The Crocodile by the Door


Tibradden is a farmhouse in the Dublin mountains, where the city meets the country – or, in other words, where housing estates and golf courses encroach on lands grazed by sheep and cattle. When Selina Guinness and her partner, Colin, both young academics, moved in with Selina’s uncle Charles, an elderly bachelor, they had no idea what the coming years held for them: a crash course in farming, tense discussions with helicopter-borne property developers, human tragedy, and the challenge of dragging a quasi-feudal estate into the twenty-first century. With an eye to the colorful history of the house and to the often troubled history of relations between Ireland’s landed gentry and their tenants and employees, The Crocodile by the Door provides a rich family narrative, a snapshot of the uncertain future facing Irish farmers, a classic property drama and, above all, a moving account of life, labour and loss on a hillside overlooking Dublin.

“A memoir so exceptional that it deserves to be ranked as the Irish Book of the Year, regardless of category,” Irish Independent.

“Out of the complexities of attachment, and out of a knowledge, hard-won, of what true dereliction is, Guinness has written a remarkable book,” The Guardian.

“Guinness’s first book, while rich in charm, is also poised, moving and – by the end of a heart-wrenching journey – surprisingly triumphant… the author turns the story into something close to a small masterpiece,” The Telegraph *****

Savage Sunday Book of the Month, Bord Gais Energy Book Club.


"The Crocodile"

Published by Penguin Ireland.

19 thoughts on “The Crocodile by the Door

  1. Fantastic book – I enjoyed the matter-of-fact, no nonsense tone.

  2. Hi Selina.. Just finished your book and really enjoyed it.. we started a book club and as most of us live in the rathfarnham area (some very close to you) we choose your book.. congratulations.. We will be meeting up again this month to discuss… looking forward to that.. well done. Val Brennan

  3. Hi Selina
    I just found your website and am SO excited!!
    I am descended from John Sydney Davis and Sarah Heal who established “Tibradden” near Geraldton West Australia in the 1850’s and at present my family, which owns the farm, are trying to rejuvenate it. So you must be a relative and I’m so pleased to find your website and look forward to reading more.
    First, how do I buy your book?
    I really hope you have time to answer this.
    Jenny Collins (nee Sewell and back to Davis through a Lejeune and a Percy)

  4. Hi Jenny,
    If you send me on your email address, I’ll forward you contact details for Jervis Percy who has carried out extensive research on your branch of the Davis family, based on materials I hold at Tibradden. You may well be in touch already.

    All best wishes,

  5. I am listening to your book on RTE..super..well done.

  6. Thanks for that Selina. I am in contact with Jos and Jenny Percy here and plan to see them soon to look at a photo album recently left here by Jervis Percy. I am not in direct contact with him, but may right that soon.
    My email is
    I just ordered your book through a local bookshop in Perth. Initially, they said both the hardback and paperback were out of print, but, after a bit of searching they seemed to think they could get it. I hope so.
    All the best.
    Jenny Collins

  7. Hello Selina, I’ve been meaning to write to you for the longest time but life keeps getting in the way (terrible excuse, I know). It was wonderful to find “Crocodile” and relive my childhood visits to your magical home – camping in the meadow out front, showering under the little waterfall (burrr) and that big bonfire in the middle of the the farmyard. And of course, the crocodile. I’m not sure I was ever shown the door at the back as I always did wonder how the letters made it out and to the post office!

    I cried when I read your description of Charles’ passing, not least because I was always a little too afraid of him to get to know him. And wonderful Kitty with her stories of daring to ride a bicycle and playing tennis with royalty. As a little girl I was enthralled, as a teenager I was in awe.

    Reading your book was a strange experience, like sneaking a look at your diary, but there was no way I could not have read it. I always believed Tirbradden belonged to you and you to it. It was wonderful to discover that Tibradden brought you back and you, gracious as ever, returned the favour.

    If you remember your giddy friend and ever want to get in touch I would love to hear from you.

    Vicky Wornell

  8. Just finished your book and really enjoyed it but how I longed for a simple map of the estate and photographs of you and your family.

  9. Thank you for your kind words about Crocodile. This issue was much discussed; a map was felt to be as off-putting to some readers as welcome to others. And well, I wanted the 100 words instead of the pictures. I don’t know whether it is feasible for you to visit but Tibradden is open during Heritage Week if you wish to book a tour.

  10. Hello Selina, How are you? I have been trying to post a reply about your book. I love the book! And I am hoping one day to see you and your home in Ireland. I did a book cover for Mary Dorcey’s poetry from a painting from the TGC…. great experience!

    Please stay in touch and let me know how you and your family are. Warmest regards Elizabeth

  11. Dear Elizabeth,

    Great to hear from you. I’m delighted you enjoyed the book. Do let me know when you’re next in this neck of the woods. x Selina.

  12. Dear Selina,

    Just finished reading your book – and what a find for a grey, dismal February; full of life and light! Haven’t read any similar type of book with such enthusiasm since Molly Keane, it was warm, easy to follow, and really invoked an understanding of being there and of the lives and emotions of the people you feature.
    I had to read late into the night as I wanted to find out if you ‘sold’ or not, actually expecting the opposite of what transpired… thanks for the enjoyment and hoping that more are to follow!

  13. Dear John,
    Thank you for taking the time to write these kind words – I greatly enjoyed Molly Keane many years ago, when my uncle lent me her books. My next publication will be a long short-story in “All Over Ireland”, ed. Deirdre Madden, which will be out with Faber this May.

    All best wishes,

  14. Dear Selina,

    Just writing to say thank you for your wonderful prescription at the Gutter’s bookshop! I already got Walk the Bluefield and it will be a great Sunday reading tomorrow. Also, I am looking forward to enjoying other book lists as well. Great seeing you today.

    Kind regards,

    Mai (your first patient at the Dublin book doctor today)

  15. Dear Mai,

    It was a pleasure to meet you. I hope you enjoy Claire Keegan’s Walk the Blue Fields, and that you discover some new joys among my recommendations. I should have added that if you’re looking for a classic Irish novel, I think you’d very much enjoy Elizabeth Bowen’s The Last September which is set in a country house in Co. Cork during the War of Independence. If you enjoyed Atonement, you might also like J.G. Farrell’s Troubles. Happy reading!

    All the best,

  16. Dear Selina,

    It was lovely to meet you last night and I just wanted to say thank you for your warmth and generosity. I was very nervous and you made it so much easier. I am off to the bookshop to buy your book having heard great things, and also having really enjoyed your short story.

    I wish you the best of luck in your next project and hope our paths will cross again,


  17. Dear Natalie, It was a great pleasure to meet you. Your own evocative story, “Queen of the NIght” (All Over Ireland – Faber) deserves to win you many readers for your novel when it appears. Congratulations on finishing it.

    All best wishes,

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s