Eason Exclusive: Holding Her Breath by Eimear Ryan

We're delighted to welcome Eimear Ryan to the Eason Blog to share an introduction to 'Holding Her Breath', her acclaimed debut novel about complicated love stories, ambition and grief - and a young woman coming fully into her powers.

I have two main passions in life – sport and literature – and my debut novel explores them both. My heroine, Beth, is a recovering elite swimmer – someone who was marked out as an Olympic hopeful but didn’t quite make it in the end. Her late grandfather, Benjamin Crowe, was a famous poet who died tragically at the height of his fame. Throughout the book, Beth attempts to shrug off both her literary heritage and her identity as a swimmer, in order to find out who she really is. Ultimately, she realises that while those identities don’t define her, they can’t quite be discarded, either.

I am fascinated by sports stories, but with Beth I wanted to complicate the typical sporting narrative: that of hard work, sacrifice and ultimate success. We don’t often hear stories of sporting failure – or if we do, it’s usually a temporary setback on the way to victory. Beth fails, and then makes the decision to step back from her sport. How she picked up the pieces was the interesting part of the story for me.

I also wanted to explore how years of devotion to a sport shapes a person, and how they react when they’re no longer on a strict training schedule. It was really important to me that Beth navigate the world like an athlete. She views her body as a machine, an engine, not as something to be objectified. She takes pride in her physical strength and achievements. Because she has spent most of her teenage years devoted to sport, there are certain rites of passage she has missed out on. Once at university, Beth experiences something of a late adolescence – partying, irresponsible decision-making, and first love.

I am so thrilled to be an Eason Bookclub Choice for June, and whether you’re a fan of sports or not, I really hope you enjoy it.