Cover image for Four letters of love
Four letters of love
Williams, Niall, 1958-
Personal Author:
Warner Books ed.
Publication Information:
New York : Warner Books, [1998]

Physical Description:
275 pages ; 21 cm
The hero is William, son of an Irish painter who committed suicide and burned his paintings. Only one survived, sold to a poet, and William travels to buy it back. In this way he meets the poet's daughter, Isabel, married for 24 hours and unhappy.
General Note:
Includes reading group guide.
Format :


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Material Type
Home Location
Item Holds
FICTION Adult Fiction Open Shelf

On Order



A tale of destiny, acceptance, & the tragedies & miracles of everyday life.

Author Notes

Author and playwright Niall Williams was born in Dublin in 1958. He received a Master's degree in Modern American Literature from University College Dublin, where he also studied English and French literature. In 1980, he moved to New York and worked as a copywriter for Avon Books. In 1985, he moved back to Ireland to become a full-time writer. His first four books were co-written with his wife and deal with their life together in Kiltumper, Ireland. On his own, he has written three plays and five novels. His first novel, Four Letters of Love, became an international bestseller.

(Bowker Author Biography)

Reviews 2

Publisher's Weekly Review

This sparkling, lyrical and touching piece of Irish magic realism is a first novel by a writer known previously‘if at all to American readers‘as the author of a series of nonfiction books, written with his wife, about life in a remote corner of Ireland. Certainly nothing in that past suggests the poetic assurance and narrative legerdemain of Four Letters. (The very title, in fact, is a play on words, with both the English and Latin words for love playing a role, as do significant missives written by several of the characters.) Two stories proceed side by side and eventually merge in a dazzling display of emotional and literary pyrotechnics. In one, a frustrated Dublin civil servant, William Coughlan, feels himself called by God to be a painter and sets off alone for the wild seascapes of the West of Ireland, leaving his wife and young son, Nicholas, to fend for themselves. In the other, schoolteacher Muiris Gore's family, living on a remote island off the shore of Galway, is riven when son Sean is mysteriously reduced to a human vegetable and his lovely sister Isabel feels somehow responsible. The fates of the two families are eventually intertwined when Coughlan's last surviving painting is given as a prize for Gore's early, thwarted poetry. Meanwhile, Williams conveys the shattering power of first love in a series of heartfelt scenes: Coughlan's desperate courtship of his wife; Margaret Gore's infatuation with Muiris; Isabel's unwise attachment to a young shopkeeper when she is sent away to school on the mainland; and, finally, the inevitable attraction that grows between Isabel and Nicholas when he comes on a quixotic errand to recover his dead father's sole masterpiece‘and unknowingly brings about Sean's recovery. The tale, with its exquisite rendering of fickle Irish weathers, combines power and delicacy in the most careful balance; and the ultimate flowerings of magic seem only a natural manifestation of the hidden mysteries of the human heart. This could be one of the sleepers of the season. 50,000 first printing; $40,000 ad/promo; foreign rights sold in Germany, France, Netherlands, Denmark, Sweden, Finland, Italy and Portugal. (Sept.) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved

Library Journal Review

There's great advance work on this unusual first novel, which brings together a man who has fled to western Ireland to paint pictures he believes to be commanded by God and a gifted young boy who has suddenly gone mute and lame. (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.