Death and Nightingales

Death and Nightingales

by Eugene McCabe



As the writer Colm Tóibín put it: "Eugene McCabe only writes masterpieces." I’d highly recommend this book, it’s only 231 pages and is an absolute page turner and popular again following the death in August 2020 of its author, Eugene McCabe.

It is McCabe’s only novel, he has written several plays, short stories and some children’s books, the critically acclaimed Death and Nightingales (1992), is considered a modern classic of Irish literature. Part historical novel, (set in 1883), part love story, it takes place over a 24-hour period on the 25th birthday of Beth Winters, a young Catholic girl who lives with her Protestant step-father, Billy Winters, who is a landowner. Beth’s deceased mother was a Catholic who married Winters knowing she was pregnant by another man, a deception he could not forgive. Alternating between affection and cruelty, Winters’ conduct drives Beth into an affair with Liam Ward, a young Catholic labourer, who hates Winters for his wealth and power.


About the Author – Eugene McCabe

Eugene McCabe was born in Scotland in 1930 to Irish parents who returned to Ireland in 1940. He spent the rest of his life living in Co. Monaghan, very near the border with Northern Ireland. The Troubles forms the background of much of his work for which he has won numerous awards. One of his most notable plays, staged in 1964, is ‘King of the Castle’ a controversial play at the time.


Reviewed by Drumlish Library January 2021