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The Four Marys

A Quartet of Contemporary Folk Tales

Jean Rafferty (Author)

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A mother’s love for her child is like nothing else in the world.’ So said Agatha Christie, ambiguously; for the bond between mother and child is deep, but sometimes, motherhood does not come naturally. This is hinted at in references to the Four Marys ballad by Virginia Woolf and Joan Baez, both of whom feature here.
Obsession, longing, deceit and even murder feature in this quartet of provocative novellas, which gives a modern twist to tales of women for whom all is not necessarily as it seems or as each woman would want her life to be. Drawing on universal themes of womanhood and on history, culture and lore, ‘The Four Marys’ is a riveting exploration of the complexities of motherhood: edgy and engrossing, moving, yet at times, disturbing.

Prizes and awards

Longlisted for the Jerwood Fiction Uncovered Prize 2015

REVIEWS OF The Four Marys

'“Each of the four tales is almost spellbinding in its own right. Through her skillful use of language and attention to detail Rafferty brings her settings, characters and ideas to vivid life, each feeling as wild and primal as reproduction itself.'” - Joanna Kolber, Dundee University Review of the Arts Read more

'Powerful stories about the lives and deaths of women.' - Marina Warner

'Rafferty shows all the vivid hues ... gutsy and red-blooded ... the titular fourth tale is superb.' - Alan Bett, The Skinny Read more

'In sinuous prose the past shimmers to life through the present. The Four Marys is a tremendous achievement.' - Zoë Wicomb

'A strong collection of tales ... Rafferty's ability to honestly represent the deep love and passion of motherhood, and also the desires of women, is a testament to her writing.' - Rebecca Dark, We Love This Book Read more


Trade information

  • Rights: Worldwide Exclusive
  • BIC code(s): FA
  • BISAC code(s): FIC000000, FIC029000

The Four Marys

About the author

Jean Rafferty

Jean Rafferty is an acclaimed award-winning journalist who has written on topics ranging from gritty human interest stories about prostitution, to celebrity interviews and humour pieces. Jean has written two non-fiction books about sport, and her first novel was shortlisted for the Gordon Burn Prize. The Four Marys was shortlisted for the Jerwood Fiction Uncovered Prize 2015. Jean is Chair of the Scottish PEN’s Writers in Prison Committee.

Praise for Jean Rafferty’s first novel, ‘Myra, Beyond Saddleworth’: “Compelling and disturbing in equal measure.” – Deborah Orr, The Guardian. “Jean Rafferty is a remarkable writer with the bravery to explore the depths and the talent to take us there.” – Louise Welsh, author of ‘The Cutting Room’.