Her Name Is Rose, by Christine Breen

Her Name Is Rose, by Christine Breen


I’m really thrilled to be chatting to Christine Breen today as part of the TripFiction and Book Connectors’ Around The World Blog Tour. Basically, the tour is a way of travelling the world by fiction, one country at a time. This month, we’re in Ireland, the setting for Christine’s beautiful book Her Name Is Rose.


Christine is a fellow member of The Prime Writers, which is how I met her. An American, she lives in the fabulously named Kiltumper in the west of Ireland, in the cottage where her grandfather was born. (I can really relate to this: my grandmother came from Kerry, and I’ve felt a huge sense of connection whenever I’ve been there to visit).


Her Name Is Rose opens in the X-ray department of a hospital as Iris has a routine mammogram. It’s not been a great day altogether, starting as it did with the news that the paper for which Iris writes a column of gardening advice that was also featuring landscaping tips for beginners, is cutting back and won’t be needing her anymore. The editor’s suggestion that Iris start a blog catches her imagination, but the worrying news that the breast scan has shown up an ‘architectural distortion’  throws her world into a worrying state, with more at stake than just her health.

Christine Breen garden

Iris made a promise to her dying husband that she would try to track down their adopted daughter’s birth mother. Iris has buried  this pledge up until now but, faced with the possibility that she might be getting bad news about her own health, feels under an obligation to try. Rose, the daughter that she and Luke built a tight and loving family with, is a talented violinist, now studying at the Royal College of Music in London. She has also planned to master guitar skills you can also learn to play guitar if you are passionate about.As Iris takes the first steps towards tracing her biological parentage, Rose is facing a crisis of her own, as an important masterclass ends in chaos.


The story travels from Ireland to Boston, from London to Dublin and, by a truncated road trip, down into Massachusetts. Breen handles the multiple narratives with a deceptive ease as we hear from Iris, from Rose, and from other important players. There’s Hector, the professor and beguiling jazz musician; Rowan, the burned out architect who is mourning the loss of his grandfather; and Conor, the surfer who makes violins. It’s a book that draws you in: to the places, the families and the landscapes. Poignant, delicate and with exquisite imagery, it’s also a deeply satisfying read.


Christine Breen

Photograph by John Kelly.


Christine, it’s so lovely to welcome you onto the blog! Can you tell us a little about yourself, and also why Her Name Is Rose moves between Ireland and Boston?

I’m an American who’s lived in the west of Ireland for 30 years. While doing a Masters degree in Dublin many years ago I fell in love with an Irish writer and after a brief return to the U.S. we moved to the 200 year old cottage in County Clare that my grandfather left when he was 17. We’ve raised our children here while my husband, Niall Williams, has continued to write literary fiction. (We wrote four non fiction books about life here, too.) But Her Name is Rose is my first novel.

The story takes the central character, Iris, from the west of Ireland to Boston in search of her daughter’s mother. Rose is adopted and Iris, a widow, gets a health scare which prompts the search. Having lived half my life between the U.S. (NY and Boston) and Ireland, it seemed natural to have a two-country setting.

Iris’ garden in the book is beautifully described, and I know from photos on FB that your garden in Ireland is just as beautiful. Did you use it as a base for the fictional garden? And have you created the garden yourself?

Thank you! I do like gardening, like my character Iris. So yes, my garden is the inspiration for the one in the novel. I’ve worked in a garden nursery in the U.S. so when we moved to the cottage with its 50 acres (most of it bog!) I was in heaven. I’ve designed a few gardens, including my own.


There is so much music in the book: classical, jazz, trad Irish. Do you play an instrument, and how much has music featured in your own life?

Music has featured largely in my life. County Clare, where we live, is sometimes called the cradle of traditional Irish music. Our son plays the fiddle and the violin, and our daughter started on the tin whistle but quickly moved to classical flute. I’m nowhere near as talented as my children but I can play a few tunes on the guitar and sing, when they’ll let me.

Do you have a second novel on the go? And will it be set in Ireland again?

I’ve just started another novel, Two Blue Moons, and like my first one it will be set between Ireland and the U.S. It’s about a single woman, named Catt, an American, who works as a naturopath/homeopath/herbalist in Ireland. One day, the now-teenage son of her late brother, who passed away 7 years earlier, arrives to her home. He’s looking for answers to his father’s tragic death.

I hope to have it finished before Her Name is Rose is out in trade paperback in the U.S. next July.

Tell us what your favourite American book is, and your favourite Irish one, and why.

Oh that’s too hard. There are so many great writers, Irish and American. I’ve just finished Lila by Marilyn Robinson and am nearly finished with Anne Tyler’s newest but final novel, A Spool of Blue Thread. I love Alice McDermott, too. A book I would reread is Edith Wharton’s A House of Mirth. I admire Jonathan Franzen and am looking forward to Purity. As for Irish, apart from anything my husband has written, naturally, I did my Master’s thesis on John Banville back before he became Ireland’s leading wordsmith. His novels, Doctor Copernicus and Kepler remain top of my list.


Many thanks to Christine for joining in this wonderful tour. You can find her here and on Twitter. (The photos above are of her own garden, by the way, so if you’re looking for a garden designer…!)

Her Name Is Rose is published by St Martin’s Press as a hardback, and will be coming out as a trade paperback next year.

Do check out the other posts from the Blog Tour!


BC Ireland-2




The Around The World Blog Tour is a partnership between TripFiction and #BookConnectors ~ bloggers and authors, travelling the world, through fiction.


TripFiction was created to make it easy to match a location with a book and help you select good literature that is most pertinent and relevant to your trip. A resource for armchair and actual travellers, it is a unique way of exploring a place through the eyes of an author. We blog, and chat books and travel across Social Media, and love to meet authors and bloggers as we take our literary journey.


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We encourage book promotions; information about competitions and giveaways; news of events, including launch events, signings, talks or courses. Talk about new signings, about film deals …. anything really.

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