Saturday 24 March 2018

Books: Here come the girls

Exciting chapter: Sarah Bannan
Exciting chapter: Sarah Bannan
Henrietta McKervey. Photo: James Gould.
Sara Baume
Andrea Carter

Claire Coughlan

Spring heralds a wave of vibrant fiction from a Irish women writers.

Last year was a particularly fruitful one for female Irish debut novelists. Eimear McBride scooped the Baileys Prize for her experimental novel, A Girl is a Half-Formed Thing, after years of rejection by publishers, while first-time novelist Mary Costello won the Irish Book Award for her wonderful short novel Academy Street. And there is plenty more to come in 2015, with a multitude of different worlds explored in this exciting new wave of fiction to ensure an immersive reading experience, whatever your tastes.

New Irish publisher Tramp Press has already been making waves in the literary pool and now it's publishing young writer Sara Baume's debut novel, Spill, Simmer, Falter, Wither (Tramp Press, February). Joseph O'Connor has already heralded Baume as "the most exciting new writer I've read in a while." Baume was the winner of the Davy Byrnes Short Story Award 2014 for her short story Solesearcher1.

Another hotly anticipated debut novel - which comes with plenty of meaty accolades - is Head of Literature at the Arts Council Sarah Bannan's first novel, Weightless (Bloomsbury Circus, March). Weightless is set in a US high school, and "brings us right into the middle of bullying, 21st Century-style, in a novel that is chilling, engrossing and very, very impressive," according to Roddy Doyle.

In a completely different vein, the underworld in Cork, is the setting for Lisa McInerney's The Glorious Heresies (John Murray, April). The story follows five misfits who exist on the fringes of Ireland's post-crash society when their lives are affected by a murder. McInerney, who is from Galway, is already well known for her humorous blog 'Arse End of Ireland.'

A fledgling RTE in not-so-swinging 1960s Ireland is the backdrop for Henrietta McKervey's first novel, What Becomes of Us (Hachette, April). McKervey is a graduate of the Creative Writing MFA programme at UCD and was the recipient of the inaugural Maeve Binchy Travel Award last year. Her novel follows the story of Maria Mills, who comes to Dublin in 1965 intent on a new life. And when she meets Tess McDermott, a former member of Cumann na mBan, the Irish republican women's paramilitary group, Maria realises that Tess is hiding a secret too.

The territory of the surreal is explored in Eggshells, by Caitriona Lally (Liberties Press, May). Vivian Lawlor believes she is a changeling, and that she was left by fairies on Earth, replacing her parents' healthy human child. Now, as an adult, she's trying to get back to the 'otherworld', where she feels she can finally belong. This novel was selected as one of the 12 finalists of the Irish Writers' Centre Novel Fair 2014.

Meanwhile, journalist Alison Walsh's All That I Leave Behind, (Hachette, June) takes a look at the more familiar territory of family secrets, when Rosie O'Connor returns to Ireland to get married, she realises that she and her siblings are still marked by their mother's departure 30 years earlier. Old wounds are reopened and the family is forced to examine the lives they've been living.

Spanning generations and continents on an epic scale in a short space, Paula McGrath's ambitious, sensitive novel, Generations (JM Originals, July) has been compared to The Spinning Heart, by Donal Ryan because of its similarly revolving points of view. McGrath is also a graduate of the MFA in Creative Writing at UCD and has had several short stories already published.

Freedom's Child, by Jax Miller (HarperFiction, July) is set in the US and it sounds like an exhilarating tale featuring Freedom, who has spent the last 18 years under witness protection after being exonerated for her husband's murder. When her daughter goes missing, Freedom must escape from her handlers and go and rescue her child. Jax Miller is the pseudonym of young Irish author Anne O'Donnell, who reportedly received a hefty advance for this, her first novel, only 48 hours after it went out on submission.

Another crime novel, but this time set in the scenic Inishowen Peninsula in Co Donegal. Death at Whitewater Church, by Andrea Carter (Constable & Robinson, October) features solicitor sleuth Benedicta O'Keeffe.

Andrea Carter, a former solicitor and barrister, is also a graduate of UCD's MFA programme in Creative Writing, as well as a Novel Fair winner. Death at Whitewater Church is the first in a projected mystery series.

Much for fiction lovers to anticipate and enjoy.

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