Madeleine Keane introduces the new writers, and their books, who have stood out from the rest this year
As the American author Gene Fowler once remarked, writing is easy: All you do is sit staring at a blank sheet of paper until drops of blood form on your forehead. Without doubt, it takes courage and tenacity as much as talent to conceive, execute and publish a book. And with the publishing industry currently in such a state of uncertainty and flux, those who manage to produce books should be really applauded. And so I salute our six writers -- Mary Costello, Selina Guinness, Maeve Higgins, Rosemary McLoughlin, Kathleen MacMahon and Donal Ryan -- who have all been shortlisted for the Sunday Independent Newcomer of the Year award. This is our second year to sponsor this category, the winner of which will be announced at the Irish Book Awards gala dinner on November 22.
This year's sextet covers both fiction and non-fiction across several genres -- comedy, memoir, literary and popular fiction -- and I'm really looking forward to talking to our nominees at next week's Dublin Book Festival. On Friday night (November 16) at the Smock Alley Theatre in Temple Bar, I'll be in conversation with the nominees, discussing their various literary journeys -- how they got published and the challenges they faced. For anyone who has ever thought, 'I could write a book', it is sure to be an entertaining, informative and enjoyable evening.
Tickets can be booked online at www.dublinbookfestival.com and www.smockalley.com.
We Have a Good Time Don't We?
What a smashing title from the frankest of Irish voices -- comedienne Maeve Higgins tells life as it is in this collection of anecdotes and essays. She rips off the false facades of society and explores the nitty gritty everyday stuff that we all go through. If you want to relate with humour as opposed to salivate with envy, then ditch Candace Bushnell and get a copy of this newcomer's debut.
The Spinning Heart
The Spinning Heart comes from Limerick-born newcomer Donal Ryan. Ryan, a law graduate, is currently working for the Irish Government, but no better person or perspective to create a piece of work that reflects on the social and psychological effects of the recession in our country.
The novel is set in a small village and is presented to us in a series of monologues. The Limerick man has a knack for sweet poignancy.
This Is How It Ends
When you hear that a debut novel instigated a bidding war at the London Book Fair and then discover that the writer was Irish, a certain level of excitement is aroused. This Is How It Ends, from newcomer nominee Kathleen MacMahon, delves into a powerful romance that changes the lives of the people involved. Not just a book about love and its pursuit, but issues such as ageing, death and motherhood are examined. MacMahon is an RTE journalist and mother of two. The initial book deal in London was a two-part one so we've more to look forward to from MacMahon.
Now that our days of opulence are over we are increasingly drawn to any form of fiction whose genre is that of old-world grandeur and Big Houses. Rosemary McLoughlin's first novel, Tyringham Park, is set between 1916 and 1941 and straddles an estate in Cork (Tyringham), Dublin and Australia. It begins with the disappearance of Lady Blackshaw's toddler daughter from Tyringham and this is the catalyst for the unravelling of everyone's life on the estate. Worst effected, is her older, less-favoured sister Charlotte. McLoughlin is a newcomer with prowess and she waited until she was 70 to deliver us her debut novel.
The China Factory
A theme that everyone can relate to is the one where we wonder what could have been had we the courage to take that ultimate risk and really follow our gut. Mary Costello's debut, The China Factory, explores this very subject matter with 12 different stories involving characters who wrestle with the decisions they've made and the lives they've created for themselves. The China Factory unmasks the ripples of discontent that exist below almost every human surface.
The Crocodile by the Door
The Crocodile by the Door is the memoir of the pack. Written by academic Selina Guinness about Tibradden, the Victorian family house near Dublin, it covers what a home really is, what's in a family and the ever-Irish preoccupation of land and farming. The crocodile on the cover is Tibradden's post box. The croc was shot in Persia and stuffed in Piccadilly. Pick up a copy and see how one couple learn the art of farming as they fend off the developers.