“Fiction sometimes unearths truths – and truths we’re not even aware of knowing,” says novelist Catherine Dunne.
She’s talking about her novel, A Name For Himself, and Lia Mills’s novel Another Alice, reissued in new editions as part of the Arlen House Classic Literature. Both were published originally in the 1990s, but their themes of coercive control and an abused childhood remain relevant today.
Lia Mills tells the City of Books podcast, hosted by Martina Devlin, why she wrote her book as fiction rather than a non-fiction work. “Fiction can change us.,” she says. “It’s an education in empathy – setting aside what you think you know and experiencing what another person is experiencing.”
For Catherine, it’s a question of understanding something more instinctively when it’s read as fiction. “A newspaper report can tell you the facts of the case but paradoxically fiction gets to the truth of the case. I think fiction allows us to go into all those dark corners and explore them in a way people understand the emotional truth. I remember someone saying that a good novel is neurologically the closest we can get to being present in a situation.”
Both writers, who are close friends, also talk about their favourite books by one another. Also featured in the Arlen House classics series is work by Kate O’Brien, Annie Smithson and Marian Thérèse Keyes.
City of Books is sponsored by Dublin UNESCO City of Literature.