The Ninth Hour
WINNER OF THE PRIX FEMINA ETRANGER 2018
SHORTLISTED FOR THE 2017 KIRKUS PRIZE
ONE OF TIME MAGAZINE’S TOP TEN BOOKS OF 2017
From the National Book Award-winning author comes a luminous, deeply humane novel about three generations of an Irish immigrant family in 1940s and 1950s Brooklyn – for those who love Colm Toibin, Anne Enright and Anne Tyler
On a dim winter afternoon in a Brooklyn tenement, a young Irish immigrant unhooks the oven gas, and inhales. In the aftermath of the fire that follows, Sister St. Savior, an ageing nun appears, unbidden, to direct the way forward for his widow and unborn child.
This is how Sally comes to grow up in the convent laundry, amidst the crank of the wringer and the hiss of the iron, her universe governed by the strange, kind and mysterious Little Nursing Sisters of the Sick Poor.
But although superstition and shame will collude to erase Sally’s father’s brief existence, his suicide will reverberate through many lives and over many decades. And when she comes of age, Sally will commit her own irrevocable deed, sacrificing her grace at the altar of human love.
‘Beautifully written, heart-wrenching and funny by turns … deeply vivid and authentic’ Sunday Times
Alongside her marvellous descriptions of unbeautiful bodies is an intense lyricism ... McDermott is so attentive to atmospheres, glances, the quietest moments that provoke profound shifts in a character's world ... Her new book unfolds without sentimentality or pity, but with a frankness of gaze that elevates her characters rather than diminishes them. Mercy, it seems, doesn't always take the forms we might imagine -- Molly McCloskey * Guardian * Beautifully written, heart-wrenching and funny by turns, and offers a deeply vivid and authentic portrayal of Brooklyn long before its hipsters arrived * Sunday Times * Dealing in simple lives and small dramas, the prose displays an unerring sense of detail, mood, and emotion. A masterful American writer at her best -- Jeffrey Burke * Mail on Sunday * From the perfect opening sentence of this latest book by the American Pulitzer Prize finalist, you know you are in safe hands ... McDermott depicts with sensuous intensity the texture of lives lived and the intersection of faith and sin in a remarkable novel marked by small, but transformative, acts of grace * Daily Mail * She is a poet of corporeal description ... It's the way she marries the spirit to the physical world that make her work transcendent. The Ninth Hour is a story with the simple grace of a votive candle in a dark church -- Sarah Begley * Time * Superb and masterful ... Powerful and sublime ... Her sentences burn on the page * Washington Post * This is a very fine novel and its focus on the quietly heroic lives of Catholic women in early twentieth-century Brooklyn enriches both McDermott's oeuvre and contemporary fiction more generally -- Sinead Moynihan * Irish Times * Ms. McDermott has once again managed a marvellous literary feat * Wall Street Journal * A tour de force ... McDermott is a virtuoso of language and image, allusion and reflection, reference and symbol ... McDermott once again demonstrates her expansively attentive literary care and its quiet power ... Reminds us of the pleasures of literary fiction and its power to illuminate lives and worlds * Boston Globe * Ramshackle, impoverished Brooklyn is evoked with confidence and precision -- Claire Lowdon * Spectator * Another exquisite novel in which those who at first appear unremarkable - in this case, nuns in early-20th-century Brooklyn - are revealed as heroines, unflinching in their devotion to the flawed humans around them * O Magazine * Wonderful ... The pace of this intricate novel, partly narrated by Sally's adult children, builds so subtly that the drama of its second half comes as a shock * Tablet * The early 20th-century Brooklyn nuns in Alice McDermott's latest novel, The Ninth Hour, couldn't give a toss about the Pope: their moral sense is made flexible by what they've learnt in the slums. They know when to speak, and when to shut their mouths and roll up their sleeves -- Helen Garner * Sydney Morning Herald, Books of the Year 2017 *
Book experts at your service
What are you looking for?