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Orchid & the Wasp

Caoilinn Hughes

‘A gem of a novel Elle

‘A winning debut The New Yorker

‘Caoilinn Hughes is a massive talent.’ Anthony Doerr, Pulitzer Prizewinning author of All the Light We Cannot See


Orchids are liars.

They use pheromones to lure wasps in to become unwitting pollinators. In nature, such exploitative systems are rare. In society, they are everywhere.

Gael Foess is a heroine of mythic proportions. Raised in Dublin by single-minded, careerist parents, she learns from an early age how ideals and ambitions can be compromised. When her father walks out during the 2008 crash, her family falls apart. Determined to build a life-raft for her loved ones, Gael sets off for London and New York, proving how little it takes to game the system – but is it really exploitation if the loser isn’t aware of what he’s losing?

Written in electric, heart-stopping prose, Orchid & the Wasp is a dazzlingly original novel about gigantic ambitions and social upheaval, chewing through sexuality, class and politics with joyful, anarchic fury, announcing Caoilinn Hughes as a rising star of literary fiction.

  • Publication date: March 7, 2019
  • ISBN: 9781786074997
  • RRP: £8.99
  • Pages: 352
  • Publication date: June 7, 2018
  • ISBN: 9781786073655
  • RRP: £12.99
  • Pages: 352
  • Publication date: June 7, 2018
  • ISBN: 9781786073662
  • RRP: £4.99
  • Pages: 352


‘Highly ambitious… Kick-ass, whip-smart and with “a tongue like a catapult”, Gael belongs to a venerable tradition of feisty heroines…readers are going to love her.’

Sunday Times

‘Fiercely bright and moves like a bullet train.’

Sebastian Barry, Costa Book of the Year-winning author of Days Without End

‘A remarkable, propulsive debut novel... No precis can adequately convey the novel’s startling, impressionistic prose, nor its corrosive humour. Jewels of observation glitter amid the earthy gags... Exuberant... it zings with energy, ambition and daring.’

Times Literary Supplement

‘Ireland produces a new literary star at a rate of one a month, it seems; first among equals for 2018, however, has to be Caoilinn Hughes.’

Irish Echo

'Original, clever, and frequently very funny. Hughes's luminescence is staggering, breezing a determined young Gael from Dublin to London to New York and back again with scarcely a breath drawn. Brilliant.'

Irish Independent, Best Books of 2018

‘Hugely ambitious and richly inventive.’

Irish Examiner

Orchid & the Wasp is a gorgeous novel told in an onrush of wit and ferocity. Art-forging, smack-talking, long-distance-running Gael Foess, three times smarter than everyone around her, proves to be an unforgettable heroine, and her journey will rattle your most basic assumptions about money, ambition, and the nature of love. Caoilinn Hughes is a massive talent.’

Anthony Doerr, Pulitzer Prize-winning author of All the Light We Cannot See

‘A gem of a debut about the way we live now.’


‘Luminous…sparkles with acuity and concision.... [Gael] is an indomitable, highly adaptable character who can navigate through tumultuous times and wildly disparate environments with ingenuity and grit.’ 

Los Angeles Review of Books

‘Extraordinary… It's a mesmeric, immersive, often hilarious reading experience, driven by the force of the imagery-rich writing and the cast of distinctive characters… Asking complicated questions about meritocracy, Hughes explores the relationship between art and capitalism, art and ownership, art and authenticity, art and the gatekeepers of art.’

Irish Independent

Orchid & the Wasp is an ambitious, richly inventive and highly entertaining account of the way we live now. Caoilinn Hughes writes with authority and insight, and her novel is as up-to-date as tomorrow's financial-page headlines.’

John Banville, Man Booker Prize-winning author of The Sea

‘Caoilinn Hughes is the real thing – an urgent, funny, painstaking and heartfelt writer. Orchid & the Wasp is a startling debut full of the moral complexity, grief and strange bewilderments of humanity. As the world spins ever more quickly in response to the demands of grifters, parasites and liars, this book offers a troubling, beautiful and wise response.’

A. L. Kennedy, Costa Prize-winning author of Day and Serious Sweet

Caoilinn Hughes

Caoilinn Hughes’ second novel, The Wild Laughter (2020) won the Encore Award 2021, was longlisted for the 2021 Swansea University International Dylan Thomas Prize, and was shortlisted for the Dalkey Emerging Writer Literary Award, the An Post Irish Novel of the Year 2020 and the RTÉ Radio 1 Listeners’ Choice Award. Her first novel, Orchid & the Wasp (2018), won the Collyer Bristow Prize 2019, was shortlisted for the Hearst Big Book Awards and the Butler Literary Award, and longlisted for the Authors’ Club Best First Novel Award and the International DUBLIN Literary Award 2020. Her poetry collection, Gathering Evidence (Carcanet, 2014), won the Irish Times Strong/Shine Award. Her short fiction won The Moth Short Story Prize 2018, an O. Henry Prize in 2019, and the Irish Book Awards’ Story of the Year 2020. She holds a PhD from Victoria University of Wellington, New Zealand, and is currently the Oscar Wilde Centre Writer Fellow at Trinity College Dublin. 

Author page

More books by Caoilinn Hughes

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