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The Visitor

3.63  ·  Rating details ·  542 ratings  ·  80 reviews
The tale of Anastasia King who returns to her grandmother's house in Dublin after six long years away. She has been in Paris comforting her dying mother, who ran away from Anastasia's late father, her grandmother's only son. It is a story of Dublin and the unreachable side of the Irish temperament. ...more
Paperback, 112 pages
Published April 1st 2002 by Atlantic Books (UK) (first published 2000)
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Average rating 3.63  · 
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Feb 07, 2019 rated it really liked it
Those Hard-Faced Queens of Misadventure

Home is a place in the mind. When it is empty, it frets. It is fretful with memory, faces and places and times gone by. Beloved images rise up in disobedience and make a mirror for emptiness. Then what resentful wonder, and what half-aimless seeking. It is a silly state of affairs. It is a silly creature that tries to get a smile from even the most familiar and loving shadow. Comical and hopeless, the long gaze back is always turned inward.

Last year I read
Nov 20, 2017 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: irish
Robert Frost famously wrote: Home is the place where, when you have to go there, They have to take you in.

Not so here, when Anastasia returns to Dublin from Paris after her mother dies. Her father's mother, the only family she has left, wants her gone.

Here, Home is a place in the mind. When it is empty, it frets.

Other reviewers have called this quirky, curious, a queer book. That means there's something clever enough within, but actual meaning may be missing. Like this:

Now in the city there are
Debbie Robson
Jan 05, 2017 rated it it was amazing
How do you review a small masterpiece? Well, it’s not easy but straight away the author struck me as an Irish Hemingway - the pared down prose and the hypnotic quality of the writing.
Here is the opening sentence of the novel. “The mail train rushed along toward Dublin, and all the passengers swayed and nodded with the uneven rhythm of it and kept their eyes fixed firmly in front of them as though the least movement would bring them to the end of their patience.” And here is our main character An
Jul 05, 2016 rated it it was amazing
Home is...

Anastasia King left her father's home when she was 16 to live with her mother in Paris. Now, when she is 22, both her parents are dead and she has returned to Dublin expecting to live in her old home with her paternal grandmother. But old Mrs King is quite content to live alone with her memories of her beloved son and has never forgiven her daughter-in-law for bringing shame on the family by leaving him. And she's no more willing to forgive Anastasia for choosing her mother over her fa
Jul 13, 2017 rated it really liked it
Shelves: novels
Although a little melodramatic in plot (for me), this was a beautifully written novella, with sharp observation into how people behave. It uses teacups, spectacles and the spitting of fire to convey mood and thought. (eg 'She paid attention to everything; even a sudden spurt from the fire drew a little smile from her.'). A young woman returns home to Ireland after her mother dies in Paris, but finds herself not welcome by the paternal grandmother (the father also dead). Her friend lies in bed sm ...more
A curious little book by the Irish author and journalist Maeve Brennan who wrote for the New Yorker under the pseudonym 'The Long-Winded Lady' in the 1950s and 1960s. This is neither a short story nor a novella, but lies somewhere in between the two just as the world depicted in it lies somewhere between past and present, between reality and dream. I chose it because it is thought to be Brennan's first piece of fiction and I'm about to read a collection of her short stories called The Rose Garde ...more
Jan 04, 2016 rated it really liked it
Shelves: fiction, 2000s, irish-lit
Maeve Brennan is so sharp -- sympathetic and yet somehow unforgiving, observational and unflinching. She's a clear literary ancestor of writers like Colm Tóibín, but also of Gillian Flynn and all her imitators. The Visitor is a novella about a young woman, after the death of her essentially exiled mother, returning to the house of her grandmother -- her father's mother. It's a novel about vengeance, worked in a number of subtle, essentially feminine ways, and it's delightfully brutal without con ...more
Laila (BigReadingLife)
Dark but totally mesmerizing portrait of what's left of a dysfunctional family. (Read for Reading Ireland Month 2017.) ...more
Deceptively simple, this is a perfect jewel of a book.
Emer O'Toole
Jul 11, 2019 rated it really liked it
A beautiful, melancholy novella about how little forgiveness or kindness Ireland had for women who transgressed. The scene where Anastasia runs to find succour in a Church will stay with me, as will many of the profound reflections on grief and memory threaded through this lonely, haunting story.
Laura King
May 05, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Unsettling and brilliant. Im desparate to make up for lost time with Brennan.
This is the most perfect novella, and a great introduction to Maeve Brennan. Brennan was an Irish writer, originally from Ranelagh, who moved to New York with her family when she was a teenager. She was a celebrated writer for a time, though fell on hard times later and became an odd, lonely figure. In recent years writers like Anne Enright and Sinead Gleeson have championed her work and with new editions of some of her
Feb 17, 2017 rated it really liked it
I was saving this novella to read as I knew it was something I would enjoy, having previously read some of Maeve Brennan's short stories and I wasn't disappointed. It was beautifully written and the time and place of Dublin was very subtly but sharply rendered. The characters were interesting though I wasn't quite sure how I felt about Anastasia, the main character. She was vulnerable and pitiful at times but had a sharp edge to her also. The grandmother was very cold, bitter and judgmental-she ...more
Clare de la lune
Jan 16, 2021 rated it really liked it
'Home is a place in the mind. When it is empty it frets.'

Twenty two year old Anastasia an only child, the product of a failed marriage. She has taken sides with her mother and they have lived in Paris, far from their native Dublin, and far from her now deceased father, another only child. Anastasia's mother has died and young Anastasia, now alone, is coming home to Dublin, to the house she grew up in. Her grandmother's house. Her father's mother's house. Mrs. King's house. Mrs. King is not happy
Jun 03, 2015 rated it liked it
If I say this was a queer book, you might very well be unwilling to read it: it was a queer book. I would, however, recommend it to a small group of readers who are enchanted by Maeve Brennan's other works, as I am. This novella was published from a typescript, the only extant copy of her first known written story, found in a papers purchased in 1982 for the archives of the University of Notre Dame, in the business files of Sheed & Ward, "the premier Catholic publisher of its day" (information f ...more
Sarah Fitzgerald
Apr 29, 2018 rated it it was amazing
"In the music of Maeve Brennan, three notes repeatedly sound together - a ravenous grudge, a ravenous nostalgia, and a ravenous need for love" Christoper Carduff, Brennan's posthumous editor observes this in his elegant note at the end of this wonderful novella. It's an observation that captures perfectly the tones and strange harmonies of Brennan's utterly exquisite writing. It is right that her work is being read again and that there has been a refreshed interest in this hitherto neglected gen ...more
Nov 11, 2009 rated it it was ok
Shelves: 2009
As a short novel, I don't think I really had enough time to get into it, and what little I did was to follow the story of selfish characters both dead and alive. Anastasia returns to her childhood home after the death of her mother, who left her father and his mother years prior. Upon her return, Anastasia finds her grandmother unwelcoming and desiring of the day when she will be left alone again, with only the memory of her now dead son and an aged housekeeper for company.
Although quite well wr
Oct 20, 2010 rated it really liked it
Shelves: irish-authors
I've been searching for this little book for most of the year, and finally last night found a copy. Maeve Brennan was a wonderful stylist, and this novella (dating from the mid-1940s) was only uncovered amongst the papers of a publisher donated to the University of Notre Dame a little over a decade ago, some six-years after her death. No one is alive to ask why The Visitor went missing all those decades; Brennan was apparently unsentimental in keeping her correspondence. The longing and heartach ...more
Kat Asharya
Feb 15, 2012 rated it really liked it
I've read one Maeve Brennan short story and this novella was very much in that vein: spare, austere, cool, and ultimately devastating. The atmosphere of the story is very lonely, full of characters with a deep need for both love and spite. Beautifully written, I felt a bit distant from the narrative, but that doesn't lessen my admiration of the sculpted prose and control Brennan clearly has over her craft. ...more
Dec 07, 2012 rated it liked it
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Sep 06, 2009 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Beth G., Alenka, Marieke, Muphyn, Victoria
Recommended to Daisy by: Roddy Doyle's NYer podcast
Spare, sharp, cool, no--cold.
Tight and gorgeous. It's the first Maeve Brennan book I've read, aside from one story ("Christmas Eve") I heard on a New Yorker podcast.
Dec 07, 2012 rated it it was ok
Shelves: never-read-again
I didnt really like it. I found it depressing and pointless to be honest. Her style of writing was lovely and I enjoyed that immensely
Sep 29, 2020 rated it really liked it
When you think there is no more to be said or read about the "Irish" trait of emotional paralysis that is inculcated in the "Irish" personality one comes across a book such as this. More of a novella than a novel and the punch lies in the succinct shortness and loaded pages and words.
I have read most of Maeve's work except for some of her myriad articles from the "New Yorker", it was a pleasure to again sit down with her and read further her perspective on the Irish.
James Joyce spoke often of I
Vel Veeter
Mar 25, 2020 rated it liked it
This is a short and “lost” novella by the Irish writer Maeve Brennan who is one of the lost women of letters in the 20th century. She had a more or less productive short story career, and this is how I initially knew of her from someone choosing one of her stories for the New Yorker fiction podcast. In later years her mental health deteriorated and she self-medicated with alcohol which had the kind of spiraling effect you can imagine. She died in relative obscurity years later, and this book rep ...more
Dori Sabourin
Aug 08, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
After Anastasia King's mother dies in Paris where the two of them had been living in a flat, Anastasia takes a train back to Dublin, expecting to live at her grandmother's house. The elderly woman has a different idea, considering this a temporary visit from Anastasia. Even Katherine, the maid sides with the grandmother, telling Anastasia that the house with two old ladies is no place for a young lady. In recent years, they have very few visitors except for Miss Kilbride who is very fond of Anas ...more
May 09, 2021 rated it really liked it
Shelves: fiction
A somewhat sad novella about an orphaned young woman returning to her childhood home to a paternal grandmother whose anger at her for having chosen to live with her mom instead of her now-deceased dad makes her reluctant to allow the girl to live long with her. Selfishness and pride, seemingly in both women. A story of how stronger personalities can control the younger and often rob them of lives of their own. One part struck me wrong, when Anastacia decides not to honir a promise made. I though ...more
Michael Brown
Aug 28, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2019-reads
Anastasia King followed her mother, who ran away from her marriage, to Paris. Six years later, her mother dead, and too, her father who had come to retrieve them to no avail, Anastasia has returned alone to Dublin, expecting to live with her paternal grandmother but finds she is not welcomed.
The grandmother is rancorous, bitter and insistent that Anastasia may only stay for a short visit.
This is a brief novella by a masterful writer and to say more about it would spoil it for other readers but o
Louise Nolan
Jun 29, 2017 rated it liked it
Really Beautifully written short story. Very controlled and evocative, the prose was quite spare, the characterisation was restrained. Yet You felt you knew the characters.....but the situation was so arid and stultifying that I couldn't help myself feeing annoyed.

Annoyed at the uselessness of these upper class , church bound, small minded women.
Their cycles of misery, their loneliness and cruelty, their feebleness.

Because of this I didn't fully engage with the story , I think, but I absolutely
Aug 26, 2019 rated it liked it
Shelves: 2019-challenge
Lovely descriptive writing in a short novella about loss and the search for a sense of belonging. I picked this book up in Dublin and would like to read some of the author's later short stories. While the writing was evocative and interesting, the characters were hard to figure out or pin down. Maybe that was part of the point, but it kept me from really connecting to the story. Since the author never published this, her first story, during her lifetime, one has to wonder whether it was a work t ...more
Gina  Clabo
Oct 30, 2017 rated it it was amazing
The was a lost novella found in the archives at Notre Dame written in 1940's. Maeve was a short story writer and worked for the New Yorker in 50,s her stories all collide with each one but I really enjoyed this book. Maeve's writing reads like a poem and even though the language is old the story was beautiful in a way that your mind takes it and I felt that it did not get finished like she put it on the back burner and never got back to it, Recommend to all who love short stories.. Gina Clabo ...more
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Maeve Brennan (January 6, 1917-1993) was an Irish short story writer and journalist. She moved to the United States in 1934 when her father was appointed to the Irish Legation in Washington. She was an important figure in both Irish diaspora writing and in Irish writing itself. Collections of her articles, short stories, and a novella have been published.

(from Wikipedia)

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“Home is a place in the mind. When it is empty, it frets. It is fretful with memory, faces and places and times gone by. Beloved images rise up in disobedience and make a mirror for emptiness. Then what resentful wonder, and what half-aimless seeking. It is a silly state of affairs. It is a silly creature that tries to get a smile from even the most familiar and loving shadow. Comical and hopeless, the long gaze back is always turned inward.” 19 likes
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