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The Rachel Incident

On sale

6th June 2024

Price: £9.99

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Selected: Paperback / ISBN-13: 9780349013565

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The international bestseller: a hilarious, heartfelt story of all-consuming and unexpected love

Shortlisted for a TikTok Book Award – Book of the Year (UK and Ireland)

If you’ve ever been young, you will love The Rachel Incident like I did‘ GABRIELLE ZEVIN

Funny, nostalgic, sexy‘ MONICA HEISEY

Hilarious, wise and wonderfully written‘ GRAHAM NORTON


Everyone in Cork remembers the Rachel Incident. But what really happened? It’s simple. It’s complicated. It’s about love, sex and friendship. It’s definitely about betrayal. And, above all, it’s the story of Rachel and James, two twenty-somethings who met at a bookshop, became best friends, and spent one unforgettable year screwing up and growing up.


‘I adored it’ COCO MELLORS

Reading it is like hearing your funniest, sexiest friend tell you the best story they know‘ KATHERINE RUNDELL

Sharply witty, warm-hearted and wiseGUARDIAN

O’Donoghue captures all the intensity of messy young loveMAIL ON SUNDAY

A book full of love, and it is extremely easy to love reading itVOGUE

Chaos at its finestSTYLIST

Easily 13/10 . . . Funny, lovely, romantic‘ MARIAN KEYES

The Rachel Incident was a #2 bestseller in Ireland in June 2023


If you've ever had a literary internship that didn't really pay you; if you've ever contemplated writing a screenplay with a friend; if you've ever been unsure what to do with your degree in English; if you've ever wondered when the rug-buying part of your life will start; if you've ever avoided going home or run out of things to say to your parents; if you've ever built your life and your personality around a friend; if you've ever loved the wrong person, or the right person at the wrong time... In short, if you've ever been young, you will love The Rachel Incident like I did
Washington Post
O'Donoghue has a sharp eye for the tumultuous life of a young woman struggling to figure out who she is . . . profoundly satisfying . . . O'Donoghue has found a way to tell this story in scenes both heartbreaking and funny
Sunday Independent, Ones to Watch
An amusing coming-of-age saga
i news
Every so often, a novel comes around that makes you excited about reading again. For me, this year that is Caroline O'Donoghue's gripping, moving The Rachel Incident, which looks like it could be branded the book of the summer . . . The book is full of witty insights that get you right to the heart of the character . . . O'Donoghue is a funny, smart, fearless voice who strikes the perfect balance of realism and romance, and The Rachel Incident is a stormer of a novel
Time Magazine
Starkly funny and heartbreaking
Kirkus Reviews (starred)
A sensational new entry in the burgeoning millennial-novel genre
Barbara Trapido, author of BROTHER OF THE MORE FAMOUS JACK
A book I took to my heart. . . A truly lovely read; complex in its emotional range, funny, poignant, heart-breaking, beautifully plotted, with clever, pacey dialogue, vivid characters and a shocking plot twist that left me gasping in horror
Mail on Sunday
The stage is set for a deliciously complicated and very real romance with some refreshing twists . . . all the intensity of messy young love, burnishing it with nostalgia and pointed wit
Amanda Montell, author of WORDSLUT and CULTISH
An absolute pleasure is the only way I can describe the sensation of losing myself in this ceaselessly charming, vulnerable, atmospheric story of human connection and self-discovery. Fans of Sally Rooney and Coco Mellors will delight in the cozy Irish vibes and glimmering voice of Caroline O'Donoghue.
Ann Napolitano, author of HELLO BEAUTIFUL
Delightful! So funny and smart
Eva Wiseman
I just had such a blast reading this book, honestly - it was sharp and romantic, and horribly funny, and so wise about love and youth. Glorious
Lizzie Huxley-Jones, author of MAKE YOU MINE THIS CHRISTMAS
I can't explain the sheer unadulterated glee of reading this. It's so good and absorbing and funny and honest and horny. And when I finished, I was bereft ... O'Donoghue's observant, incredibly smart writing and character work and story are just the peak of modern fiction for me right now
Daily Express
An unconventional love story filled with heart and humour . . . You'll gobble up The Rachel Incident in one bite and be left hungry for more
Independent, Best Romantic Summer Reads
Will make you laugh and wince with its depiction of 20-something life
Monica Heisey, author of REALLY GOOD, ACTUALLY, Elle Summer Reads
It's funny and nostalgic and the sex scenes are actually sexy ... it's everything I want from a summer book
Jenny Colgan
Gorgeous, bittersweet and true
Hilarious, messy, and all the things being young and infatuated can often be, The Rachel Incident creates a world so vivid you feel it wrap around you . . . This book won't leave you willingly, nor will you want it to
Katherine Rundell
So intimately warm and witty that reading it is like hearing your funniest, sexiest friend tell you the best story they know. It's about being a young idiot, and the glorious intensity of friendship in your early twenties
Kate Young, author of EXPERIENCED
The Rachel Incident worked its way under my skin and into my heart and has stayed there for months. It's such a beautifully observed, open-hearted, clever, horny, desperately funny, joy of a book. It captures, with unique eloquence, those years in our early twenties when every feeling reveals an exposed nerve, when every small event is tragedy or ecstasy, when we're trying to shape, and reshape (and reshape again), who it is we want to become. I adored it
Graham Norton
Made me realise I'd never properly understood the word 'whipsmart' till now. Hilarious, wise and wonderfully written
Navigates a young Irishwoman's chaotic early 20s with a cozy warmth that had me laughing out loud throughout. This is one of those catch-yourself-smiling-without-realizing-it books
New York Times
Exuberant, bitingly satirical . . . Recalls the fiction of both Sally Rooney and Anne Tyler as the author interrogates the dynamics of power, from academia to publishing houses to bedrooms . . . O'Donoghue steers us toward reckonings large and small, her hand steady on the tiller . . . A gratifying, accomplished novel
Mail on Sunday
A deliciously complicated and very real romance with some refreshing twists. O'Donoghue captures all the intensity of messy young love, burnishing it with nostalgia and pointed wit
Coco Mellors, author of CLEOPATRA AND FRANKENSTEIN, Cosmopolitan
I loved it
Irish Independent
Caroline O'Donoghue's best work yet, a rich and nuanced read which is endlessly entertaining
Lauren Fox, author of Send For Me
Caroline O'Donoghue shines a laser beam on young adulthood, particularly the crazy intensity of those messy, beautiful friendships forged in the fires of romantic crisis. The Rachel Incident made me nostalgic for my early twenties. But even more than that, it made me wish I could go back and hug the person I was back then and tell her she'll be okay
Christina Baker Kline, author of Orphan Train
By turns hilarious and heartfelt, breezy and bittersweet, The Rachel Incident is a full-throated, big-hearted romp through early adulthood
People Magazine, Book of the Week
Books by Irish women writers are hot these days, and this novel is on fire . . . O'Donoghue deepens the familiar coming-of-age premise with riveting moral complications
Irish Country Magazine
A brilliantly entertaining, poignant novel about sex, friendship, and both losing and finding yourself
A book full of love, and it is extremely easy to love reading it
Chaos at its finest
An nostalgia-drenched story about intense, 20-something love - with our friends
Marian Keyes
The QFJ Index is HIGH (Queasy from Jealousy) on The Rachel Incident, easily 13/10. Funny, LOVELY, romantic, DRENCHED in nostalgia, it made me extremely happy (apart from the jealousy). I sense it'll be a BIG success
Irish Times
The story feels slick and refined like a HBO series, but what gives it heart is O'Donoghue's raucous humour slathered on top. It's a deeply satisfying novel about friendship, love and the uncertain Ireland of 2010
Guardian, Best Summer Reads
Sometimes the most passionate love stories are platonic. As sharply witty as it is warm-hearted and wise, this coming-of-age story about an Irish graduate and her gay best friend captures the intensity of friendship, the brittle craziness of youth and the desperation of gunning for an arts job in a recession
The i, Best New Books out in June
A compulsive, all-consuming story about love, friendship and the messiness of being young
Has engaging central characters and relevant things to say about ghosting, student dog years, reproductive healthcare and the destructiveness of small-town gossip
I really loved this book. It was gentle yet compelling and I was truly rooting for each character, even the ones I didn't like. Caroline has a talent for writing complex characters with humour and tact. The Rachel Incident kept me guessing while feeling deeply comforted the whole way through
Bookseller, Editor's Choice
Capturing the madness and intensity of early 20-something life, with the added complications of the restrictions of Catholic Ireland, this joyful, passionate story from the author of Promising Young Women is at times spit-out-your-tea funny - and always a bittersweet delight
Best Magazine
Capturing the problems and intensity of early 20-something life, with the added complications of the restrictions of Catholic Ireland, this bittersweet story is at times laugh-out-loud funny
Deeply relatable and extremely funny, and features a dinner party scene so awkward I had to put the book down and do a bit of breathing before I continued
Sloane Crosley, author of CULT CLASSIC
Caroline O'Donoghue, where have you been all my life? The Rachel Incident is a transportive joy, a superhighway to young friendship. Big-hearted, witty and expertly crafted - I want to live inside this book
Matthew Parker, author of ONE FINE DAY
Completely engrossing, intensely intimate, full of wry wit and hard-learned insights about finding friends and holding on to love. I'm struggling to think of a single person I know who wouldn't love this book
Red Magazine
Caroline O'Donoghue perfectly captures the intensity and high and lows of first love, and while The Rachel Incident is steeped in nostalgia and heartache, it's also very, very funny
Keith Stuart, author of THE BOY MADE OF BLOCKS
Caroline O'Donoghue writes characters that just sort of melt from the page and into your life - they are so relatable, so likeable, so beautifully messy. Her story of twenty-somethings stumbling through life, trying to find themselves but usually finding awful rented accommodation and crappy jobs instead is instantly relatable. There is a dinner party scene so brilliantly staged and so exquisitely uncomfortable, I had to read it through my fingers, like watching some sort of horror movie. Books so rarely capture the sheer chaos, heartache, misery and euphoria of our twenties, effectively the internship stage of adulthood in so many ways, but this one does it effortlessly. A truly charming, moving, funny and sad novel
RTE, The best Irish books of 2023
Sharp, wryly original ... quirky, eminently readable, funny
Justin Myers, author of THE FAKE-UP
A gripping story, beautifully written, with an expertly woven plot, packed with charm and suspense that sneaks up on you and leaves you rooting for the characters and gasping for more. A masterful, mesmerising tale of the joy of obsessive and consuming friendship, the secrets that bind us, and the damage we can't help but inflict on the ones we love the most
RTE Guide
Wry, charming and fun, O'Donoghue knocks it out of the park with her third adult novel
Sunday Times, Best Summer Reads
A headlong read about being young and hopelessly in lust . . . Funny, fond and wittily observed
Sunday Business Post
The kind of warm-hearted and genuinely funny novel that's the perfect antidote to a bad news day
Laura Kay, author of TELL ME EVERYTHING
I haven't enjoyed a book as much as The Rachel Incident in a long time - so, so sharp, funny and painfully relatable. These characters defy tropes and stereotypes, they come alive on the page. I adored them
Annie Lord, author of NOTES ON HEARTBREAK
I didn't know books could be this hilarious. The Rachel Incident is so warm and comforting, and the characters so real. I can't believe Rachel and James aren't people that I know -- I care about them so deeply!