Edel Coffey is an Irish journalist and broadcaster. She began working with the Sunday Tribune, was a presenter and reporter for RTÉ radio, editor of the Irish Independent Weekend Magazine and editor of the Irish Independent. Breaking Point is published by Sphere on Thursday.
Books at your bedside?
I go to bed with great ambitions to read a lot, despite the fact that I usually fall asleep after a page or two. For this reason, I have a lot of short books, journalism, and essay collections on the pile. I am rereading Maeve’s time, selected by Maeve Binchy irish time the columns, which are so funny; and The Reader by Fran Lebowitz, that I bought after watching the Netflix documentary Pretend it’s a city. I also keep my Kindle next to me for insomnia so I can read in the dark. I tend to only buy books on Kindle that I can’t find in print, so it’s a hodgepodge of academic or out-of-print books.
The first book you remember?
A book titled Unknown wonders: the golden treasure of children’s literature. I have no idea where it came from and I think it must be a helping hand. It is full of unusual fairy tales from all over the world. I still have it to this day and it’s important to me as an artifact because I think it spawned a slightly warped sensibility for stories with dark undercurrents.
Your book of the past year?
The beginnings of Megan Nolan acts of desperation open year round spectacularly and Claire Keegan’s Little things like these was the gift that closed it. These are two exceptional books by two exceptional Irish writers.
Your favorite literary character?
It’s probably Delia Baggot from the Maeve Brennan short story. Christmas Eve. The descriptions of her little desires and the details of her domestic life are so tender it’s just heartbreaking. I also loved Frances in Sally Rooney’s first novel Conversations with friends. I connected deeply with her and you could hear her say, “Frances, it’s me!” until people started telling me how unlikable she was as a character.
The book that changed your life?
I had plenty of thunderclap moments where I felt changed by the time I finished reading. The books that hit particularly hard were A handful of dust by Evelyne Waugh, They came like swallows by William Maxwell, Legend of a suicide by David Vann and lullaby by Leila Slimani. Patricia Scanlan was the first writer who showed me that writing didn’t have to be about exotic places and that you could write about your hometown, while Annie Ernaux showed me how to write about the most pedestrians in your life and make them compelling.
The book you couldn’t finish?
I’m a book finisher, if only to be able to complain about it in confidence.
Your comfort Covid read?
I read again Rachel’s Vacation by Marian Keyes because I love it and also because I’m a swot and want to be ready to read the next sequel Rachel again.
Video of the day
The book you are giving as a gift?
by Nora Ephron Stomach pains. It’s so funny and dark, it’s perfect for those going through a rough time but just as enjoyable for happy types.
The writer who shaped you?
I read a lot of big bucks when I was a teenager – Roth, McEwan, Ishiguro, Amis, Self, Huxley, Dostoyevsky, Kafka, Camus, Wolfe, Orwell, Tolstoy – So I’m sure they shaped me in some way, but thankfully they were tempered by authors like Austen, Jackie Collins, Agatha Christie, Jilly Cooper and Sue Townsend who brought a sense of humor essential for my tastes.
What book would you like to be remembered for?
I only have one so far so I’d be happy to be remembered, but grateful to have the chance to be called back for more.