A Quiet Tide

Marianne Lee

A Quiet Tide is a life examined, a heart-breaking, inspiring story that at last captures the essence and humanity of a long-forgotten Irishwoman.
Date Published :
May 2020
Publisher :
New Island Books
Format Available    QuantityPrice
Binding : Paperback
ISBN : 9781848407541
Pages : 394
Dimensions : 8.45 X 5.3 inches
Stock Status : In stock


At the time of her death in 1815, twenty-nine-year-old Ellen Hutchins had catalogued over a thousand species of seaweed and plants from her native Bantry Bay. Ireland’s first female botanist, Ellen was a major contributor to nineteenth-century scientific discovery. And yet, like so many brilliant women lost in history, it is her personal story that will resonate today.

In her remarkable debut novel, Marianne Lee fuses fact with fiction to imagine Ellen’s rich but tormented inner life, repressed by the gender and class confines of her time. Unmarried, childless, and sickly, Ellen is considered an "unsuccessful" woman, dutifully bound to her family’s once grand and isolated estate, Ballylickey House. Still, she glimpses a happiness and autonomy she can never quite articulate as she reaches for meaning and expression, until the eruption of a long-simmering family feud and the rise of Ellen’s own darkness – her "quiet tide" – will conspire to destroy her fragile future.

A Quiet Tide is a life examined, a heart-breaking, inspiring story that at last captures the essence and humanity of a long-forgotten Irishwoman.


An exemplary act of literary ventriloquism ... In Lee’s adroitly evocative reimagining of Ellen’s life, women are cloistered by conventions & familial duties . . . But beneath these strictures, they lead rich inner lives almost under the radar, and Ellen’s thoughts and desires are superbly captured ... Lee strikes me as a . . . writer of substance & intelligence, declining the embellishments of linguist pyrotechnics, unafraid to let her tale unfold at its own pace. She is canny in what she puts in & wise in what she leaves out, so that Ellen’s fate haunts the reader.

- Dermot Bolger, Sunday Business Post

Though set in the past, the themes of her debut have a modern feel, none more so than in Ellen’s attempts to establish herself in a male-dominated field. Her struggle for autonomy and equality is clear, and though Ellen achieves much, one is left wondering by the end of the book just how much more would have been possible were she given the same opportunities as her brothers.

Early in life, Ellen’s headmistress gives her some advice on her restless spirit. “You must strive to curb it. Accept what is around you. Do not fight.” Lee’s novel beautifully captures the quiet resistance by one noteworthy Irish woman against this damning advice.

- Sarah Gilmartin, The Irish Times

"A beautifully layered novel, so fluidly written, shining a light on one formidable woman’s journey; quiet and contemplative yet determined and passionate, tied to family yet full of desire, and a yearning to soar." 

- The Resting Willow Blog

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