Review: Actress, by Anne Enright

actress anne enrightRating: ★★★★☆

Categories: Literary Fiction, Historical Fiction


Actress is the story of Katherine O’Dell, a glamorous Irish actress who famously shot a man in the foot and was institutionalized for being mad, as told by her daughter Norah.

This was one of the books I was most excited for in the Women’s Prize for Fiction Longlist of this year! It has everything I love in fiction: glamour, secrets, gorgeous writing and an alluring, difficult main character. I loved Katherine O’Dell as a character so much, and spent the entire novel wishing the story was told from her perspective instead of Norah’s. I did not care much for Norah, nor understand why she addresses the book to her husband in “you” format. Having the point of view this way certainly added a certain mystery and glamour to Katherine, but would have enjoyed the book a lot more if it had been told in third person.

This is such an addictive read! While it did remind me of The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo, it’s not quite the same in terms of emotional impact – I found in the end that Actress left me wanting a bit more. It starts with the declaration that Katherine went mad and shot a man on the foot, but it feels to me that it never lives up to this very dramatic moment that we get glimpses and more context about throughout the book.

I loved the writing so much! It was gorgeous and flowed so nicely, the atmosphere just perfect. All in all, I loved it for most of the time, but kept waiting for it to be perhaps a little more emotionally devastating – this could also be because my expectations were a bit off. This reminded me of Evelyn Hugo so much that I hoped for the same emotional intensity, and that’s perhaps unfair. This is a beautiful read and I am glad to have picked it up!

20 thoughts on “Review: Actress, by Anne Enright

  1. Great review, Naty! This is also one of my anticipated reads from the WP for the same reasons you mentioned, and it also reminded me a lot of “Seven Husbands”. It’s a shame the rest of the book didn’t live up to the dramatic opening scene, but I’m glad it worked for you overall.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Ohh have you picked it up already, Gilana? I haven’t seen a lot of reviews yet for this one, but I think they’ll be overall positive. I saw it being recommended by the BBC already.

      Liked by 1 person

      • Oh, sorry, I didn’t clarify that I haven’t read it yet! But I do plan to, and it’s been on my TBR for awhile. I’ve seen two reviews of this so far on this site, I think, one mostly positive and another mostly negative, but if I remember correctly the negative one was because it wasn’t the reader’s cup of tea in terms of topic. So I have a good feeling that I’ll like this one. 🙂 It’s nice it’s getting more publicity – I have never read Enright before but based on her track record she seems like a fine writer.

        Liked by 1 person

        • Sorry I’m late answering! I think I misread your comment anyway (I’m terribly sleep deprived). I don’t think I’ve seen negative reviews of Actress, but I’d be curious to read one! It’s been quite hyped. I hope you love it!! I’d never read Enright either, but her writing is so gorgeous I’ll probably pick up more books by her.

          Liked by 1 person

  2. Great review, Naty! And I agree with everything you said – I think I disliked this one mostly because the writing and the glamour and the mystery of Katherine could not compensate for the lack of emotional impact and attachment, because that’s just the kind of reader I am, but I do think that those parts where done *marvelously*

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thank you, Marija! Yes, I do prefer my books to have a bit more of an impact, too… I wish this had had more of it, then it would’ve been *chef’s kiss*


  3. Great review! I just started this book (maybe ~10% through it), and I agree with you that the writing is gorgeous. And I LOVE a difficult main character, so I’m really excited to see how the character development will play out!

    Liked by 1 person

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  7. Great review! I really appreciate the Evelyn Hugo comparison in particular, I was having a hard time getting a sense of what to expect from this book but that helps pin it down for me. Anyway I’m so glad you enjoyed this one, I’m hoping it’ll turn out to be one of my favorites from the longlist. 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    • Honestly, I did find it kind of Evelyn Hugo minus the F/F and the ugly crying afterwards (so, to me, Evelyn Hugo was the superior one). I hope you love it, though, Emily! 😀

      Liked by 1 person

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