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  • Published: 2 March 2021
  • ISBN: 9781787333369
  • Imprint: Jonathan Cape
  • Format: Trade Paperback
  • Pages: 288
  • RRP: $35.00

Acts of Desperation

A bitingly honest, darkly funny debut novel about a toxic relationship and secret female desire, from an emerging star of Irish literature, for fans of Sally Rooney and Nora Ephron



'Please believe the hype ... a seriously exciting writer' Sunday Times
'The millennial author everyone should be watching right now' Daily Telegraph
'Such brilliant writing about female desire, co-dependant love...Incredibly honest and visceral' Marian Keyes
Discover this bitingly honest, darkly funny debut novel about a toxic relationship and secret female desire, from an emerging star of Irish literature.

Love was the final consolation, would set ablaze the fields of my life in one go, leaving nothing behind.
I thought of it as a force which would clean me and by its presence make me worthy of it. There was no religion in my life after early childhood, and a great faith in love was what I had cultivated instead. Oh, don't laugh at me for this, for being a woman who says this to you. I hear myself speak.

Even now, even after all that took place between us, I can still feel how moved I am by him. Ciaran was that downy, darkening blond of a baby just leaving its infancy. He was the most beautiful man I had ever seen. None of it mattered in the end; what he looked like, who he was, the things he would do to me. To make a beautiful man love and live with me had seemed - obviously, intuitively - the entire point of life. My need was greater than reality, stronger than the truth, more savage than either of us would eventually bear. How could it be true that a woman like me could need a man's love to feel like a person, to feel that I was worthy of life? And what would happen when I finally wore him down and took it?

'A dark, intense account of an obsessive love affair. It's great on the elation of falling in love and then its flip side, the anxiety, fixation and self-doubt. A really fine debut' David Nicholls

  • Published: 2 March 2021
  • ISBN: 9781787333369
  • Imprint: Jonathan Cape
  • Format: Trade Paperback
  • Pages: 288
  • RRP: $35.00

About the author

Megan Nolan

Megan Nolan was born in 1990 in Waterford, Ireland, and is currently based in London. Her writing has been published widely including in the New York Times, White Review, Sunday Times, Guardian, Village Voice and in the literary anthology, Winter Papers. Regular columns of her cultural commentary appear in i newspaper, Huck Magazine and the New Statesman. Acts of Desperation is her first novel.

Praise for Acts of Desperation

A darkly rich and heady exploration of hunger and unraveling, Acts of Desperation is unashamed and honest. It questions the truest way to inhabit a body and shows us the horror and the beauty in learning to be alone.

Jessica Andrews

This is an incredible debut . . . Poignant, poetic, raw and utterly unique - I couldn't stop reading. Pre-order it now.

Pandora Sykes

Tapping into the zeitgeist comes one of the books of 2021: Megan Nolan's Acts of Desperation . . . a heartbreaking-but-resonating portrait of one woman's savage mistreatment of herself in the name of love.


Oh my god! Such brilliant writing about female desire, co-dependant love, the ownership that's taken of female bodies and how it corrupts our relationship to them. I identified hugely. Incredibly honest and visceral.

Marian Keyes

One of the most anticipated books of the year . . . Lives up to the hype.

AnOther Magazine *The Literary Fiction to Look Out for in 2021*

Megan Nolan is a huge literary talent, and her first novel is a love story like no other.

Karl Ove Knausgaard

[A] fearless debut . . . Amusing, relatable, crushing . . . Nolan's gutsiest achievement is reclaiming female love and desire in all its shades from lighter literature, making of it something frequently unpretty yet intensely vital.


Is Acts of Desperation the next Normal People? An 'exhilarating' debut from a young Irish author . . . interrogates what it means to be a woman addicted to love.

Harriet Johnston, Daily Mail

Nolan's ability to illustrate the rawest thoughts, neurosis and murky emotions is unrivalled. It's a read that will get inside your core.


A gripping story of romance gone wrong . . . It delves deep into the subtle psychology behind the temptation to return to something you know is not right for you.

Hannah Hillyer, Stellar

Acts of Desperation . . . ruthlessly peels back the ego to expose the soul's most discomfiting corners . . . [and] illuminates the fragile tension between power and desire.

Evening Standard

Please believe the hype . . . Nolan is not another Sally Rooney. She is another seriously exciting writer who happens to be young and female and Irish . . . Nolan's book describes a very particular experience and it does so with rare intelligence and courage . . . [Her] headlong, fearless prose feels like salt wind on cracked lips. You wince and you thrill.

Sunday Times

Nigh-on impossible not to devour.

Daily Mail

[A] gripping debut novel... The writing is fearless and gut punching... Love, pain and pleasure are so closely entwined that it's almost impossible to extrapolate which one is feeding the other.

Emma Firth, BURO

It's impossible to tear yourself away . . . This is more than simple victimhood. This is a hard frank look at something uglier and more discomforting . . . I couldn't stop reading Acts of Desperation.

The Times

Deeply felt and seriously, spikily intelligent . . . The millennial author everyone should be watching right now.

Daily Telegraph

Remarkable . . . a stunning meditation on the ways in which society moulds female desire . . . Lyrical and raw, Acts of Desperation is a vital intervention into the genre.

The Skinny

There is so much to admire in this extremely impressive first novel, which captures an intense experience with clarity and style. It is fully itself, and flawless in its way.


Nolan's writing gleams with dark precision . . . What Acts of Desperation illuminates best is the chasm, sadly still enormous, between feminist politics and personal predicaments of love, sex and romance.

Los Angeles Times

I loved this book . . . It triumphs because it takes a risk . . . We find ourselves hurtling towards an ending that is surprising, satisfying, subversive . . . Deeply affecting.

Irish Independent

A mesmerising debut that is a masterpiece from the opening sentence to the bitter end, and everything in between.

Independent *5 new books to read in lockdown*

Nolan's raw and uncannily insightful writing glimmers in a way that will shed new light onto wounds both healed and open

New York Times

A stunning book.

Sarah Carson

Nolan's narrator rips and picks at the threads and scabs of desire, hedonism and self-worth... in this searing first novel, Nolan is holding up a fantastically intense mirror to her protagonist and letting us make up our own mind about whether or not we will look away.

Tara Joshi, Quietus

There are flashes of brilliance throughout, reminiscent of John Berger.

Stephanie Sy-Quia, Times Literary Supplement

Acts of Desperation creates an immersive experience of toxic romance through a suffocating and addictive narrative.

New Statesman

Painful, sharp and absorbing.

Susie Mesure

A reflection on compulsion, addiction and what it's like to exist as a young woman in a world that is hostile to you. Read the first page and you won't be able to stop.

Irish Times

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