> Skip to content
About the book
  • Published: 2 May 2011
  • ISBN: 9781446435755
  • Imprint: Vintage Digital
  • Format: EBook
  • Pages: 272

Ghost Light

A powerful and deeply moving masterpiece about love, partings and reconciliation - and of the courage involved in living on nobody else's terms.

Dublin, 1907. A young actress begins an affair with a damaged older man, the leading playwright at the theatre where she works. Outspoken and flirtatious, Molly Allgood is a Catholic girl from the slums of Dublin, dreaming of stardom in America. Her lover, John Synge, is a troubled genius, whose life is hampered by convention and by the austere and God-fearing mother with whom he lives. Their affair, sternly opposed by friends and family, is quarrelsome, affectionate and tender.

Many years later, Molly, now a poverty-stricken old woman, makes her way through London's bomb-scarred city streets, alone but for a snowdrift of memories. Her once dazzling career has faded but her unquenchable passion for life has kept her afloat.

  • Pub date: 2 May 2011
  • ISBN: 9781446435755
  • Imprint: Vintage Digital
  • Format: EBook
  • Pages: 272

About the Author

Joseph O'Connor

Joseph O’Connor was born in Dublin. His books include eight previous novels: Cowboys and Indians (Whitbread Prize shortlist), Desperadoes, The Salesman, Inishowen, Star of the Sea (American Library Association Award, Irish Post Award for Fiction, France’s Prix Millepages, Italy’s Premio Acerbi, Prix Madeleine Zepter for European novel of the year), Redemption Falls, Ghost Light (Dublin One City One Book Novel 2011) and The Thrill of it All. His fiction has been translated into forty languages. He received the 2012 Irish PEN Award for outstanding achievement in literature and in 2014 he was appointed Frank McCourt Professor of Creative Writing at the University of Limerick.


Also by Joseph O'Connor

See all

Praise for Ghost Light

“A subtle wonder... Unmissible”

Daily Mail

“A spellbinding read”

The Times

“A superbly written, magically evocative novel”


“A virtuoso display of literary talent...brimming with sympathy and skill”

Adrian Frazier, Irish Times

“Masterful in its management of re-imagined lives and the time they inhabit”

Hugo Hamilton, Financial Times

“This remarkable, radiant and captivating novel...(is) deeply and resolutely imagined... O'Connor's novel carries all the pungency and resonance of a particular era of the past”

Patricia Craig, The Independent

“Ghost Light...has an astonishing command of voice and period detail, and offers an intimacy with the lives of others which is rare in fiction”

Colm Toibin, Daily Telegraph, Books of the Year

“Remarkable...[Molly is] a character as feisty, earthy and sexually magnetic as her namesake Molly Boom”


“Beautifully written and charming”

James Urquhart, Independent on Sunday

“He brings to life the joys and disappointments of a doomed romance with a rare and sparkling intensity”

Books Ireland

“Displays typical imaginative virtuosity and emotional depth in his re-creation of the ill-fated romance between the ailing playwright JM Synge and Molly Allgood... As well as being impressively well crafted, the novel is wreathed in language of Joycean richness”

Trevor Lewis, Sunday Times

“This is an entertaining read that carries a touching tale”

The Economist

“In this beautifully crafted narrative...that vanished turn-of-the-century world...and the oblique character of Synge...are evoked as magically as the world of London in the 1950s”

Reader's Digest

“Ghost Light is as fine-boned and delicately wrought as a bird's skeleton, each part interlinking and making a beautiful whole. The pace is slow, but the novel comes to an acutely moving climax: a fitting end to a haunting book about the lasting importance of memory, and the absurdity of love”

Philip Womack, Telegraph

“Joseph O'Connor is one of the most exciting novelists of his generation”

David Robson, Daily Mail

“A deeply moving, beautifully written story”

Glasgow Herald

“Involving novel”

Peter Kemp, Sunday Times, Christmas round up

“Absolutely brilliant - a beautifully written love story and somehow, a chunk of Irish social and political history”

Roddy Doyle, Guardian, Christmas round up

“O'Connor's involving novel puts you inside the mind of Molly Allgood, an elderly actress wandering round a brilliantly evoked 1950's London... Contrasting with the down-at-heel circumstances to which she is reduced are memories, rendered with sensuous freshness and vernacular wit, of her rich past”

Peter Kemp, Sunday Times Magazine

“This is a dream of a novel, beautifully written, the tragedy of a disappointed life wrapped in the chewy crust of indomitable humour...take [it] away somewhere quiet and listen to its music for yourself. You won't regret it”

Arminta Wallace, Irish Times

“Throughout a complex structure with shifting timeframes, O'Connor's writing is compellingly beautiful and Molly is marvelously drawn. A captivating read”


“A boutique examination of the love affair between JM Synge, Ireland's eminent 20th century playwright, and his fiancée, the actress Molly Allgood...the tenderness, passion and risk of their drawn out affair is captured in O'Connor's elegant but wistful prose”

James Urquhart, Financial Times

“Without wasting a word, he conjures up a dilapidated 1950s London that perfectly mirrors its heroine, and creates a spellbinding tale of thwarted love”


“I had to read some bits out loud, they were so funny”

Gemma Kappala-Ramsamy, Observer

“An involving novel that takes us inside the mind of an elderly actress drifting round a brilliantly evoked 1950s London. Contrasting with her reduced circumstances are her memories, rendered with sensuous freshness”

Sunday Times

“A brilliant novel”

Joseph O'Neill

“This is a great ambitious novel about love, loss, lamentation. Joseph O'Connor has the magic touch...I can't imagine many better - or braver - novels coming out this year”

Colum McCann

“A tender, compassionate love story”

Keith Hopper, Times Literary Supplement

Related titles