Monthly Archives: January 2022

My Fourth Time, We Drowned – published March 2022

Winner of the 2022 Orwell Prize for Political Writing.

Winner, An Post Irish Book of the Year.

Winner of the 2022 Michel Déon Prize.

Winner of 2022 non-fiction book of the year at the Irish Book Awards.

Finalist for the 2022 Baillie Gifford Prize for Non-Fiction.

Finalist for the New York Public Library’s Helen Bernstein Book Award for Excellence in Journalism.

Finalist for the 2022 Moore Prize for Human Rights Writing.

Shortlisted for the Jan Michalski Prize for Literature.

A New Yorker best book of 2022.

A Kirkus Reviews best non-fiction book of 2022.

A Waterstones best politics book of 2022.

A Financial Times best politics book of 2022.

A Times of London best politics book of 2022.

A Guardian best history and politics book of 2022.

A Sunday Independent best politics book of 2022.

A Sunday Business Post best book of 2022.

A Five Books book of 2022.

A Prospect magazine politics and reportage book of 2022.

An Irish Independent best book of 2022.

A New Zealand Listener best book of 2022.

A Sunday Times paperback of the week, 2023.

A Sunday Times paperback of the year, 2023.

Selected praise:

“The most important work of contemporary reporting I have ever read. Every citizen of the European Union has not only a right, but also a responsibility, to learn about the realities described in this book. I hope that Sally Hayden’s work can help to begin a radically new and overdue discussion about Europe’s approach to migration and borders” — Sally Rooney

“‘I had stumbled on a human rights disaster of epic proportions,’ writes Sally Hayden in the prologue of her remarkable story of the ongoing migrant crisis in Europe. Contacted blind, on the phone, by a desperate young man locked in a brutal refugee camp in Libya, Hayden embarked on a years-long effort to document the courage, humor, kindness, and resilience of ordinary people trapped by circumstance, and the tragic moral failure of the west to help them. The refugee who sent her the first Facebook message in 2018 had no way to know it, but he had reached exactly the right person. Read her book.” — Mark Bowden, author of ‘Black Hawk Down’

“This vivid chronicle of the lives and dreams of those who risk all the cross the Mediterranean to reach Europe may make you cry, but it should make you angry. It is not just a blistering rebuke to those who torture, rape and imprison, but to the rest of us, who turn a blind eye.” — Lindsey Hilsum, International Editor, Channel 4 News

“This is a brilliant book, powerful and emotional – Sally Hayden is a superb journalist and through her incredible courage and eyewitness testimonies, paints a compelling picture of the poignant and horrific lives endured by so many refugees and migrants. A must read for anyone with a conscience”. — Miriam O’Callaghan, presenter RTE Prime Time

“One of the most important testaments of this awful time in life’s history. It is both heartbreaking and stoic. I cry reading any page of it. Sally Hayden is a young and brilliant journalist.” — Edna O’Brien

“Kafka retold… Read this great book shedding light on a monstrous crime.” — John Sweeney, author of ‘Hunting Ghislaine’

“My Fourth Time, We Drowned is compassionate, brave, enraging, beautifully written and incredibly well researched. Hayden exposes the truth about years of grotesque abuse committed against some of the world’s most  vulnerable people in all of our names. After this, none of us can say we didn’t know.” — Oliver Bullough, author of ‘Moneyland’

“Sally Hayden’s heart-stopping account of the plight of contemporary refugees is both a compelling epic and an intimate encounter with exact personal experience. She achieves what all great writing hopes to do — the restoration of humanity to those who have been deprived of it. This is a vital book for anyone who wants to feel what it means to be human in the 21st century.” — Fintan O’Toole, Irish Times columnist and Orwell Prize winner

“Irish journalist Sally Hayden describes one of the great tragedies of our era, the story of the thousands of refugees bent on starting new lives in the West, who instead spend years rotting in Sudanese refugee camps, trapped in Libyan prisons, clinging to sinking dinghies in the Mediterranean. Her harrowing portrait captures the voices of the Eritreans, Somalis, Ethiopians, Gambians and Sierra Leoneans caught up in this pitiless modern slave trade, who constantly remind us that the desire to better yourself is the most fundamental of human impulses.  This is a remarkable and important book.” — Michela Wrong, author of ‘Do Not Disturb’

“‘My Fourth Time, We Drowned’ is a veritable masterclass in journalism. Unexpectedly finding herself a journalistic agony aunt for migrants being tortured, starved and raped inside horrific Libyan detention centres, Sally Hayden weaves together their WhatsApp and Facebook messages to produce the most riveting, detailed and damning account ever written on the deadliest of migration routes” — Christina Lamb, chief foreign correspondent Sunday Times

“‘My Fourth Time, We Drowned’ is, quite simply, an unexpected tour de force, and its author, Sally Hayden, deserves critical acclaim and a wide readership for her achievement. A book about African migrants to Europe becoming trapped in Libyan hellholes while fleeing repression and poverty at home does not, at first glance, make for a promising read. But Sally Hayden, a very gifted writer as much as she is an intrepid and dogged reporter, has done precisely that. I found this book unputdownable. I have no doubt that whatever else she goes on to write about in the future, Sally Hayden will leave some of her words etched into our hearts and our souls.” — Jon Lee Anderson, New Yorker staff writer

“A must read for all of us.” — Andrea Elliott, author of Pulitzer Prize winning ‘Invisible Child’

“‘My Fourth Time, We Drowned’ is brilliant, hugely important reportage on an ongoing situation many of us try to tune out.” — Marian Keyes

“Extremely good.” — Mark O’Connell, author of ‘Notes From An Apocalypse’

“My book of the year last year, this year and next… What a devastating book about the catastrophic inhumanity of European migration policy. It’s a journalistic masterpiece. Shattering stories. It absolutely demands to be read … Essential.” — Max Porter, author of ‘Grief Is The Thing With Feathers’

“[An] astonishing, definitive, unflinching account of migrant hell.” — Ardal O’Hanlon


“Intrepidly reported and vividly written, this sobering account shines a spotlight on an underreported tragedy.” — Publishers Weekly

“The narrative is consistently harrowing, revealing the complexities within a global crisis that lacks an easy solution, especially as the numbers of refugees mount. An important contribution to the literature of forced immigration and humanitarian crises.” —Kirkus (Starred Review)

“Journalism of the most urgent kind” — The Financial Times

“There is perhaps no better testament to the racist double standard at the core of European border policy than the accounts of refugees and migrants collected in a new book by journalist Sally Hayden”  — The Intercept

“A meticulous account of the horrifying North African refugee crisis . . . Painstaking details and a roundabout timeline make My Fourth Time, We Drowned informative, while the testimonies from the refugees themselves pulse with difficult truths that will shock (and maybe mobilize) conscientious citizens across the globe.’ — Foreword Reviews

“A brilliant, layered testament”  — The Irish Independent

“A powerfully written amalgamation of narrative nonfiction and investigative journalism, My Fourth Time We Drowned is compelling reading for a wide audience.”  — Mail & Guardian

“Hayden’s noteworthy book should be a wake-up call for international aid organizations and world leaders.” — Foreign Policy

“A brilliant, unparalleled investigation of one of the most underreported scandals and monstrous crimes of our time.” — Responsible Statecraft

“Reading Hayden’s book is like descending through the middle bolgias of the Inferno, except that Dante’s hell does not hide behind a gauzy screen of humanitarian concern…” — The Sunday Times

“Extraordinary … The intensely personal stories she tells are a welcome corrective to the often dehumanising discourse that surrounds migration in rich countries. This unforgettable book should be required reading for politicians on all sides.” — the Guardian

“The triumph of the debut book by Sally Hayden, a 33-year-old Irish reporter, is to inject a renewed urgency and moral clarity into a story most people think they are familiar with.” — The Times of London

“One of the finest non-fiction books I have read in a long time.” — Matthew d’Ancona, Tortoise Media

“This is a book of evidence, an indictment of a guilty continent. It will make you feel sick, and it should.” — The Irish Times

“[A]stonishingly detailed… My Fourth Time, We Drowned is not simply a catalogue of misery: it is a meticulously documented record of the complicity of the very organizations that are meant to be forces of good.” — The Times Literary Supplement

“A quietly angry book, and it’s likely that on reading it you’ll experience a similar sense of fury: that people were bought and sold just a sea crossing away from where tourists frolic on European beaches.” — The Irish Examiner

“The evidence [presented] in My Fourth Time, We Drowned is overwhelming. The facts argue for a more urgent and humane migrant policy. — Washington Independent Review of Books

“Probably the most important and touching book I’ve read this year… It’s horrific and nobody comes out looking good, least of all us citizens of Europe, who have allowed terrible things to go on in our name.” — Five Books

“An immensely powerful account… one of the most important and eye-opening books that I read last year.” — Johanna Thomas-Corr, Sunday Times literary editor.

“Readers should not flinch from [anger and embarrassment] but look it directly in the face, and let Hayden’s vital reporting make them reconsider their view of what makes a moral world.” — The Baffler

“An essential portrait of a crisis of unfathomable proportions, one that you can only hope will sway those in power to do something. Anything.” — Hippocampus magazine

“My Fourth Time, We Drowned casts light on a dark world that would be only too visible if we cared to look. These are stories that should be heard by everyone.” — Geographical

“A pointed and painful account… One recoils with shock many a time during the book, reading about the stone-heartedness of the so-called liberal West towards the suffering migrants of North Africa… Kudos to the writer for having ensured that the book is highly readable in terms of its simple and plain writing.” — Kashmir Reader

Media (selected):

’12 debut Irish writers to look out for in 2022′, the Irish Times; ‘Books to look out for in 2022’, the Irish Times; ‘The hottest books of 2022’, the Irish Independent.

Included on the Kirkus list of the 20 best books publishing in the US in March.

Chosen for the Washington Post’s Africa politics summer book club.

The New Humanitarian: Q&A: Why documenting Libya’s detention abuses is so important

‘”A more humane policy is possible”: Sally Hayden on the welcome to Ukrainians and on covering refugees before Putin’s war’, Reuters Institute, Oxford University.

‘Claire Keegan and Sally Hayden win Orwell Prizes in double Irish success’, the Irish Times.

One of the Independent’s ‘best books to read this summer’.

‘Irish author Sally Hayden wins RIA Michel Déon Prize’, RTE.

‘Female history and biography writing dominates Baillie Gifford shortlist’, the Guardian

Audiobook – AudioFile Earphones Award winner

“This audiobook highlights why, in certain circumstances, nothing can replace the power of the spoken word. Aoife McMahon’s narration is extraordinary, as are the first-person accounts she presents of the lives of refugees in Libyan detention camps and their efforts to escape seemingly unfathomable conditions. McMahon’s delivery is precise and in many ways as haunting as the stories that author Sally Hayden recounts.” — AudioFile



North America:


Chapters, Canada



WH Smith


Lighthouse Bookshop



Books Upstairs

Dubray Books


Many countries worldwide:

Book Depository







The Netherlands




Torquay Books, Australia

The Nile, Australia

New Zealand