Eileen Battersby

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Eileen Battersby (c. 1958 – 23 December 2018) was the chief literary critic of The Irish Times. She sometimes divided opinion, having been described by John Banville as "the finest fiction critic we have", while attracting the ire of Eugene McCabe after she gave Dermot Healy an unfavourable review in 2011. Her first novel, Teethmarks on My Tongue, was published by Dalkey Archive Press in 2016.[1][2]


Battersby was born in California.[3] She graduated with honours in English and History from University College, Dublin, and later received an honours MA on American writer Thomas Wolfe.[3] She began reviewing fiction in 1984. Her reviews of books and sports writing led her into a career in journalism as a staff arts writer with The Irish Times, eventually becoming their chief literary correspondent.[3] She wrote on archaeology, history, architecture, geography and horses and championed fiction in translation.[3]

Battersby published a memoir, Ordinary Dogs: A Story of Two Lives (2011), about her two rescue dogs.[4][5] Her collection Second Readings (2010) features 52 of her reviews.[6]

Battersby won the National Arts Journalist of the Year award four times. She also won the National Critic of the Year prize in 2012.[7]

In 2011, controversy ensued when Battersby found Dermot Healy's novel Long Time, No See wanting. Her unfavourable review prompted an angry letter of protest from Eugene McCabe who castigated her for disemboweling "one of the great masters of Irish writing."[2][8] However, others like Jon McGregor said of a critical review from Battersby of his first novel "The things she picked up on were the criticisms I’d now have – it’s overwritten, an explosion of similes, sentimentality, overdeterministic plotting. She let rip, but you felt it was coming from a proper critic."[9]

Battersby and her daughter were involved in a single-vehicle accident in Oldbridge , four kilometres outside Drogheda on 22 December 2018. Both required hospitalisation; Battersby died the following day. She was 60.[7][10] President Michael D. Higgins paid tribute to Battersby, writing that literary criticism had "suffered a great loss". He continued, "All of us owe her a debt of gratitude for her unstinting efforts to bring the best writers from around the world to our attention, her unflinching standards, and for the enthusiasm with which she brought her celebration of all aspects of the arts to so many different audiences."[11]


  • Second Readings: From Beckett to Black Beauty, 2010, Liberties Press, ISBN 978-1905483815
  • Ordinary Dogs: A Story of Two Lives, 2011, Faber and Faber, ISBN 978-0571277834
  • Teethmarks on My Tongue, 2016, Dalkey Archive Press, ISBN 978-1-62897-147-7

Further reading[edit]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Sweetman, Rosita (17 December 2011). "Review: Memoir: Ordinary Dogs by Eileen Battersby". Irish Independent. Retrieved 17 December 2011.
  2. ^ a b McCabe, Eugene (29 March 2011). "Another take on 'Long Time, No See'". The Irish Times. Irish Times Trust. Retrieved 29 March 2011.
  3. ^ a b c d "Eileen Battersby". patrickkavanaghcountry.com. Retrieved 25 June 2012.
  4. ^ "A love story with a fist at its centre". The Irish Times. 3 December 2011. Retrieved 3 December 2011.
  5. ^ "Wednesday 2nd November". The John Murray Show. 2 November 2011. Retrieved 2 November 2011.
  6. ^ "Regarding unnecessary second readings". The University Times.
  7. ^ a b O'Halloran, Marie (23 December 2018). "Former Irish Times critic Eileen Battersby dies following car crash". The Irish Times. Retrieved 23 December 2018.
  8. ^ Jarman, Mark Anthony (8 July 2011). "A brilliant return for Dermot Healy". The Globe and Mail. Retrieved 8 July 2011.
  9. ^ Jordan, Justine (7 April 2017). "Jon McGregor: 'I'm allergic to trying to make points in fiction'". The Guardian (Interview). Retrieved 17 February 2018.
  10. ^ Crowley, Sinéad (24 December 2018). "Literary critic Eileen Battersby dies following crash". RTÉ. Retrieved 24 December 2018.
  11. ^ Higgins, Michael D. (24 December 2018). "Statement by President Michael D. Higgins on the death of Eileen Battersby". Retrieved 26 December 2018.