IRISH author Catherine Dunne, a favourite writer of Silvio Berlusconi's ex-wife, has won one of Italy's top literary awards for her last novel.
The novel, 'The Things We Know Now', has been awarded the prestigious Boccaccio International Prize for Fiction, named after the great Italian writer. Previous winners of the prize include Vikram Seth, Mark Haddon and Muriel Spark.
Published in Italy last November under the title 'Quel Che Ora Sappiamo', Catherine Dunne's novel has been another bestseller for her there. She has a huge readership in Italy where many of her nine novels to date have also been bestsellers.
Her name and her novels achieved a national profile in Italy in 2007 when she was quoted by Silvio Berlusconi's then wife Veronica in a public reprimand of her philandering husband. Mr Berlusconi had been caught by a microphone chatting up young women backstage at a TV awards ceremony.
Mrs Berlusconi said she felt like a woman in one of Catherine Dunne's books, referring to Dunne's novel 'In The Beginning' in which the main character Rose is suddenly abandoned by her husband.
"I ask if, like the Catherine Dunne character, I have to regard myself as 'half of nothing'," she wrote.
The story made national news in Italy and had women all over the country queuing up to buy books by Ms Dunne.
Her latest novel which has now won the Boccaccio Prize deals with what the judges called "the most painful grief that anyone can endure – the loss of a child through suicide".
Although less successful in Ireland, Dunne's novels have been praised by the critics here and in Britain who place her at the literary end of popular fiction.