Holding Her Breath: A Novel
“A joy to read. ... Emotional, clever, and humorous, Holding Her Breath will engross readers with its academic atmosphere and family drama.” — Booklist
A moving and “whip smart” (Sunday Telegraph) debut novel, following a former competitive swimmer and granddaughter of a famous Irish poet as she comes of age in the shadow of her family’s tragic past, perfect for fans of Sally Rooney, Lily King’s Writers & Lovers, and Elif Batuman’s The Idiot.
Recommended by Glamour * The Millions * Literary Hub * PopSugar
When Beth Crowe starts university, she is haunted by the ghost of her potential as a competitive swimmer. With her Olympic dreams shattered after a breakdown, she is suddenly free to create a fresh identity for herself outside of swimming. Striking up a friendship with her English major roommate, Beth soon finds herself among a literary crowd of people who adore the poetry of her grandfather, Benjamin Crowe, who died tragically before she was born. Beth’s mother and grandmother rarely talk about what happened to Benjamin, and Beth is unsettled to find that her classmates may know more about her own family history than she does.
As the year goes on, Beth embarks on a secret relationship with an older postdoctoral researcher—and on a quest to discover the truth about Benjamin and his widow, her beloved grandmother Lydia. The quest brings her into an archive that no scholar has ever seen, and to a person who knows things about her family that nobody else knows.
Holding Her Breath is a razor-sharp, moving, and seriously entertaining novel about complicated love stories, ambition, and grief—and a young woman coming fully into her powers.
Praise for Holding Her Breath: A Novel
“From the first sentence to the last, this is a great piece of writing—precise, sure, engaging, and a joy to read.” — Roddy Doyle, Booker Prize-winning author of Paddy Clarke Ha Ha Ha and Love
"Ryan’s writing is quick and understated and addictive, and the story offers points of entry for many readers—competitive athletes, people who love literary drama, anyone who felt unmoored and different in college." — Glamour
“Holding Her Breath does not feel like a debut novel; it shows the deft assurance of someone who has spent years training for this. … A sparsely written, emotionally affecting coming of age story. … Feels entirely fresh.” — Irish Times
“Explores love, desire, and the secrets of the past with the background of student life. And it does so deftly, with complex, but fully realised characters, and is so accomplished; so wonderfully written and thought through, that it’s hard to imagine it’s a debut at all. I absolutely loved it.” — Irish Examiner
“An assured, absorbing first novel that follows a young woman as she begins the delicate work of finding out who she is and where she stands in relation to her history. ... A crisply written, empathetic novel. Ryan offers a realistic, perceptive view of the early college years, reflecting how difficult but liberating the first steps to adulthood can be. An absorbing, nuanced coming-of-age novel.” — Kirkus Reviews
“Ryan’s debut is a joy to read. ... Emotional, clever, and humorous, Holding Her Breath will engross readers with its academic atmosphere and family drama.” — Booklist
"Eimear Ryan expertly renders a lion-hearted protagonist's attempt to escape her family's long and hurtful shadow. Patient and searing storytelling at its best. Holding Her Breath announces the arrival of an unforgettable voice." — Marie-Helene Bertino, author of Parakeet
"An Irish collegiate swimmer unearths the truth about her grandfather, a famous poet, in Ryan’s penetrating debut. ... Readers will want to see what Ryan does next." — Publishers Weekly
“Whip smart observations and addictive prose.” — Sunday Telegraph
“Ryan’s depiction of starting college, making friends and embarking on your first real romance is very assured, and she handles the familial and friendship dynamics very well. The mystery of the family narrative drives the plot, culminating in a satisfying ending. A refreshing, accomplished debut." — Irish Independent
“Brilliant, vivid – I enjoyed this book ENORMOUSLY.” — Marian Keyes, internationally bestselling author of Grown Ups
“Written with a wonderful clarity and insight, Holding Her Breath lingers in the imagination. Beth's unravelling and re-ravelling is drawn with great skill and empathy. A brilliant debut.” — Donal Ryan, Booker Prize-nominated author of Strange Flowers
“A delicious read. … A nimble account of student life with a darkly enjoyable undercurrent of secrecy and emotional turmoil." — Sara Baume, author of Seven Steeples
"Through the dark sky of our times, Eimear Ryan arrives like a comet, a bright talent scorching through every page. To read this book is to feel it blaze to life. I can't stop thinking about it." — Doireann Ní Ghríofa, author of A Ghost in the Throat
"A secret relationship, a family’s tragic past, and a woman learning to be herself are all the makings of a great story, and I’m looking forward to reading this Irish writer’s debut." — Literary Hub, Most Anticipated Books of 2022
"A compelling look at coming-of-age concerns beneath the taboo of generational mental illness. ... An engaging, sensitive story set in Ireland, sure to resonate with readers far and wide." — New York Journal of Books
“Books about young Irish women going to university, usually Trinity, are now so plentiful that they constitute their own genre – Trin Lit, anyone? The Queen is of course Sally Rooney, but this new novel from Eimear Ryan is an absorbing read and a very worthy addition to the growing pile. … A gripping and ultimately very satisfying read.” — RTE Ireland
“Holding Her Breath was a joy to read — disarming, entertaining and life-affirming. A blisteringly good portrayal of complex lives and loves. It's an enthralling debut from a hugely talented writer.” — Danielle McLaughlin, author of The Art of Falling
“An enthralling Irish debut.” — IMAGE
“Effortlessly weaving together a gripping, multi-layered plot, while maintaining a profoundly tender touch, Ryan has marked herself as a captivatingly original voice in Irish literature.” — Hot Press