Gillian O'Brien at Liverpool Waterstones (c) Megan Feeney
Gillian O’Brien at Liverpool Waterstones (c) Megan Feeney

Liverpool John Moores professor Gillian O’Brien hosted a book reading for her new book, ‘The Darkness Echoing’, at Liverpool One Waterstones.

The book is a quirky take on the ‘Irish obsession’ with misery surrounding death, famine and rebellions across the country.

Dr Gillian O’Brien, who is Reader in Modern Irish History at LJMU, is from Skerries, north of Dublin. She is the author of ‘Blood Runs Green: The Murder That Transfixed Gilded Age Chicago’, and is a former Irish Research Council awardee.

It is her first event in Liverpool for the 2nd edition of her book. The book was originally published in hardback during lockdown.

Gillian said: “Often books written by academics aren’t very appealing and I wanted to write a book that would be picked up by anyone who has an interest in Ireland, history or museums.

“I know a few people have used this books to travel around Ireland. So that’s been the most satisfying thing about it.”

The Darkness Echoing by Gillian O’Brien, stack of books at book signing (c) Megan Feeney

Gillian’s personality shines through, often unexpectedly, in her historical book, telling personal stories of her time spent with her grandmother.

During time spent living with her at University, Gillian said: “My grandmother, quite famously, laid herself out in a coffin because she wanted to see what shed look like and did this years before she died.

“We thought that was normal, but when I’d tell this story I kind of realised it’s actually not that normal. She wanted me to take a photo of what she looked like and decided that the dress didn’t suit her.”

‘The Darkness Echoing’ was in the top 10 Irish Times bestsellers list.

Gillian added: “ I really enjoyed people giving feedback and suggestion of places I should go to. So it’s been really nice that it’s a best seller, but as an individual all the contacts have been the most pleasing.”

interesting lives and stores of the overlooked

Gillian travelled to well over 200, museums, former prisons, workhouses, graveyards, castles listening to all the history and ghost stories to compile her book.

When speaking of her next project, she said: “While ‘The Darkness Echoing’ focuses mainly on Ireland this one is much broader, so I’m going to cemeteries across Britain, in the US and Europe.

“Not really famous people but interesting lives, and tell those stores of the overlooked.”

It is obvious that Professor O’Brien is passionate about her Irish heritage and its death culture, as she announces this in her writing.

It will most likely be a continuing theme for her next book, the light-hearted, quirkiness of death in different cultures.

Featured image (c) Megan Feeney


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