Ruth Gilligan

Ruth Gilligan is a graduate of Cambridge and Yale, and now works as a Senior Lecturer in Creative Writing at the University of Birmingham. She contributes regular literary reviews to The GuardianLos Angeles Review of BooksIrish Independent, and the Times Literary Supplement.


  • Masterful.

    —The Irish Times

  • Grips throughout, offering a vivid portrait of one of Ireland’s less heralded corners.

    —The Guardian

  • Gripping, Gothic, and moody.


  • An achingly beautiful novel of family, tradition, Ireland and the deep secrets buried in all three.

    —B&N Reads

  • Steeped in the rich history of Ireland.


  • Remarkable. . . . With beautifully crafted prose, suspenseful plotting, and imaginative scope.

    —Publishers Weekly, Starred Review

  • A gripping tale of menace and foreboding.


  • A contemplative coming-of-age thriller. . . . An atmospheric portrait of a country at a crossroads, moving away from the traditional ways and toward a slick new millennial future. Thoroughly lovely.

    —Kirkus Reviews

  • An achingly real portrayal of rural life in Ireland and an ode to the Republic’s fraught history with its own folklore.


  • Gilligan braids beauty and brutality together in a seamless literary thriller. With plot twists worthy of Tana French and language reminiscent of Téa Obreht, this young Irish writer has crafted a story that is dark, wild, mythic, unsuspecting, and absolutely riveting.

    —Colum McCann, author of Apeirogon

  • Excellent . . . completely gripping.

    —Evie Wyld, author of The Bass Rock

  • Remarkable. . . . Realistic and hauntingly otherworldly.

    —Jan Carson, author of The Fire Starters

  • Flawlessly, intricately plotted, with such a compelling central mystery that I binged it like a Netflix show. . . . Stunning.

    —Luke Kennard, author of The Transition

  • I was hooked from the first page. It was an exhilarating, unsettling reading experience: I felt at once like an outsider and completely at home as I read and was at all times completely immersed and wowed at Ruth’s storytelling prowess.

    —Donal Ryan, author of From a Low and Quiet Sea

  • With Nine Folds Make a Paper Swan, Ruth Gilligan strikes out into ambitious literary territory. Gilligan weaves history into the present moment with assurance and style. Reminiscent of Tea Obreht, Nicole Krauss, and Maggie O’Farrell, Gilligan captures the pulse of one of Ireland’s untold stories, and asks us to consider the age-old dictum that the past is not dead, it is not even past. A wonderful new novel from a writer to look out for.

    —Colum McCann

  • In a boldly ambitious novel of family and belonging, Gilligan chronicles the history of Jewish immigrants in Ireland by weaving together three interconnected stories spanning more than a century. . . All three stories—more intertwined than any of the participants know—are gripping, nuanced, and clever, occupying a rich and hazy space between realism and metaphor.


  • A stellar U.S. debut . . . Gilligan weaves a mesmerizing blend of plot and character while exploring themes of assimilation and displacement, suggesting what binds us all is storytelling.

    —Publishers Weekly, STARRED REVIEW

  • Reading Ruth Gilligan’s Nine Folds Make a Paper Swan, I thought of Colum McCann’s Zoli—from which the book fittingly takes its epigraph—and of Nicole Krauss’s The History of Love; like those novels, it’s a rich and layered story of the complications, the mistakes, and the heartbreaks of which a human life is made. But I thought mostly about Gilligan’s characters—Ruth, Shem, and Aisling—and of the fascinating untold story—the story of Jews in twentieth-century Ireland–given vivid expression by their interweaving narratives. I haven’t read anything like it, and I was delighted to meet with their voices: voices that are so real—sometimes funny, sometimes frustrating, sometimes devastated—and that linger in the little streets imagined by the novel long after the story has been told.”

    —Belinda McKeon, author of TENDER

  • The most famous literary Irishman of all time was a Jew, yet the stories of his community have been seldom told. Nine Folds Make a Paper Swan blooms in that silence, with grace, confidence, and vividness. I loved this beautifully written and elegantly managed novel and was sorry when it ended.

    —Joseph O’Connor, author of THE THRILL OF IT ALL