Tuesday 6 December 2016

Spring promises bumper harvest of exciting titles

A rich crop of established and new Irish talent is unearthed as Alison Walsh previews what publishers have in the offing, right across the genres

Alison Walsh

Published 01/01/2012 | 05:00

VERSE: The release of 'The Collected Poems of Samuel Beckett' may cast the playwright’s literary origins in a different light
VERSE: The release of 'The Collected Poems of Samuel Beckett' may cast the playwright’s literary origins in a different light

THE nice thing about spring, along with the prospect of longer days, is that our reading springs to life, with varied and enticing offerings from publishers to shake off recessionary doom and gloom.

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Joyce is a big theme for 2012, with the master's work now out of copyright. O'Brien Press will be the first to leap from the traps, with its edition of Dubliners (€7.99) out in February, complete with an introduction by John Boyne, while Penguin Classics has The Restored Finnegan's Wake, painstakingly reconstructed from the original by Danis Rose and John O'Hanlon (€30) out in April.

Dark Lies the Island, a new collection from Kevin Barry (Cape, April, €17.15) to follow his Costa-shortlisted debut novel City of Bohane, is "shot through with the riotous humour, sympathy and blistering language that mark Kevin Barry as a ...unique teller of tales".

Another fresh and vibrant talent is Nuala Ni Chonchuir, whose collection, Mother America, is due out in May from New Island.

In New Ways to Kill Your Mother: Writers and their Families, Colm Toibin looks at how writers write about their nearest, including everyone from Tennessee Williams to Roddy Doyle (Viking, February, €20.99). But the prize for most intriguing title must surely go to Glenn Patterson, whose The Mill for Grinding Old People Young (Faber, March, €17.15), takes us to Belfast in the 1830s and a cross-cultural love affair which defines the novel's hero.

Fellow Ulsterman David Parks' new novel, following the blistering The Truth Commissioner, is In The Light of Amsterdam, in which three couples go to Amsterdam just before Christmas in a tender exploration of ordinary human lives (Bloomsbury, March, €17.15).

Another Irish writer looking beyond this island is Kevin Brophy in The Berlin Crossing, which is set just after the fall of the Wall and full of dark secrets and political intrigue (Headline, January, €17.15).

Greg Baxter's city has no name, but feels grandly European in his debut novel The Apartment (Penguin Ireland, April, €17.15), in which a former US navy man and a young woman's hunt for an apartment turns into something deeper and more resonant.

Back in Ireland, but an Ireland of the past, newcomer Darran McCann's After the Lockout (Fourth Estate, February, €9.99) comes complete with praise from Hilary Mantel, who calls it "a wonderful novel about what history has done to Ireland, and what Ireland has done to history".

History of a colourful kind comes in Walter Ellis's The Caravaggio Conspiracy (Lilliput, March, €15), which brings together Caravaggio's great work, The Taking of Christ, the machinations of the Catholic church and an Islamic terrorist plot. Top that.

Another "Irish connection" comes via Peru, as Nobel Laureate Mario Vargas Llosa focuses on Sir Roger Casement in The Dream of the Celt (Faber & Faber, June, €20.99), a vivid novel which follows Casement to South America, Ireland and, finally, Pentonville Prison.

Samuel Beckett is, of course, a genius of modern theatre -- but The Collected Poems of Samuel Beckett (Sean Lawlor and John Pilling, Faber & Faber, May, €25) reminds us of his skill as a poet, where he began his writing life. A modern poet who continues to entertain and provoke is Paul Durcan, whose 22nd collection, a meditation on home, is called Praise in which I Live and Move and Have my Being (Harvill Secker, April, €15.85).

There probably can be no greater treat than an Anne Tyler novel. And in The Beginner's Goodbye (Chatto, April, €17.15), Aaron tries to overcome the death of his wife, Dorothy, after an accident, "involving an oak tree, a sun porch and some elusive biscuits".

Other great Americans producing novels this spring include the much-decorated Richard Ford. In Canada (Bloomsbury, June, €17.15), he moves away from his deceptively laconic probing of American life in a tale which centres around Del, a young boy whose parents go on the run after robbing a bank .

Both John Irving and Edmund White look at the mysteries of male relationships, Irving with bisexual Billy's life and loves in In One Person, (May, Transworld, €19.80) and White with the vagaries of unrequited male love in "intense, literary, sixties' New York" in Jack Holmes and his Friend (Bloomsbury, January, €15.80).

Sanctuary Line marks the welcome return of Jane Urquhart (January, McLehose Press, €22.45), who brings together 19th-Century Ireland and Ontario, while In The Chemistry of Tears, alchemist Peter Carey brings together the mundane and the extraordinary as the life of a museum curator connects with that of a 19th-Century Englishman -- and the automaton he created for his consumptive son (Faber & Faber, April, €17.15).

Grace McLeen is being proclaimed as a new find. Her debut novel The Land of Decoration is about a lonely young girl who finds that she has an extraordinary gift (Chatto, March, €17.15). Another debut author who will, no doubt, be widely read is Kathleen McMahon, whose lovely love story, This is How it Ends (Little, Brown, May, €17.15), caused such excitement on acquisition last year.

Mark Haddon, author of the unforgettable The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night Time, looks again at family, "that slippery word", in his new novel, The Red House (May, Cape, €17.50) as a family gathers in an isolated farmhouse along with the ghosts of their past.

In Capital, John Lanchester takes a timely look at teeming London through the eyes of a range of characters, from the millionaire banker Roger to Quentina, a traffic warden (Faber & Faber, January, €17.15), and finally, the IMPAC award-winning writer of The Twin, Gerbrand Bakker, returns with a new novel, Detour (Secker, February, €17.15) with its familiar themes of escape and the healing power of nature.

For those of you who prefer lighter fare, spring has lots to offer. Leading from the front is Cathy Kelly, with her characteristically warm The House on Willow Street (Harper, March, €19.80) in which four women lay the ghosts of the past to rest, followed by another doyenne of the genre, Marita Conlon-McKenna, with Three Women (March, TI, €17.50), a revelation of painful family secrets.

There's no stopping Melissa Hill, who follows her mega-selling Something from Tiffany's with The Charm Bracelet (Hodder, May, €17.15), while Ella Griffin follows her debut, Postcards from the Heart, with the growing pains of 30-something Claire in The Heart Whisperer (Orion, May, €17.15).

Erin Kaye's Second Time Around, is a warm, real story about love, yes, second time around for a divorcee and mother of two (Avon, January, €17.15) and the very funny Niamh Greene returns in June with A Message to Your Heart (Penguin Ireland, €15.85), a story of crossed wires and a dash of magic, set in San Francisco.

Also dealing with destiny is Roisin Meaney's One Summer (HBI, April, €17.15), as Nell's decision to rent out her remote island home has unexpected consequences, and the entertaining world of art scams and all-round skulduggery features in Martina Reilly's Even Better than the Real Thing (HBI, January, €17.15), while Yvonne Cassidy's What Might Have Been Me takes a searching look at the price we pay for love, in New York and Ireland (HBI, January, €17.15).

Anita Notaro's A Moment Like This neatly tunes into the age of celebrity, as a young woman's life is turned upside down when she wins a talent show (May, TI, €17.15) and celebrity also features in Zoe Miller's A Family Scandal (HBI, €17.15), as the death of a rock star reverberates through his family.

Much-loved films provide a charming backdrop to Brian Finnegan's The Forced Redundancy Film Club (HBI, €17.15), while Sarah Harte follows her bestselling The Other Half with Thick and Thin, in which two women find the bonds of childhood friendship sorely tested (Penguin Ireland, April, €17.15).

Ireland is enjoying a golden age in crime writing, and Ken Bruen is, of course, the father of them all. In his latest, Headstone (Transworld Ireland, April, €17.15), a mysterious, evil group is committing random killings in Jack Taylor's native Galway. Meanwhile, Tana French's Broken Harbour is set on a ghost estate outside Dublin, where a tragic murder-suicide turns out to be something much darker (Hodder, June, €17.15). Alex Barclay's Blood Loss is a new adventure for her FBI agent Ren Price, as as a father's work puts his daughter in danger (Harper, May, €17.15).

In The Cold, Cold Ground (Serpent's Tail, January, €17.15), Adrian McKinty takes us to Northern Ireland in 1981, with hunger strikes, riots, power cuts and "a homophobic serial killer with a penchant for opera". Meanwhile Brian McGilloway, who has been garnering a huge following for his Inspector Devlin series, takes us to an island on the river Foyle and the death of a baby in The Nameless Dead (Macmillan, May, €17.15).

In non-fiction, Diarmaid Ferriter's Ambiguous Republic: Ireland in the Seventies (Profile Books, July, €25) promises to be a fascinating account of this turbulent decade in our history, and of course it will tie-in with a 13-part series on RTE.

More recent history is remembered by the Green Party's Dan Boyle in Without Power or Glory (New Island, March, €16.99), an insider account of the dying days of our ancien regime. In Oil and Water: Molly Keane and Her World (Lilliput, February, €15), Marjorie Quarton looks at the rise and fall of the Anglo-Irish and of "one of its most original and witty novelists".

Harry Kernoff: The Little Genius, by Kevin O'Connor, is "the first full-length biography of one of Ireland's greatest 20th-Century artists" and comes complete with lots of illustrations (Liffey Press, April, €20.00), while Poolbeg has high hopes for Gabriel Walsh's Maggie's Breakfast, a memoir about the relationship between the author, who was an hotel porter in the Fifties, and the opera singer Margaret Bourke Sheridan (January, €14.99).

It being the New Year, there's a big dollop of self-help with Dr Eva Orsmond, of Operation Transformation fame, promising us The Last Diet in a new healthy-eating cookbook (G&M, Jan, €19.99) and Sorted: How to Survive and Thrive When Money's Tight from entrepreneur -- and recession survivor -- John McGuire (Penguin Ireland, January, €13.99). Growing for Ireland by Tom Doorley (Liberties Press, March, €14.99) introduces us to the joys of tending our own vegetable patch, and still on a pastoral note, Damien Enright follows A Place Near Heaven with The Kindness of Place: Twenty Years in West Cork (G&M, March, €16.99).

Musically, James Fearnley's Here Comes Everybody: The Story of The Pogues (Faber & Faber, May, €19.80) provides an insider's look by band member Fearnley, and A Waterboy's Adventures in Music by Mike Scott (Lilliput, €25,) promises to be "devastatingly honest" look at the band's mercurial frontman.

But with the year that's in it, it seems appropriate to end with The Irish Aboard Titanic by journalist Senan Molony (Mercier, January, €19.99), a collection of accounts from Irish passengers who were on the liner, complete with family memories as well as records from the White Star Line.

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