Claire Kilroy was born in Dublin, Ireland. She attended Trinity College, Dublin, where she studied English as an undergraduate and where, after a brief time working in television, she also earned her M.Phil in Creative Writing in 2001. Kilroy is the author of four novels—All Summer, Tenderwire, All Names Have Been Changed, and The Devil I Know—and has been described by Barbara Kingsolver, author of Flight Behaviour, as a writer who “packs a stunning worldly wisdom into her beautiful prose”; and has also been called “a quirky and excitingly original writer” by Anne Fogarty of the Irish Times. Kilroy cites her literary influences as John Banville and Vladimir Nabokov, and Lolita as her favorite book. She currently resides in Dublin with her husband and infant son, to whom she devotes most of her time.
Kilroy’s debut novel, All Summer (Faber & Faber, 2003), won her the 2004 Rooney Prize for Irish Literature. It is the story of Anna Hunt, a woman with amnesia who is on the run after being linked to the theft of a painting from the National Gallery. Margaret Reynolds of The Times (London) has described it as a “wonderfully unsettling first novel” and a “compelling read.” She adds that the “surprises are real and yet so subtly tracked… It’s a thriller, a confession and a love story framed by a meditation on the arts.” Dermot Bolger of Dublin’s The Sunday Tribune adds that All Summer is “a strangely haunting and compelling novel that heralds an exciting new talent in Irish writing.”
Kilroy’s second novel, Tenderwire (Faber & Faber, 2006), was shortlisted for the 2007 Hughes and Hughes Irish Novel Award, as well as the Kerry Group Irish Fiction Award. Publisher’s Weekly has summarized the novel as the “slapstick fallout from a violinist’s purchase of a rare instrument of dubious origin” and has praised Kilroy for adroitly capturing the main character, Eva Tyne’s, “complicated tenderness for her art and her lost father, and her tenuous grasp on love.” John Boyne of the Evening Herald describes it as “‘a beautifully written story… filled with memorable characters and sentences as elegantly composed as the music that Eva plays,” and hales Kilroy as one of Ireland’s best young writers.
Kilroy’s third novel is All Names Have Been Changed (Faber & Faber, 2009). The novel is set in Dublin in the mid-1980s—“a city in the grip of recession and a heroin epidemic” (as the novel’s publisher describes it). The lone male in a creative writing group at Trinity College, the author’s alma mater, narrates the novel, exploring the group’s fascination with a legendary Irish novelist who still occasionally teaches. In The Independent’s review of the novel, Emma Hagestadt appreciates the “impending sense of doom” that “permeates” the novel, “even if the reader is generally unsure of where they are being led.” She concludes: “This impressive novel shows Kilroy perfectly at home in the literary firmament that she describes.” Others have praised the evocative depiction of Dublin’s tight-knit literary community.
The Devil I Know (Faber & Faber, 2012) is Kilroy’s most recent novel. Stevie Davies of The Guardian sums the novel as a “carnivalesque allegory of Ireland's property boom” that “presents a satiric danse macabre of brio and linguistic virtuosity… [that taps] into the darkness of the finest Irish satire.” The New York Times’ Carmela Ciuraru described it as “savagely comic” and Nick Brodie of Time Out (UK) calls the novel a “perversely entertaining show of how easily men are corrupted by wealth.” It has been lauded by reviewers from The Boston Globe, The Financial Times (UK), The Independent (UK), and Publishers Weekly, among others.
Claire Kilroy holds the Charles A. Heimbold Jr., Chair of Irish Studies at Villanova University for the spring 2015 semester, teaching a course in creative writing and in “Confessional Irish Writing.
The Charles A. Heimbold, Jr. Chair of Irish Studies is held in the Spring semester of each academic year by a distinguished Irish writer. Inaugurated in 2000, it has become one of the most prestigious Irish Studies positions in the United States.
The first Heimbold Professor was poet and editor Peter Fallon. To help celebrate the inaugural of the Chair, Nobel Laureate Seamus Heaney joined Peter Fallon for a joint reading. Since then, the Heimbold Chair has been held by an honor roll of Irish writers.
Normally, the Heimbold Professor teaches two undergraduate seminar courses, one in Creative Writing and one in Irish Literature, allowing Irish Studies students to have the enriching experience of a close classroom experience with Ireland's finest voices.