Niall Williams
Novels   Niall Williams


We are our stories. We tell them to stay alive or keep alive those who only live now in the telling. In Faha, County Clare, everyone is a long story...

Bedbound in her attic room beneath the falling rain, in the margin between this world and the next, Plain Ruth Swain is in search of her father. To find him, enfolded in the mystery of ancestors, Ruthie must first trace the jutting jaw lines, narrow faces and gleamy skin of the Swains from the restless Reverend Swain, her great-grandfather, to grandfather Abraham, to her father, Virgil – via pole-vaulting, leaping salmon, poetry and the three thousand, nine hundred and fifty eight books piled high beneath the two skylights in her room, beneath the rain.

The stories – of her golden twin brother Aeney, their closeness even as he slips away; of their dogged pursuit of the Swains’ Impossible Standard and forever falling just short; of the wild, rain-sodden history of fourteen acres of the worst farming land in Ireland – pour forth in Ruthie’s still, small, strong, hopeful voice. A celebration of books, love and the healing power of the imagination, this is an exquisite, funny, moving novel in which every sentence sings. 

Click  here to read first chapter....

“This is an important new book and, without spoiling the riveting last chapter next Friday, the rewards increase tenfold the further into the story one gets” –  Book at Bedtime, Radio Times

“A rambling, soft-hearted Irish family saga stuffed with eccentricity, literature, anecdotes, mythology, humour and heartbreak from the author of Four Letters of Love” –  Kirkus

“Extremely moving, poignantly capturing Ruth’s doomed childhood relationship with her twin brother. By the final chapter I was weeping” –  Sunday Times

“Williams’ poetic prose meanders from page to page and becomes one with her voice in a poignant story about family, identity, love and loss, pain, faith and hope” –  Monocle

“Extremely funny and clever, and packed with beautiful imagery. This is a brave and wildly imaginative novel, that certainly stands out in a genre of its own” –  Western Mail

"This is a book about rain. It is also about rivers; and about salmon and families and love and poetry. Or maybe it is about Impossible Aspirations, complete with capital letters. Move over, Flann O'Brien; you have been sitting on your own for far too long. Here is a fellow Dubliner exiled to the country, living in a place called Kiltumper.It is unfair to other novelists that they have to compete against writing of this quality." - Sydney Morning Herald

"Destined to be a classic, History of the Rain isn't just the elegy Ruthie offers to the departed but also a love letter to reading and its life-giving powers. [Ruthie's] voice and narrative remain utterly unique even as she invites comparisons to Jim Hawkins, Ishmael, and hosts of legendary literary narrators." - Library Journal, starred review

"You can smell the peat burning and feel the ever-present mist in acclaimed Irish novelist Williams’ luscious paean to all who lose themselves in books. Williams captures the awe and all of Ireland—its myths and mysteries, miseries and magic—through the pitch-perfect voice of a saucily defiant young woman who has witnessed too much tragedy but who clings devotedly to those she’s lost." - Booklist, starred review

"History of the Rain is charming, wise and beautiful. It is a love letter to Ireland in all its contradictions, to literature and poetry and family. It acknowledges that faith itself is a paradox, both impossible and necessary. And faith carries this novel--faith that stories can save us, that love endures, that acceptance is within reach, and finally, that it is possible to get to the other side of grief." - Shelf Awareness


John - Paperback cover

John is a stunning, lyrical re-imagining of John the Apostle in the final years of his life. Now a frail, blind old man, John lives in exile on the desolate island of Patmos with a small group of his disciples. Together the group has endured their banishment, but after years awaiting Christ’s return, fissures form within their faith.

An ambitious and provocative novel about the last surviving apostle and a powerful look at faith and how it lives and dies in the hearts of men.

Read Niall's notes on John on the View from Kiltumper Blog page.

"The writing is unfailingly resourceful and strong, able to range from the physical realities of poverty and deprivation to the exaltation of religious faith and the poignancies of memory. And the novel as a whole constitutes an eloquent and moving statement of the power of love and the belief that it will triumph in the end."
Barry Unsworth in The Guardian

"Themes of love, faith, redemption and survival inform his smoothly lyrical, powerfully dramatic prose in John. Williams is a writer who understands the haunting power of the simple sentence, the importance of compelling interior monologues. He has the knack of conveying a sense of immediacy. His flair for narrative overcomes the challenge of a story that starts out, by necessity, chained to a Greek rock, like Prometheus... This is a cracking good Bible-based novel for those of us who are theologically challenged. If Hollywood producer Cecil B. DeMille (The Ten Commandments) were alive today, he'd be angling for the film rights."
- Pat Donnelly, The Montreal Gazette

"Gripping and believable... In an age where reason and science have shown themselves inadequate to fulfil the human dream of perfection, it is important that serious writers such as Williams face the perennial questions of faith and love."
- The Irish Times

"Poweful and moving... an absorbing and intelligent novel."
- Times Literary Supplement

Boy and Man

Following the success of Boy in the WorldBoy and Man was published by HarperCollins UK in March of 2009. It continues the journey of the boy Jay as he volunteers in Ethiopia and leaves the world of adolescence behind. In keeping with the magic of Boy in the World and following in the tradition of Dickensian storytelling, Boy and Man, comes together like a masterful jigsaw.



U.K. orders 

Boy In the World

Boy in the World tells the story of a quest. The boy, an everyman for a new generation, grows up in a village in the West of Ireland in the care of his grandfather. On the morning of his Confirmation he is given a letter from his long dead mother and his world shatters.

It is a journey that takes him from Ireland to London, from there across Europe and into Africa. He has extraordinary encounters and those whom he passes are often changed by their meetings. Boy in the World is a remarkable story of a boy seeking his way in a changing world where all he holds dear seems to be in danger.

“In the past, Williams’s writing has often displayed an old fashioned quality, wistfully creating characters and settings that owe more to the nostalgic than the contemporary. Boy in the World sets out in a similar vein but snaps firmly against this by introducing acts of terrorism and considering the consequences of violence. At time thoughtful and moving, ultimately it is the empathy the reader feels for the young boy which allows this fine novel to resonate so well.”
- John Boyne, author of the bestselling The Boy in the Striped Pyjamas

“A likeable novel, which succeeds both as a sympathetic study of relationships and personal loss, and as a colourful… gripping story…”
- Times Literary Supplement

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The Unrequited

The Unrequited opens with the arrival in Oslo of Raphael Newell, a Dublin accountant. Someone who has always previously lived on the margins of life, Ray has come to Norway to find the married woman he has fallen in love with. Rejuvenated and invigorated by the experience of being in love, Ray sees the world differently; everything and everyone around him is transformed, and he feels for the first time that he has really come alive. Recounting the couple's first meeting alongside Ray's Norwegian quest, The Unrequited is both love story and fable, both a story for our times and—in the themes of love, life and loss it explores—one that is timeless; a story for all ages, in all senses of the word.



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Only Say the Word

In a cottage in County Clare, Jim Foley sits before a white screen and begins a love letter to his wife, hoping the words he writes will bring her closer to him. It is the autumn of two thousand and one. In the upstairs rooms of the cottage, his children, Jack and Hannah, are asleep.

Retracing the journey of Jim’s life, from childhood in County Clare to young adulthood in America, this is a story of desire, of stolen books, missed moments and contemporary fatherhood. After half a lifetime of grief, it is in language alone that Jim now places his trust; through the written word he imagines he can express all that has been unsaid in his life, so that love lost can be re-found and restored.

"A strong, simple tale which takes the ingredients of tragedy and turns them into something life-affirming"
- Marie Claire

"Reading Niall Williams makes you want to cuddle in front of a fire, holding on to a loved one so tightly you might never let them go. Williams writes superlatively about love and loss"
- Time Out

"Only Say the Word is a book about acceptance of the past and about an attempt to move towards a fragile, redemptive peace. It is heart-rending and unforgettable."
- The Economist

"For Jim, words are a kind of redemption – and nobody reading this subtle, meditative and beautifully written book will be inclined to disagree"
- Sunday Times

"Niall Williams has written a wonderful book, uplifting and hopeful. Give it to everyone…"
- Sunday Tribune


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The Fall of Light 

The Fall of Light is an epic story that follows the fortunes of the four Foley brothers in the Ireland of the 19th Century, a time of poverty, famine, mystery and redemption. Inevitably, the Foleys are scattered, each to his own road and his own future. The novel leads them from the bittersweet heart of Ireland beyond its shores to Europe, America and Africa. Williams guides his characters through fire and water, earth and sky, magic and reality, loss and consolation, until finally they come to terms with their own freedom and dreams.

"Williams' prose is bathed in poetry and moonlight." 
-The Times

"Fable-like...with a Celticized magical realism and sheer power of storytelling."
- Esquire

"Williams' language is rich to the point of bursting...A brave, generous and wholehearted book."
- Time Out

Longlisted for the IMPAC Award

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As It Is In Heaven

"It was a season of love in the afternoon; of slow time and long caresses, of strawberries...passing from mouth to mouth like the wet, ripe and softly bruised essence of pleasure itself..."

Time has already stopped for Stephen Griffin when he moves into the little house by the sea. Twenty-eight years old and haunted by death, the tall, awkward, shy schoolteacher is content to care for his father in Dublin and let life pass him by. Then a miracle appears: a string ensemble from Venice and, with it, a violinist named Gabriella Castoldi.

"God and Love and death can take care of themselves. A far greater mystery is the marvellous existence of a writer like Niall Williams...The novel is all delicious coincidence and tragedy, as extraordinary lives begin to unravel and intertwine...You might say that Williams really does write like an angel."-The Guardian

"Intricate and tender...there is a deftness to the artistry, a sophistication in the telling of their love story that captivates brilliantly."
-Sunday Times

Short-listed for the Irish Times Literature Prize 1999

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Four Letters Of Love

Nicholas Coughlan and Isabel Gore were made for each other but how will they ever know it? Four Letters Of Loveis a novel about destiny, acceptance, and the tragedies and miracles of everyday life. Most of all it is an unforgettable tale about the illuminating power of love, and how all of our stories meet in the end.

"Occasionally you have the great good fortune to read a novel which you devour as if it were a thriller, want it to last forever...but finally put down with great whoops of joy. Niall Williams' narrative unfolds with lyrical grace. Four Letters Of Love rolls with clarity and courage towards a heartbreaking affirmation of magic, miracles and the power of human love."
-The Times

"A novel about love, but even more about the longing that goes with love...a deeply satisfying work of art."
-Sunday Times

"...unfurls like some epic poem which has been handed down in song generation by generation. Half fable, half tragic realism, its musical rhythm is unforgettable."
-Daily Mail

"This book can rightfully claim its place among the classics of Irish literature."
-Belfast Telegraph

A New York Times Notable Book Of The Year.



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