Denyse Woods

LifeWorksCriticismCommentaryQuotationsReferencesNotes

Life
1958- [latterly Denyse Devlin]; dg. of Irish consul in Boston who returned to Ireland to organise the Kennedy visit and was later posted to the Vatican, 1975; her mother d. in Rome; fell in love with Arabic and studied it at UCD; worked as translator for Parc, the Aer Lingus recruitment company in Iraq, in early 1980s; contracted hepatitis and was flown home; travelled in Syria with her English-born husband [presum. Woods]; also lived in Belgium and Australia;
 
settled in Co. Cork with her husband and two daughters; issued Overnight to Innsbruck (2002), a first novel, draft-written in Innsbruck, 1987; issued The Catalpa Tree (2004), dealing with the relationships of orphaned Jude and her guardian Oliver; issued Like Nowhere Else (2005), a novel of travel and female friendship wrecked by jealousy and obsession, set in S. Yemen and Dublin; issued If Not Now (2009), on mid-life love and its complications.

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Works
As Denyse Woods: Overnight to Innsbruck (Dublin: Sitric [Lilliput] 2002), 254pp.; The Catalpa Tree (Penguin Ireland 2004), 451pp.

As Denyse Devlin: Like Nowhere Else (London: Penguin Ireland 2005), 336pp.; Hopscotch (London: Penguin 2006), 435pp.; If Not Now (Penguin Ireland 2009), 448pp.

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Criticism
See interviews in Books Ireland (May 2002 & May 2004); also Sue Leonard, review of Like Nowhere Else, in Books Ireland (Dec. 2005), p.286].

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Commentary
Sue Leonard, review of Like Nowhere Else, in (Dec. 2005), p.286: ‘Vivienne has gone to the Yemen to redeem her childhood dream of becoming a great traveller. Her last trip had ended abruptly, in panic, and she is determined to prove that she can overcome her fear. But what exactly happened there? And what of Christian [Linklater - the anthropologist she meets at the airport]? How did Vivienne know so much about his life, when the two had neither She sees him as an attractive inconvenience at first, and fears involvement. All this has something to do with Gemma, Vivienne’s friend and house-mate. But what is more important? Friendship or passion? / The book flips back and forward in time, and follows Vivienne back to her Dublin life. Woods keeps the suspense up amazingly well. [...] It is heartening to find a book such as this come of Ireland. It’s compulsive, intelligent and informative. It shines like a beacon, when so much women’s fiction is aimed at the chick lit market.’

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Quotations
Overnight to Innsbruck (2002): ‘By the time she was forcing her way through third class, sweltering and sweaty, reason began to lose its hold. Where was he? Before stepping across to another carriage she stopped to catch some breeze, but the relief was mild and momentary. Unease began to slide up her legs, preceded by a hunger-like tremor. She tried to catch her breath and calm herself; she must not faint. There was no longer any excuse for this. Richard would know that she would worry and how on earth was she to find him on a train with several thousand people on it?’ (COPAC)

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References
COPAC supplies plot-summaries of her novels, as in Notes [infra & online].

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Notes
Overnight to Innsbruck (2002): On an overnight train to Innsbruck, former lovers Richard and Frances meet each other by chance many years after their mysterious separation on a train journey through the blistering heat and vast empty expanses of the Sudanese desert. As they each tell their separate stories of fear, confusion and loss, they try to unravel the truth of what happened - and finally confront the bitter reality that one of them must be lying. As their train hurtles through a long sleepless night, a third passenger eavesdrops on their conversation, mesmerised by a complex dialogue that probes into the very nature of truth, love and personal identity. Dazzling in its haunting evocations of the landscapes and peoples of north Africa, Overnight to Innsbruck is charged throughout with tantalising puzzles and all the tension of a first-class whodunnit - and marks the debut of a remarkably fresh and original voice in Irish literature. (COPAC; presum. Penguin Ireland blurb.)

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The Catalpa Tree (2004): When Jude is orphaned at fourteen, her father’s best friend comes to the rescue. Oliver wants to remain her friend as well as her guardian, but spirited Jude isn’t a girl you can shelter from the world - not after she’s already suffered so much heartache. And with each passing year, both Jude and Oliver struggle in their own ways against the ties that bind them. What place has love inside and outside of their relationship? Who is really protecting whom - especially when Jude grows into a desirable young woman? And what future can a relationship with so many complications ever really have? (COPAC.)

Like Nowhere Else (2005): In the run-up to the second Gulf War a young Irishwoman, Vivien, fulfilling her dream of seeing the magical land of Yemen, starts a passionate affair with a charismatic English anthropologist. However, he has a traumatic history with the woman who was once Vivien’s best friend, a history he doesn’t realise Vivien knows all about, leaving her battling the conflicting demands of loyalty and love. A gripping depiction of a female friendship disintegrating, and of disillusionment, jealousy and obsession. (COPAC.)

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Hopscotch (2006): Kadie Kingston is a young woman in flight and in pursuit. For reasons too awful to think about, she’s running from Milenko, the glorious Croatian she is due to marry. And she’s chasing her best friend who has fled Cork rather than face sudden crushing grief. Misunderstandings and missed messages see Kadie hauling her travel-phobic heartbroken self around the globe - starting in a mortuary in Stockholm and ending on a boat in Queensland - before she can go home. Along the way she somehow starts to get that precious thing - perspective. And, despite herself, she also comes by something nearly as precious: a no-ties fling that is just the ticket to launch her new post-Milenko life. But Milenko isn’t giving up on her that easily - and the fling may not be quite as forgettable as she wants it to be! (COPAC)

If Not Now (2008): Just when she has resigned herself to being alone long-term, Marina Ffrench, a widow in her forties, meets a man and falls in love all over again. A midlife relationship, she thinks, will be straightforward - kids reared, careers established, mortgages almost paid off ...However, midlife passion carries excess baggage. Luke, her man, may have a gorgeous villa on the Italian Lakes, but he also has a pious and eccentric Irish mammy, an Italian ex-lover who is as invasive as dry rot, and a son embroiled in a suspect engagement. And Marina has to admit that her own life is just as complicated - and getting more so by the day, given the number of stray souls and ghosts from the past that are turning up in her Cork home. Gradually, she and Luke come to see that love second time around is hard work. But in their efforts to find a happy ending for everyone, unwittingly they are creating a disaster that may destroy their shared future and the happiness of both families ... (COPAC.)

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