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My life in Books: Roisin Meaney


Roisin Meaney. Photo: Don Moloney

Roisin Meaney. Photo: Don Moloney

Roisin Meaney. Photo: Don Moloney

Roisin Meaney is the author of 15 novels including The People Next Door and The Restaurant. Her latest bestseller, a warm festive tale, It's That Time of Year, is published by Hachette.

The books on your bedside

Colum McCann's Apeirogon, which I'm reading and loving. Beneath that, Jim O'Brien's Matters of Great Indifference, a compilation of his column in the Farming Independent, which I'm dipping into and really enjoying too. Beneath that, Sheila O'Flanagan's The Women Who Ran Away, which is next up. Love Sheila's writing. 

The first book you remember

All the Noddy books, my first literary loves. I wanted to live in Toytown, next door to Noddy so I could borrow his yellow car with the parp-parp horn. When the VW Beetle was reimagined in the 1990s, my first thought when I saw it was "that's Noddy's car". I wanted to buy it, just for the closure I suppose, but tragically my budget wouldn't stretch to it. 

Your book of the year

A toss-up between Niall Williams' This is Happiness and Donal Ryan's Strange Flowers, both of which warmed my cockles immensely. Two beautiful sad and happy reads, and both imbued with a strong Irish flavour, which I always appreciate. 

Your favourite literary character

Olive Kitteridge, hands down. I was in awe of Elizabeth Strout's ability to let Olive's character emerge slowly, so you went from disliking her intensely to loving her.  Since I read it, I've been on a mission to find the [HBO TV miniseries] adaptation with Frances McDormand.

The worst book you've ever read

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Can't name one, couldn't do it to another author, however much I feel their offering might deserve the title. I've struggled through some tulips in my time, or halfway through if I can't go on, but knowing the brain-racking and agonising that any book demands, I couldn't be that cruel. 

The book that changed your life

I'm not sure that any book did that, but the wonderful The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society was the reason I made a trip to Guernsey. I felt I had to get a feel for the island whose traumatic history had inspired the book. I fell in love with Guernsey, by the way. I think it might be the only place in the world I'd leave Ireland for on a permanent basis. 

Your Covid comfort read

It might seem like a strange choice, but Brideshead Revisited is a book that always feels like a warm blanket. I adored the 1980s adaptation too, with Jeremy Irons. It had just finished on telly here when I moved to Africa on a two-year teaching contract, and I was thrilled to find it just starting there!

The book you couldn't finish

Again, I don't want to name names, but I had to read a crime book for a book club once that was so badly written, so predictable, with completely unrealistic characters, that I threw it aside after ploughing through the first half. All the others had finished it, and all agreed it was rubbish, but I felt guilty for being the only one who hadn't managed to get through it. 

The book you give as a present

Seamus Heaney's 100 Poems. That man couldn't write a bad line if you paid him - every word is precious. Every poem is a total gem. I love to give it to non-Irish people, so they can see the class of poet we raise here. 

The writer who shaped you

Anne Tyler, with a little help from Joanna Trollope. I've been compared to both at different times, and those comparisons, however undeserved, have thrilled and flattered me beyond measure. I could add several more authors to that list since I began writing, so much inspiration, but at the start they were my two favourite writers.

The book you would most like to be remembered for

Something in Common. Not necessarily my best book - I'm hopeless at judging them - but because the penfriend relationship in it was inspired by a lovely woman I met in Africa who became my penpal, and who died long before her time.