Meet Aisling: The girl every Irish woman relates to

Every Irish woman will identify with Aisling, the comic creation of friends, Sarah Breen and Emer McLysaght, says Ciara McDonnell.

Sarah Breen and Emer McLysaght are about to explode with excitement. The queen of Irish chick lit, Marian Keyes, has just tweeted about how much she loves their book, Oh My God, What A Complete Aisling.

So enamoured was novelist Keyes of the book that she even included it in her weekly vlog.

This is major.

“She’s coming to the launch,” Sarah Breen says. “Our notions are off the scale.”

The excitement around the launch of OMGWACA has been fierce. Keyes is not alone in her enthusiasm; satirist Paul Howard was rapturous in his praise, and Twitter has erupted into an online book club, with pre-launch readers sharing their favourite tidbits.

Inspired by a Facebook page that now boasts 40,000 memories, Aisling is a stereotypical Irish woman from ‘down the country’.

In the book, Aisling is at a major fork in her road of life — her relationship has ended and, with it, her blueprint. As we accompany Aisling on her road to self-discovery, it’s impossible to avoid falling in love with her. Breen and McLysaght have created a character so intrinsically and deliciously Irish, that every reader will identify with her.

It was essential, say the writers, that Aisling be empathetic.

“There’s a bit of a misconception that the Facebook group is there to poke fun at Aislings,” says Sarah Breen. “Emer and I very much identify with Aisling, so that’s certainly not the case. I think every woman will be able to see varying degrees of themselves in her.”

McLysaght agrees. “Aisling being likeable was one of the things that was most important to us, when we were writing the book. Rather than being a work of complete satire, it’s more a celebration of everything we love about her, and all of the Aislings!”

Instead of being a tribute to the Facebook page, the book is a proper novel, taking readers on an emotional rollercoaster — I laughed and cried and giggled and snorted throughout.

It is not a novelty book, says Sarah. “We always said that if we were going to do anything with the character, we wanted it to be meaningful. We owe it to her.”

It was essential, says Emer, that Aisling’s story was more than a comedy. “We drew a lot on personal experiences and the experiences of peers, and Irish families in general.

“While OMGWACA is essentially a comic novel, a good book needs to have believable conflicts and problems and resolutions, so we knew we would have to touch on some serious subject matters,” says Emer.

Best friends as well as co-workers, Sarah and Emer met while in college studying journalism, and Aisling was born in their shared home in Stoneybatter. Committed Dublinites, the girls cling onto their Aisling roots. “I think I’m about 55% Aisling,” says Sarah. “But it’s growing every year. I think coleslaw goes with everything, for example. Nothing makes me happier than good drying — it’s back-to-back loads in my house, when the sun is out. I think brunch culture is an abomination — who wants to eat eggs at 1pm on a Sunday? Not me. And I think Dunnes has truly lost the run of itself.”

Emer says she is steeped in Aislingness. “I recently lost a beloved trolley token I’d had for about four years and I haven’t quite gotten over it. I always check the price-per-kilo price on the labels in supermarkets to make sure I’m not being swizzed and I’m fiercely protective over my Tupperware collection.”

While both went on to become journalists, this is their first time working together. The process, according to Sarah, was easy. “Emer and I are as similar as two friends can be, especially when it comes to our sense of humour. When we passed the first few chapters on to our editors, they admitted they couldn’t tell who’d written what, or even that there were two writers, which was brilliant.”

There were no rows during the writing, says Emer. ”Our sense of humour and turn of phrase are so similar that it was easier than I could ever have imagined to work together.

“I was always convinced that Sarah’s chapters were just brilliant and mine were fit for the bin, but she felt the same way. Having someone to bounce ideas off, and critique your work in such a positive way, was an amazing experience.”

With a place on the bestseller list likely, and with interest from film and television production companies, it looks as though Aisling is just getting started on some very exciting adventures.

What’s next for her creators? Predictably, they aren’t getting above their stations and becoming all notiony.

“We’ll definitely keep working together, anyway,” says Emer.
“Sure, it’s hardly like work at all.”

  • Oh My God, What A Complete Aisling is published by Gill, and is available now, priced at €14.99

She’s the girl next door

Every Irish woman will identify with Aisling, the comic creation of friends, Sarah Breen and Emer McLysaght, says Ciara McDonnell


More in this Section

Battle of the bog: Those who fought for access to the bathroom

Our divergent relationship with animals

Online Lives: Meet beauty and body therapist Rachael Butler of rachsbeautique.com

How to outsource Christmas


Lifestyle

Our divergent relationship with animals

Cork photographer in the frame for top prize

Battle of the bog: Those who fought for access to the bathroom

A towering achievement: Exploring Irish castles and beautiful buildings

More From The Irish Examiner