My alt text

The Arts Council

Find Your Local Bookshop

The Rising of Bella Casey

The Rising of Bella Casey

From a piano abandoned on the strife-torn streets of Dublin in Easter 1916, Mary Morissy spins the reader backwards through the life of one-time enigmatic beauty Bella Casey, sister to the famed playwright Sean O’Casey.

An ambitious novel about love, history and literature.


International IMPAC Dublin Literary Award - 2014

- Long-listed

Paperback: €11.99
Paperback: 352 pages
Size:196x130 mm
ISBN: 9781847175762

E-Book (ePub): €7.99
Also available as an E-Book (ePub)
ISBN: 9781847176134

Category: Fiction, Literature

'a wonderful book from one of our finest writers' Colum McCann

Bella is a bright, clever girl who trains as a school teacher, determined to escape the limitations of her genteel impoverishment and become a “mistress of her own life”. However, the manager of her school, the Rev Archibald Leeper, a married clergyman, develops a morbid attachment to her, which is to colour the rest of her life. Leeper places Bella in an untenable position; her only escape is to seduce a young army corporal, Nicholas Beaver, to hide the fact that her reputation has been ruined by the clergyman. She marries Nicholas and they have five children.  However, when Nicholas dies at the age of 40 from syphilis, Bella realizes belatedly that she is not the only one who has been keeping sexual secrets.

Bella Casey was the sister of the playwright, Sean O’Casey. Tellingly, though, her brother chose to kill her off prematurely in his autobiography – at least 10 years before her actual demise.

Mary Morrissy

Mary Morrissy is the author of three novels, Mother of Pearl, The Pretender and The Rising of Bella Casey, and a collection of stories, A Lazy Eye. Her second collection of stories, Prosperity Drive, is forthcoming in 2016.

Mother of Pearl, her first novel, was shortlisted for the Whitbread Award (now Costa) and The Pretender and The Rising of Bella Casey were both nominated for the Dublin Impac International Literary Award.

Her short fiction has been anthologised widely, most recently in Dubliners 100 and All Over Ireland: New Irish Short Stories.  She has won a Hennessy Award and been awarded the prestigious US Lannan Award which honours writers whose work “is of exceptional quality”.

She has taught creative writing in the US and Ireland since 2000 and currently leads the fiction component on the MA in Creative Writing at UCC. She was appointed a member of Aosdana in 2015.

the writing is assured, the research thorough

Irish Echo

a wonderful evocation of an era, and gives us tantalising glimpses into the early life of the famous playwright. Morrissey imbues her characters with warmth and strength, making the reader sympathetic towards them, even when their actions are based in pride or folly

Irish Examiner

I’m not sure how much of the novel is fact, because the forays into fiction are seamless, and it’s impossible to tell … a stunning novel

Irish Examiner

a welcome volume, especially as we commemorate a formative stage in Irish history and those who helped to make that history

Irish Times

O’Brien Press continues its impressive revival of the Brandon imprint with Mary Morrissy’s first novel in more than a decade

Irish Times

Bella Beaver, nee Casey, the older sister of playwright Sean O’Casey, may have been eclipsed by her sibling’s literary fame, but this fictional retelling of her life story is as poignant as anything her brother put on the stage

Metro Herald

a truly skilful inventor

Irish Mail on Sunday

ideologies and conflicts of the time are also imaginatively explored

Irish Mail on Sunday

The Rising of Bella Casey should reach the widest possible audience. Readers deserve it

Irish Mail on Sunday

beautifully evoked … a beautiful feeling for language and description


Morrissy reconstructs Bella's story with a telling eye for incongruous detail

The Guardian

Irish author Morrissy tends to be missed here, but she's a superb writer, full of sensitivity and intelligence. This historical novel tells of the imagined life of Bella Casey, older sister of the more famous playwright brother Sean O'Casey

The Herald

Morrissy illuminates this little-known life to the full

Catholic Herald

this ambitious historical novel mixes fact and fiction to bring us the compelling and beautiful story of Bella Casey, sister to the famed Irish playwright Sean O'Casey.Beginning during the Easter uprising in Dublin 1916 this intelligent, well-written and well-researched novel skips back in time recalling this fascinating character during a turbulent time in Irelands history

Mary Morrissy has a genius for lifting characters out of the dim backgrounds of history and brilliantly illuminating them. In The Rising of Bella Casey she evokes the rich Dublin world of the plays of Sean O'Casey, and creates a moving drama that O'Casey himself would have acknowledged.

John Banville

With great skill and vividness, Mary Morrissy gives voice to a fascinating but previously hidden woman. The result is a novel that is compelling and beautiful, no mere tale of historical restoration but a story full of strange resonances for our own time.

Joe O'Connor

In language that manages to be both elegant and unadorned at the same time, Mary Morrissy makes history rhyme with fiction. Morrissy tells the story of Bella Casey, but is well aware that the local becomes the universal. This is an intimate portrait of a woman and a profoundly necessary depiction of Irish history at its most extreme. From a piano left abandoned on the street, Morrissy has fashioned the notes between the ephemeral and the eternal. This is a wonderful book from one of our finest writers.

Colum McCann

Audio available: listen to some of this book now ...

    Audiobook sample 1:
    Audiobook sample 2:
    Audiobook sample 3:
    Audiobook sample 4:
Similar Titles: