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Written by: Anne Enright
Narrated by: Anne Enright
Length: 8 hrs and 4 mins

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Publisher's Summary

A brilliant and moving novel about celebrity, sexual power, and a daughter’s search to understand her mother’s hidden truths.

Katherine O’Dell is an Irish theater legend. As her daughter, Norah, retraces her mother’s celebrated career and bohemian life, she delves into long-kept secrets, both her mother’s and her own. Katherine began her career on Ireland’s bus-and-truck circuit before making it to London’s West End, Broadway, and finally Hollywood. Every moment of her life is a performance, with young Norah standing in the wings. But the mother-daughter romance cannot survive Katherine’s past or the world’s damage. With age, alcohol, and dimming stardom, Katherine’s grip on reality grows fitful. Fueled by a proud and long-simmering rage, she commits a bizarre crime.

As Norah’s role gradually changes to Katherine’s protector, caregiver, and finally legacy-keeper, she revisits her mother’s life of fiercely kept secrets; and Norah reveals in turn the secrets of her own sexual and emotional coming-of-age story. Her narrative is shaped by three braided searches: for her father’s identity; for her mother’s motive in donning a Chanel suit one morning and shooting a TV producer in the foot; and her own search for a husband, family, and work she loves.

Bringing to life two generations of women with difficult sexual histories, both assaulted and silenced, both finding - or failing to find - their powers of recovery, Actress touches a raw and timely nerve. With virtuosic storytelling and in prose at turns lyrical and knife-sharp, Enright takes readers to the heart of the maddening yet tender love that binds a mother and daughter.

©2020 Anne Enright (P)2020 Penguin Audio

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  • Barbara S
  • 2020-04-26

Enright does it again!

“The Actress” is a story about a daughter delving into the history of her famous actress mother. As Norah, the daughter, narrates the story, the reader is provided with a woman’s study of the female work and sexual struggle from early Hollywood era to current times. But it’s more than that, it’s a powerful story of a mother and daughter, and the fraught relationship when the mother is a narcistic creative person touched with mental health issues. As Norah’s story reveals, it’s difficult being a daughter of a famous mother, but the difficulty is compounded when the mother doesn’t really want to be a mother.

Norah tells her mother’s (Katherine O’Dell) beginnings as a theatrical actress in Dublin where she gains notoriety as an Irish actress. Katherine previously changed her last name to O’Dell and dyed her hair red. Katherine is really from England. She becomes a short-lived Hollywood star because she aged-out (at 45-year-old) yet lasted longer than most who generally through in the towel at age 30.

Sadly, Katherine falls into alcoholism, mental illness, and violence. Norah is left dealing with her mother. During Norah’s adolescence, Katherine was emotionally unavailable, leaving Norah to fend for herself. Yet Norah isn’t angry with her mother. She spends her adult life trying to understand her mother.

Author Anne Enright is a gifted storyteller with many awards under her belt. “The Actress” will be one that will garner her attention. The story is amazing in that Enright’s narrator is clever, compassionate, and funny. This could be a maudlin story, but Enright doesn’t want that. She wants a feminist story told from a strong woman who reflects upon the struggles her mother underwent.

I listened to the audio version which is narrated by Enright. Enright possesses a beautiful voice and adds emotion to her story. I’m very happy I listened to the story.

1 person found this helpful

  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Gee
  • 2020-05-23


Astonishingly true, wise and funny. I feel I’ve been given a gift to cherish. It is read with elegance by the author.