Skin of Dreams

“Conlon illuminates powerfully the dark corners of life we rage against but don’t, won’t engage with, such as death row and the lives of its inmates and prison warders… Conlon has honed her already sharp observations of the little cruelties and comedies of tragedy and in this tale it is near perfect. This is an extraordinary and angry novel, which, once started, keeps you riveted with a peculiar fascination right to the end”. –Books Ireland (national literary review).

This moving and disturbing novel confronts the experience of capital punishment… Skin of Dreams is also about the love between twins, and the loss of balance when that relationship is interrupted. Conlon subtly evokes the multiple worlds… from a drowning village in Ireland to a sojourn in Tennessee, from drinking nights in Dublin to Death Row, from an unresolved past to the fearful resolution of judicial murder.

“Through two continents and two generations Evelyn Conlon traces the countenance of life and death and its so-called punishment, in a tale deftly told with revelation that startles with new insight.” -Sam Reese Sheppard, co-author of Mockery of Justice

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Post-script, January 2015…

On January 9th, 2015, an announcement was made that Harry Gleeson who was hanged in 1941 for the murder of a woman, a crime he did not commit, was being recommended for a posthumous pardon. After reading Murder at Marlhill, a 1993 investigative study by Marcus Bourke, and interviewing Tiernan MacBride, whose father Sean had been part of the defence team, the Gleeson story was taken up by Evelyn Conlon in 2003 to address the morality and fallibility of the Death Penalty in her novel Skin of Dreams.

Her characters are fictional, set in the modern world, but she reasons with the subject via a descendant’s chance discovery, unanswered questions and impulsive follow-up. Layers of family and community crisis, contradiction and social lockdown are peeled back via emotions, reasoning and argument among the story’s cast, led by a strong central voice.

The novel has been flagged by Joe O’Connor as “A courageous, intensely imagined and tightly focused book that asks powerful questions of authority, the kind of Irish novel that is all too rare”. Sam Reese Sheppard, upon whom life has forced remarkable insights into issues related to the death penalty, said of the book that “through two continents and two generations Evelyn Conlon traces the countenance of life and death and its so-called punishment, in a tale deftly told with revelation that startles with new insight”.

Published by Brandon Press, the book was short listed for Irish Novel of the Year on its publication.