How to Build a Boat
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About the Author
Elaine Feeney is a writer from the west of Ireland. Her 2020 debut novel, As You Were, was shortlisted for the Rathbones Folio Prize and the Irish Novel of the Year Award and won the Kate O'Brien Award, the McKitterick Prize, and the Dalkey Festival Emerging Writer Award. Feeney has published three collections of poetry including The Radio Was Gospel and Rise, and her short story "Sojourn" was included in The Art of The Glimpse: 100 Irish Short Stories, edited by Sinéad Gleeson. Her work appears widely in The Moth, The Paris Review, The Stinging Fly, Poetry Review, and elsewhere. Feeney lectures at the University of Galway.
Praise for How to Build a Boat
"The interweaving stories of Jamie, a teenage boy trying to make sense of the world, and Tess, a teacher at his school, make up this humorous and insightful novel about family and the need for connection. Feeney has written an absorbing coming-of-age story which also explores the restrictions of class and education in a small community. A complex and genuinely moving novel."
--The Booker Prize 2023 judges
"Elaine Feeney's new novel, How to Build a Boat, concerns how families come into being, stay together and come apart."
--Times Literary Supplement
"One of those rare books that leaves you feeling less lonely. An uplifting tale of community, healing and the small connections that can change a life. A gorgeous gift of a novel, hopeful and full of humanity."
--Douglas Stuart, Booker Prize winning author of Shuggie Bain
"In her second novel after her 2020 debut As You Were, Irish writer Elaine Feeney [...] creates real, fiercely believable people, the kind you will never want to forget. [...] It is a privilege to read such a novel, and it richly deserves its place on this year's Booker longlist. It is suffused with generosity, wisdom and understanding."
"How to Build a Boat [...] is a heart-rending and delightful voyage in the company of 13-year-old Jamie O'Neill and his currach. The author Elaine Feeney has a poet's way with words and uncanny understanding of human frailty."
"Feeney has a genius for showing us the anxieties of each character ... lovely, sensitive, intelligent."
--The Miramichi Reader
"Absolutely gorgeous novel: a post-modern fairytale, feels like, a parable of togetherness, and the writing so achingly spare. [...] I loved every word."
--Conor O'Callaghan, author of We Are Not in the World
"Feeney has crafted a novel--from setting to voice--that manages to feel completely fresh yet still timeless, full of human frailties and failings, yet covered with goodwill."
"[Feeney] has a beautiful, crystal-clear prose style that penetrates to the emotional core of her three main characters, whose hurts and desires are achingly rendered on the way to a quietly triumphant ending."
"How to Build a Boat is a novel about the pressure that people face to mold to the expectations of others--and the relief of being able to shove that pressure aside."
"The novel is an intensive probe of contemporary Irish society; the island's culture of shame and silence is picked apart [...] as is the continuing influence of the Catholic church. [...] Feeney has insights into boyhood and, more importantly, has written a great boy to help her tell them."
"[Feeney's] impressionistic second novel follows a pupil and teacher as they navigate the social codes of rural Ireland."
"Elaine Feeney's writing ... lights up with that brilliant combination of hilarity and tenderness."
"A beautiful meditation on love."
"A beautifully-written, tenderhearted story."
"Lyrical, compassionate ... the book sails to a tender and almost heartbreaking crescendo of hope forged through honesty and imagination."
"Feeney's debut novel As You Were won her legions of fans--Margaret Atwood, Douglas Stuart and Marian Keyes among them. Her second novel ... will only win over more."
"Elaine Feeney's second novel is a beautifully told story that features a memorable cast of characters that ring true."
--Business Post Ireland
Praise for As You Were
"The novel reads almost like a humorous screen adaptation of an illness memoir, its gaze trained more on the lived experience inside a hospital than on looming death."
--New York Times
"I read this in one gulp! FunnySadCuttingBadHistoryElatingLyrical (new word). #Ireland #hospitals um what else?"
--Margaret Atwood on Twitter
"[A] brilliant debut ... Never sentimental, and full of well-crafted dialogue and rich descriptions ... This powerful work perfectly balances tragedy and hope."
--Publishers Weekly (starred review)
"In a novel that paints a picture of modern Ireland that isn't by Sally Rooney, women in an oncology ward come to terms with secrets, illnesses, and how to deal with their families through text and emoji-speak and existential humor. Perfect for Sad Girl Fall."
"A mighty, turbulent firestorm of a book, with a pulsing, rhythmic narrative voice. A compelling cast of characters with pitch perfect dialogue, it is tender, nuanced, forensically controlled and thrillingly unrestrained."
--2021 Dalkey Emerging Writer Award Jury