Sunday 22 July 2018

Page turners: The world of books with Madeleine Keane

Author Lisa McInerney
Author Lisa McInerney

Obviously, given the nature of my work, I'm frequently asked by friends and family to recommend books. So to inaugurate my new literary column, let me flag three stunners coming soon to a bookshop near you. January was lit up by an early proof of Chris Cleave's Everyone Brave is Forgiven, an exquisitely wrought tale of love and valour in WWII and partially set in Malta where I read A Quiet Life by Natasha Walter, an enthralling Cold War thriller inspired by the life of Melinda Marling, wife of the Cambridge spy, Donald Maclean.

Finally, last weekend I devoured what is surely destined to be one of the novels of the year. This Must Be the Place by our own Maggie O'Farrell is quite simply, dazzling - the breathtakingly moving, funny story of maddening, compelling Daniel Sullivan and his loves. This terrific trio will be published over the next few weeks. Don't say I didn't tell you.


Wonderful it is too to see some of our other fine female writers being lauded abroad. Sara Baume (Spill, Simmer, Falter, Wither) and Lisa McInerney (The Glorious Heresies) both featured on last week's longlist for the Desmond Elliott Prize for first novel. Presented in the name of the late publisher and agent, whose passion for finding and nurturing new authors was legendary, the award is now in its ninth year, and has an established record for spotting literary talent in these isles: past winners include Claire Fuller, Grace McCleen and the much feted Irish-born Eimear McBride. The shortlist will be announced on May 6, and the winner will be revealed at a ceremony at Fortnum & Mason on June 22, where they will be presented with a cheque for £10,000. So good luck to our girls.


That extra hour of light in the evening along with news of books festivals being held everywhere from West Cork to Newcastle West, are sure signifiers that summer is in the ether. So it was with a spring in my step that I headed to the sunny south-east last Thursday to formally launch the programme for the Wexford Literary Festival. Among the authors gathered at the beautifully restored Athenaeum in Enniscorthy (where the dance scene in Brooklyn was filmed), to hear my words of wisdom (or something) were Hazel Gaynor, Ruth Long and Carmel Harrington; the latter founded the fest three years ago. A vibrant line up for the last weekend in May includes Jax Miller, Kate Kerrigan and Pat Fitzpatrick of this parish.


I'm a long time fan of that estimable literary journal The Stinging Fly so all going according to plan, I'll be at one of their Fly on the Wall events this Saturday (April 16th) at the Project Arts Centre. Two discussions in the afternoon will focus on issues raised by Fly's recent In the Wake of the Rising edition while the evening session, Making It Up, includes writers Martina Evans, Niall Griffiths and Jon McGregor among others reading from works in progress. Vaut le detour, methinks.

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