing has been published widely including in the New York Times, White Review, Sunday Times, Guardian, Village Voice and in the literary anthology, Winter Papers. Regular columns of her cultural commentary appear in i newspaper, Huck Magazine and the New Statesman. Acts of Desperation is her first novel.

Praise for Acts of Desperation

A darkly rich and heady exploration of hunger and unraveling, Acts of Desperation is unashamed and honest. It questions the truest way to inhabit a body and shows us the horror and the beauty in learning to be alone.

Jessica Andrews

This is an incredible debut . . . Poignant, poetic, raw and utterly unique - I couldn't stop reading. Pre-order it now.

Pandora Sykes

Tapping into the zeitgeist comes one of the books of 2021: Megan Nolan's Acts of Desperation . . . a heartbreaking-but-resonating portrait of one woman's savage mistreatment of herself in the name of love.


Oh my god! Such brilliant writing about female desire, co-dependant love, the ownership that's taken of female bodies and how it corrupts our relationship to them. I identified hugely. Incredibly honest and visceral.

Marian Keyes

One of the most anticipated books of the year . . . Lives up to the hype.

AnOther Magazine *The Literary Fiction to Look Out for in 2021*

Megan Nolan is a huge literary talent, and her first novel is a love story like no other.

Karl Ove Knausgaard

[A] fearless debut . . . Amusing, relatable, crushing . . . Nolan's gutsiest achievement is reclaiming the female experience of love and desire in all its shades from lighter literature, making of it something frequently unpretty yet intensely vital.


Is Acts of Desperation the next Normal People? An 'exhilarating' debut from a young Irish author . . . interrogates what it means to be a woman addicted to love.

Harriet Johnston, Daily Mail

Nolan's ability to illustrate the rawest thoughts, neurosis and murky emotions is unrivalled. It's a read that will get inside your core.


A gripping story of romance gone wrong . . . It delves deep into the subtle psychology behind the temptation to return to something you know is not right for you.

Hannah Hillyer, Stellar

Acts of Desperation . . . ruthlessly peels back the ego to expose the soul's most discomfiting corners . . . [and] illuminates the fragile tension between power and desire.

Evening Standard

Please believe the hype . . . Nolan's book describes a very particular experience and it does so with rare intelligence and courage . . . [Her] headlong, fearless prose feels like salt wind on cracked lips. You wince and you thrill.

Sunday Times

Nigh-on impossible not to devour.

Daily Mail

[A] gripping debut novel... The writing is fearless and gut punching... Love, pain and pleasure are so closely entwined that it's almost impossible to extrapolate which one is feeding the other.

Emma Firth, BURO

It's impossible to tear yourself away . . . This is more than simple victimhood. This is a hard frank look at something uglier and more discomforting . . . I couldn't stop reading Acts of Desperation.

The Times

Deeply felt and seriously, spikily intelligent . . . The millennial author everyone should be watching right now.

Daily Telegraph

Remarkable . . . a stunning meditation on the ways in which society moulds female desire . . . Lyrical and raw, Acts of Desperation is a vital intervention into the genre.

The Skinny

There is so much to admire in this extremely impressive first novel, which captures an intense experience with clarity and style. It is fully itself, and flawless in its way.


Nolan's writing gleams with dark precision . . . What Acts of Desperation illuminates best is the chasm, sadly still enormous, between feminist politics and personal predicaments of love, sex and romance.

Los Angeles Times

I loved this book . . . It triumphs because it takes a risk . . . We find ourselves hurtling towards an ending that is surprising, satisfying, subversive . . . Deeply affecting.

Irish Independent

A mesmerising debut that is a masterpiece from the opening sentence to the bitter end, and everything in between.

Independent *5 new books to read in lockdown*

Nolan's raw and uncannily insightful writing glimmers in a way that will shed new light onto wounds both healed and open

New York Times

A stunning book.

Sarah Carson

Nolan's narrator rips and picks at the threads and scabs of desire, hedonism and self-worth... in this searing first novel, Nolan is holding up a fantastically intense mirror to her protagonist and letting us make up our own mind about whether or not we will look away.

Tara Joshi, Quietus

There are flashes of brilliance throughout, reminiscent of John Berger.

Stephanie Sy-Quia, Times Literary Supplement

Acts of Desperation creates an immersive experience of toxic romance through a suffocating and addictive narrative.

New Statesman

Painful, sharp and absorbing.

Susie Mesure

A reflection on compulsion, addiction and what it's like to exist as a young woman in a world that is hostile to you. Read the first page and you won't be able to stop.

Irish Times

Nolan...stakes out thrilling new territory in an intense, unflinching novel that is always intelligent and utterly unafraid of ugliness.

Claire Lowdon, Spectator, *Books of the Year*

A devastating stripping back of the gendered and politicised conditions that shape desire, a revelation of the unnerving ways we are made vulnerable to others in unequal systems. Its crisp, knowing prose is unparalleled, its anger remarkable.

Anahit Behrooz, Skinny, *Books of the Year*

Nolan's intelligent, elegant first novel, a gripping portrait of love turned toxic.

Daily Telegraph

The star feature of Nolan's narration is her ability to cut through received ideas about women, relationships and even rape. Her headlong, fearless prose, feels like salt wind on cracked lips. You wince and you thrill.

Claire Lowdon, Sunday Times

A raw read of vulnerability, desperation, and most definitely a new voice in fiction

Chloe Brown, Cosmopolitan

A thrilling read...if you want a visceral, honest, unputdownable summer read then this is it. You'll devour it in a day.

Stylist, *Summer Reads of 2022*

A very elegant novel, with coercive control at the core. She has such a strong voice and not a sentence is extraneous

Emma Frost, author of BUSY BEING FREE

I read this in one go... I found it raw, honest, brutal and real.

Lykke Li, Observer

Written with acerbic style and wit, this is an intoxicatingly good look at romantic obsession, delusion and desire.


Beautifully written…and the short chapters keep things moving at an addictively fast pace. Most importantly, it’s shamelessly real