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Constellations: Reflections from Life
The body – its presence, its weight – is both an unignorable entity and routinely taken for granted. I started to pay particular attention to mine in the months after turning thirteen.
So begins Sinead Gleeson’s book of passionate and transcendent essays that explore what it’s like to live in a woman’s body. We treat the body as an afterthought, she write, until the pain or the pleasure becomes too great. Sinead Gleeson’s life has been marked by terrible illness, including leukemia and debilitating arthritis. As a child, she bathed in the springs of Lourdes hoping that her body would respond to a miracle, ever looking forward to the day when she could take her body for granted. But just as she turns inward to explore her own pain, the marvel of recovery occurs followed by the arrival of her greatest joys – falling in love, becoming a mother.
With the arrival of her recovery, she begins to turn her gaze outward. In following essays she delves into music, art, history, literature – from Nick Cave to Taylor Swift, Botticelli to Frida Kahlo to Louisa May Alcott – plotting the intimate experience of life in a woman’s body across a wide ranging map. As Jenny Offill, author of Weather, writes, “These Brilliant essays read as if Gleeson has made a vow to her readers to illuminate what it means to live in a human body – for better or worse, for richer or poorer, in sickness and in health – all the days of her life. Come for the dark jokes and existential dread. Stay for the beauty and tenderness.” This book is a brilliant testimony that the personal essay, in the right hands, knows no bounds.
Sinéad Gleeson is a writer, editor, and freelance broadcaster. She has been published in Granta, and is the editor of three award-winning short story anthologies. Previously, she presented The Book Show on RTE Radio 1 in Ireland. She lives in Dublin.