Book review: Past and present intertwine in wild and magnificent Irish epic

In Thirsty Ghosts, Emer Martin revisits the O’Conaill family of her previous novel, whose members are now adults struggling to survive in 1970s Ireland

Emer Martin ‘skilfully juxtaposes the bloodletting of the recent and the distant past in a glorious bid to capture the power of story itself as a means to push back the darkness’

Emer Martin’s fourth novel, The Cruelty Men, was my book of the year in 2018, a searing account of one Irish family’s tribulations at the hands of church and state in the last century. Thirsty Ghosts revisits some of the same characters, albeit from a slightly different perspective. It also deals with similar themes, following Ireland’s forgotten souls as they suffer in industrial schools and in good, old-fashioned poverty.

In the acknowledgements, Martin admits that ...