Published: Lightning Books (October 2018)


The Weight of a Human Heart

Ryan O'Neill


Shortlisted: Scottish Book Awards

Shortlisted: Queensland Literary Awards

Shortlisted: New South Wales Premier's Literary Awards

A series of graphs illustrate the disintegration of a marriage, step by excruciating step. A literary brawl – and an affair – play out in the book review section of a national newspaper. A young girl learns her mother’s disturbing secrets through the broken key on a typewriter.

Sometimes comic, sometimes tragic, this collection by the award-winning author of Their Brilliant Careers turns the rules of storytelling on their head.

Ranging in setting from Australia to Africa to China and back again, The Weight of a Human Heart was the first published fiction by this remarkable Scottish writer based in Australia.






The Weight of a Human Heart is refreshing, funny, devastating … O’Neill is a smart and daring writer; he challenges the conventions of short fiction, but his stories are still deeply satisfying and offer glimpses into worlds readers need to see, worlds that are vile, beautiful, and utterly human’

Megan Mayhew Bergman

‘Stories full of wit, irony, wild invention, love and pain – and sometimes shocking power’

Paddy O’Reilly

‘With each new story O’Neill redefines the boundaries of what is possible’

Patrick Cullen

‘The best first collection of stories you’re likely to read’

Wiley Cash


‘Daring, intelligent, witty, full of new discoveries and exhilarations’

The Guardian

‘Joyfully original… magnetic… a brilliant collection’

The Independent

‘A book that delights in scuffing the conventions of short fiction… O’Neill brings playfulness into stories for a literate audience’

Sydney Morning Herald

‘Full of verve and wit’

Canberra Times

‘Vital storytelling and literary flourishes distinguish Scottish author O’Neill’s creative story collection. What brings all of the tonal diversity together is his obvious understanding of the cohesiveness of language, its power to transcend and overcome, and the way an economy of precious words in a short story can achieve a novel’s worth of emotion’

Publisher’s Weekly

‘In the hands of this able practitioner, the minor art form of the short story becomes major art’


‘Sometimes comic, sometimes tragic, this collection by the award-winning author of Their Brilliant Careers turns the rules of storytelling on their head… Each story is a miniature masterpiece, perfectly formed like a clutch of eggs, each of which contains an entirely different inhabitant, only visible when the smooth, intact exterior is cracked by the reader’

Rachel Read It



Ryan O'Neill

Ryan O’Neill was born in Glasgow in 1975 and lived in Africa, Europe and Asia before settling in Australia.

His short story collection The Weight of a Human Heart was shortlisted for the 2012 Queensland Literary Awards.

His debut novel Their Brilliant Careers, first published in Australia in 2016, won the Australian PM's Prize for Fiction and was shortlisted for the Miles Franklin Literary Award.

He lives in Sydney.

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