Book Review & Portrait of the Author
Elish Mulholland ‘s novels are cinematically rendered and set within an intriguing psychological landscape. In her novel, A Personal Assassin she writes about Tudor England and her prose casts the reader into the past through sensory and visceral prose. As her young heroine, Edony enters the queen’s court, Mulhollnad writes:
Wrenching the embossed handle, I fling the door open, to the sound of chattering voices and the sound of a lute being lazily played over the hubbub. I stand stock-still, surprise radiating throughout me. Instead of an ambush I am met with a painted sea of faces. The lively throng of courtiers laugh, joke, and dance. A positive Babylon of biblical proportions meets me, and part of me likes it.
From here the reader is immersed in the world of 1500 England, as Edony fulfills her secret mission, seemingly blithe but inherently cunning. She recognizes her tools in deception: her femininity, intelligence, and bravery.
“Mystery will be my weaponry. My sexuality my trump card.”
Mulholland’s love of the period comes through in every page of the novel. Her mastery of suspense and intrigue keeps the reader rapt. Yet the personal assassin is as much a coming of age story as a historical suspense novel. Falling victim to her burgeoning passion we see vulnerable Edony fall hopelessly into love for the first time. The events that follow sweep the protagonist forward, transforming her into a hero more often portrayed in masculine stereotypes of heroes endowed with physical prowess and rational ingenuity. As Edony assumes power over her destiny, reason trumps fancy and enhances the dangerous atmosphere.
Mulholland’s story is well crafted, uncannily immediate, and true to the period. Her choice to manipulate expected gender roles successfully creates a feminist interpretation that is refreshing and inspiring. She answers “what if” such a woman, a character were faced with the same circumstances as the traditional male hero.
I thoroughly enjoyed A Personal Assassin. I was also stunned and awed when I found out that Mulholland was seventeen when she wrote the novel. She is a true prodigy and I look forward to reading more of her work.
Below are excerpts from her poetic prose:
An Interview with Author Eilish Mulholland
Inspirations: A Photographic Interview
I asked Eilish to share with me photographs of objects and items that have inspired her writing. She graciously agreed.
If I was going to take a photo of something that inspires me to write Plath, and my little collection of books would have to be included. She is one of the great female poets who I admire greatly. Learning about her own writing process through reading her journals and letters helped me to see the need for creative structure. Another important learning curve was also revealed to me when analysing her poems in class, here I unconverted the power that can be exerted through using control over words. For example in Plath’s poem Daddy she uses a nursery like rhyme scheme to comedy the speaker, Electra’s ability to overcome the force of her father. The Bell Jar was also a book that helped me to have the confidence to write by showing for me, what hard work and dedication can result in. Writing anything, be it poetry, short stories and novels is a continuous process from which Plath herself achieved the greatness and recognition she so deserves.
My white stag who sits at my desk is only a recent acquisition. He doesn’t have a name yet but he’s come a long way from Krakow in Poland to Northern Ireland. He’s a tiny thing in reality, half the size of my palm but he reminds me of my travels and keeps me company when I’m writing. I love looking at it as it is crafted so delicately, yet he looks so defiant and strong at the same time.
My history books! They have been with me for years now, David Starkey especially. I use them as a point of reference within my work and would encourage anyone who has an interest in the Tudors to read them. Starkey especially is excellent at analysing the meaning behind portraits and the artwork on his cover, of Elizabeth reflects her growing power after being placed back into the line of succession as she is presented as a model renaissance princess dulling embracing the reformation indicative with the bible open on her lectern and she is studious via her hands holding a book that is marked both by a bookmark and her own hands. I think this portrait is particularly self revealing as it shows Elizabeth to be somewhat defiant as her eyes seem to stare out, she is aware of her power despite being only 14 and this strength is what has made her legacy so lasting. Margret Irwin is my absolute favourite however, I only have one of her books but her first historical work “The Young Elizabeth” firmly cemented her as an excellent historian. I particularly love her take on Elizabeth’s life as she intermingles fact with narrative story telling and I adapted this when writing my own story about Edony. Alison Plowden’s work is also brilliant at uncovering the life of the Tudors, she is skilled in using real accounts from embers of the court such as ambassadors and personal correspondence to reveal people’s thought and views showing the gritty side of Tudor court and how it was a game that needed very skilled players in order to win the monarch’s favour.
My picture collage represents my love of the past. Despite not only adding colour to the room for me they often act as a gateway. If you look closely the postcard of the woman dressed in purple with black hair is actually quite old, she was recently given to me as a present but has been very hard to pin down concerning when she was made. This collection has actually exploded quite a bit as I’m always collecting things that inspire me and that are pleasing to the eye. I have a box filled with cuttings and paper that I hold onto in vain of trying to figure out what to do with them but I think I’ll never have enough wall space to achieve content.
A Personal Assassin Book Summary
Its December 1558, the up and coming reign of Elizabeth the first has begun.
Edony Mason has come to court the daughter of a merchant expected to climb her way up the court ladder through marriage. Instead she finds herself caught up in the midst of a spy ring lead by the one and only Sir Francis Walsingham from which her loyalties are tested.
A woman trapped by society. Longing for escape. But freedom like anything comes at a price. From here she will battle all kinds of foes, endure hardships unknown and emerge a broken woman, borne from the mould of a trained courtier into a force to be reckoned with.
Until she comes to face the ultimate force known to her. The will of a woman double crossed and left for dead.
Hell hath no fury like a woman scorned.
Few know the meaning of such a phrase.
Few know the ultimate price such a thing entails.
Wattpad Reader Comments:
“I’m feeling everything like I’m actually there. This is written so well…”
“Your writing is very poetic in nature and flows naturally, it’s very sophisticated, I’m enjoying it and your protaganists internal struggle is almost palpable. Bravo!”
“Your descriptions are marvellous, you’re a terrific writer. I would love to have such a way with words and extensive vocabulary such as yours!”
Other Stories by Eilish Mulholland