Ruth & Pen by Emilie Pine review – a world of joy and pain

The Notes to Self author’s uplifting debut novel follows the fate of two women over the course of a transformative day in Dublin

The year 2019 didn’t want for sparky essay collections that interrogated the female experience, with Rebecca Solnit, Jia Tolentino and Rachel Cusk all publishing new work. Even so, Emilie Pine’s bestselling Notes to Self stood out. Initially released by a small, independent Irish press before being scooped up by Hamish Hamilton, the Dublin academic’s mainstream debut brought unusual clarity and compassion to bear on sources of resonant personal pain including miscarriage, rape and life as the daughter of an alcoholic father.

She follows it now with a first novel, Ruth & Pen, which taps that same likable combination of benevolence and searing inquiry as it sets the stories of its two title characters dancing around each other, drawing into their orbit questions of sexuality, self-worth and neurodiversity, as well as themes from the essays.

Ruth & Pen by Emilie Pine is published by Hamish Hamilton (£14.99). To support the Guardian and Observer order your copy at Delivery charges may apply

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