The Living

There is the truth, and there are the stories we tell ourselves.


The Irish nation is at peace. Violence and segregation are consigned to history, stories to be told and not forgotten. Yet for the first generation to come of age in Ireland’s flimsy peacetime, the ghosts of the past are all too close to home.

Cate Houlihan has recently graduated from Trinity, struggling with a new job at an eccentric Dublin publishing house and overbearing parents, adrift in a life that doesn’t feel her own. Her sanctuary is singing in the prestigious Carmina Urbana choir, where she meets and falls for fellow-chorister Matthew — older, opaque, British.

But when her job brings her into contact with the recent Republican past, Cate’s world becomes confused. She fears she is being followed, Matthew blows hot and cold, soon everything is off kilter. Drawn inexorably into a dangerous situation she barely comprehends, Cate must face the truth to see what was there all along.

An eerily atmospheric novel, The Living explores peacetime Ireland and the realities of living under the shadow of a turbulent past.

among [2014’s] most ambitious debuts
— Arminta Wallace, Irish Times
Léan Cullinan’s elegantly written debut novel is both a coming of age story and a compelling thriller
Irish Times
confident and likeable ... the author is adept at pacing her narrative and at conveying an evocative sense of place
Irish Independent
This book would not have been possible ten years ago, when the story of Irish republicanism was still mired in secrecy, pride and shame. The Living is an intelligent, redemptive novel — it deals in loyalty and lies, untangling connections, making things clear. A trenchant and assured debut.
— Anne Enright

The Living was published in 2014 by Atlantic Books (London). Buy it now from your local independent bookshop, or (free worldwide shipping!), or Waterstone's (free UK shipping!), or Amazon. It's also available in e-formats from the usual places.