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The Other Mrs Joyce on the Day Before Bloomsday


Bloomsday Festival 2024

15 June 2024 at 1pm

On June 15th at 1pm The James Joyce Centre was pleased to host The Other Mrs Joyce on the Day Before Bloomsday. Award-winning novelist Mary Morrissy will talk about and reads from Penelope Unbound (Banshee Press), her recently published counterfactual novel about Nora Barnacle. In it, she splits the Joyces up and gives Nora a wholly different life without him; she also plays matchmaker for Joyce and finds him a new wife. This event is about her.

On their arrival in Trieste in 1904, James Joyce left Norah Barnacle outside a railway station while he went to scare up money. He got embroiled in a fight with a couple of sailors and was locked up for his troubles. A penniless Norah was left alone for almost an entire day and night sitting on their suitcases at the station in a city where she knew no one and where she didn’t speak the language. In real life, Norah waited for him. This novel asks – what if she hadn’t? In Penelope Unbound, one of our greatest living novelists weaves a spellbinding speculative history. By unhooking Norah from her famous husband, Morrissy gives her a compelling new voice, with heartbreak and humanity all her own. Sensual, inventive and uproariously funny, Penelope Unbound reimagines a Joycean heroine for the 21st century.

Praise for Penelope Unbound:

“A novel of great brilliance and inventiveness, a remarkably – and mysteriously – moving story of what might have been. . . a stylistic tour de force that Joyce himself would surely have admired.” – John Banville, The Observer

“Given Nora’s iconic status, I’d say it took considerable courage and chutzpah to carry this novel off.” – Carlo Gebler, Irish Independent

“(a) compellingly reimagined Norah, who is, like the novel itself, richly compelling and startlingly alive” – Kevin Power, author of White City

Mary Morrissy is the author of four novels, Mother of PearlThe PretenderThe Rising of Bella Casey and most recently, Penelope Unbound. She has also published two collections of stories, A Lazy Eye and Prosperity Drive. Her work has won her the Hennessy Prize and a Lannan Foundation Award. A member of Aosdána, she is a journalist, teacher of creative writing and a literary mentor. She blogs at https://marymorrissy.com and curates a website dedicated to the work of Dublin painter, Una Watters: https://unawattersartist.com.

The Bloomsday Festival is organised by the James Joyce Centre in partnership with Fáilte Ireland, Dublin UNESCO City of Literature, and the Department of Tourism, Culture, Arts, Gaeltacht, Sport and Media.

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