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Synopses & Reviews
Seventeen and sure of nothing, Maria has left her parents' small-town grocery for university life in Dublin. She finds a home, but it is four stories higher than she is used to, and her flatmates, Ruth and Jael, are older and more fascinating than she expected.
Rushing to tutorials by day, cleaning offices by night, Maria tries to get a grip on this new life. Urged on by her determinedly fun-loving friend Yvonne, she tries to summon up enthusiasm for finding a boyfriend, but her attention is elsewhere: what is she meant to be learning in Dublin, what should she look like, who should she be? And how much of a hold can the conventions of home and Catholicism keep on her, in a city of crumbling tenements and protest demos about condoms?
Her first tentative friendships failing to satisfy, Maria is drawn back to the flat, to Ruth's warmth and Jael's unsettling humor. But something Maria glimpses by accident blows her mind open, and she is forced to question everything she thought she knew about sexuality. Helplessly voyeuristic, she is drawn further and further into her flatmates' lives.
A poignant, funny, and sharply insightful coming-of-age story, Stir-Fry is a lesbian novel that explores the conundrum of desire arising in the midst of friendship and probes feminist ideas of sisterhood and nonpossessiveness.
"In her sweet first novel, Donoghue...writes clearly but never plainly about Maria, a young woman from the country who comes to Dublin to begin college....Donoghue deftly separates her novel from the usual coming-of-age fare with gentle language and a winningly intelligent protagonist." Kirkus Reviews
"It is in the flatmates' conversations earnest, irreverent, and extremely funny that the true pleasure of the book resides. 'The room feels warmer when you're in it,' Maria blurts out to Ruth, and in that one flushed, tremblingsentence she begins to glimpse her own attraction to women. The revelation is exhilarating, scary, and promising, for the reader as well as for Maria Murphy." Christian McEwen, Ms. magazine
"Evocative and insightful...destined to become a classic." The Village Voice
"Stir-Fry, Emma Donoghue's first novel, is a competent, compact, and occasionally funny exercise. But there's little else to be said about it. It is strikingly underwritten, composed almost entirely of volleys of dialogue, which naturally resist interiorization or complexity. A publisher might not think twice about bringing out something so easily billed as a 'fresh and distinctive new voice', but it's unlikely that it will galvanize or seduce many readers....Maria herself is painted as a loner, so that you can't help waiting for her bid for individualism. But her solitariness seems more like mere shyness. Her interaction with her three female friends never jumps beyond the tone of notes taken directly from life....If she thinks her life is as dreary as we think it is, we'd like some anger from Maria, some fierceness. But if she likes it anyway, we want some engagement with even its banality." Natasha Walter, The Times Literary Supplement
"Donoghue's well-written coming-of-age novel shows that the youthful conundrum of sexual orientation is as prevalent in Ireland as in the U.S." Booklist
"With this clever, interesting, and very assured first novel, Donoghue has put down a marker for the so-called New Ireland, and its fictions." The Times (London)
"What Emma Donoghue sets up in her lovely first novel is a modern Cinderella....In a twist on the classic fairy tale, it is the two 'odd' adopted sisters who help her find herself and true love." The Boston Globe
"A writer of great skill, wit, and intelligence." The Irish Times
"Donoghue's wry and tender debut tackles the interconnected themes of coming-out and coming-of-age....Eschewing dogma and offering no pat answers, this intimate, highly readable tale ends on a hopeful, love-affirming note as Maria makes a choice that is at once surprising, inevitable and very right for her. Described with wicked, hilarious accuracy, campus life (from women's-group meetings to boozy theatrical shindigs) provides a vivid backdrop to Maria's inner searchings." Publishers Weekly
"This wispy story of Maria, a Dublin student whose Catholic upbringing has done nothing to prepare her for the shock of sharing a flat with two lesbians, has the potential to involve the reader in a head-on clash between faith and animal instinct. But Donoghue is more interested in recording with some verve and accuracy the daily ebb and flow of undergraduate life and the sad comedy of her heroine's thwarted attempts to find herself a boyfriend. The comparative failure of her pleasant but undernourishing book offers further evidence that interesting social contexts are all very well, but provide no guarantee of vibrant writing." Jonathan Coe, London Review of Books
About the Author
Emma Donoghue is an author and editor with nine books to her credit, including Slammerkin, Kissing the Witch, and We Are Michael Field. Three of her books have been Lambda Literary Award finalists, and her novel Hood won the American Library Assocation's Gay and Lesbian Book Award. Born in Dublin in 1969, Emma Donoghue now lives in Canada. For more information, visit www.emmadonoghue.com.
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