Jennifer Johnston

(4909 words)

From the start, Jennifer Johnston’s deceptively slight novels aroused controversy about where to place her work in the Irish literary canon. An early article by Christine St Peter defended her against accusations by critics such as Mark Mortimer and Seamus Deane that her work was limited in scope (St Peter, 1991). Rüdiger Imhof, reviewing The Invisible Worm, summarised Johnston’s novels as “fraught with artistic shortcomings” (Linen Hall Review April 1991, 28). Yet many contemporary Irish authors have testified to Johnston’s influence on their writing and, in 2004, at the Joyce celebrations in New York, Roddy Doyle provocatively declared: “She is the greatest Irish writer. She writes perfect books” (

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Ingman, Heather. "Jennifer Johnston". The Literary Encyclopedia. First published 06 December 2011
[, accessed 29 September 2016.]