Saturday 21 April 2018

Books: Old favourites and new voices in bumper year

Alison Walsh takes us through the best books coming our way in the next year

WRITE ON: (Clockwise from left) Liz Nugent’s debut novel ‘Unravelling Oliver’ will be released this year along with the previously unpublished ‘Echo’s Bones’ by Samuel Becket and ‘Chestnut Street’ by the late Maeve Binchy
WRITE ON: (Clockwise from left) Liz Nugent’s debut novel ‘Unravelling Oliver’ will be released this year along with the previously unpublished ‘Echo’s Bones’ by Samuel Becket and ‘Chestnut Street’ by the late Maeve Binchy

Alison Walsh

The turkey has been eaten and the crossword half-done, so now it's time to look forward to the new year. It's a bumper one for books, with big names and new voices battling it out for our interest.

National treasure Sebastian Barry returns with The Temporary Gentleman (Faber, April, €20) set after the Second World War, as Jack McNulty tries to come to terms with his choices in life, while in Every Single Minute, Hugo Hamilton explores themes of reconciliation and the power of memory in contemporary Berlin (4th Estate, February, €16.99). Joseph O'Connor's The Thrill of it All (Harvill Secker, May, €20) is a humane and funny love letter to the power of music and Paul Lynch's The Black Snow (Quercus, March, €20) is a gothic Western, which looks at the disturbing legacy of a farmer's death.

The past is a recurring theme for many this spring: Niall Williams' History of the Rain, (Bloomsbury, April, €16) looks at generations of family history and a daughter's search for her father; Emma Donoghue travels to San Francisco in 1876 in Frog Music (Picador, March, €20) when a stifling heatwave and smallpox epidemic have engulfed the city'; Lia Mills looks to the Great War in Fallen, as a young woman comes of age in this time of huge loss (Penguin Ireland, June, €14.99). In David Park's The Poets' Wives (Bloomsbury, Feb, €17.35), three women are shaped by their partners' work, while Glenn Patterson looks to the recent, troubled, past in The Rest Just Follows, a coming-of-age novel set in Belfast in 1974 (Faber, Feb, €17.35).

There's a very strong showing for debut fiction this spring, with Liz Nugent's stunning, shocking and superb novel, Unravelling Oliver (Penguin Ireland, March, €14.99) followed by Rob Doyle's Here are the Young Men (Lilliput, May, €12.99), a gritty Dublin drama. In Daniel Seery's A Model Partner (Liberties, Feb, €13.99) Tom Stacey has to conquer his demons to find his perfect other half and in Léan Cullinan's The Living (Atlantic, June, €14.99), Cate comes to terms with the grim realities of our recent history.

While some are excavating our past, other Irish writers are looking to Europe for inspiration. Echo's Bones (Faber, April, €26.70) is a never-before-published story by Samuel Beckett, which should be a treat; Darragh McKeon's All That Is Solid Melts Into Air (Viking, March, €20) is set in a Russia blindsided by the Chernobyl disaster; in Audrey Magee's The Undertaking, the Second World War is the backdrop to a story of divided loyalties and dark allegiances (Atlantic, Feb, €17.35) and in Munich Airport, Greg Baxter looks at the meaning of home (Penguin Ireland, July, €16.99).

Further afield, fans of Lorrie Moore will welcome her new collection Bark (Faber, Feb, €17.35), the first since her unforgettable Birds of America. Another author returning after a long absence is Mary Lawson and in Road Ends, the author of Crow Lake looks to the frozen north of Canada and a family falling apart in the 1960s (Chatto, March, €17.35).

In Michael Cunningham's The Snow Queen (4th Estate, May, €17.35) three lost souls try to understand what might lie beyond the world as they know it. & Sons by David Gilbert (4th Estate, Jan, €22.70), about a family in disarray after the breakdown of its patriarch, comes garlanded with praise, while in Siri Hustvedt's The Blazing World, an artist's desire for fame and recognition has dangerous consequences (Sceptre, March, €18.70).

If your reading tastes veer towards the popular, spring is a season bursting with fresh offerings. In Chestnut Street, we have linked stories from the late Maeve Binchy (Orion, May, €14.99) and in The Lost Garden by Kate Kerrigan (Macmillan, April, €17.35), heartbroken Aileen finds solace in reviving an abandoned garden. In Now That I've Found You, Ciara Geraghty takes us into the lives of a single father and a woman with a dark and guilty secret (Headline, May, €17.35) and in Zoe Miller's A Husband's Confession, Jo and Ali have to summon all their courage to deal with the fallout of an accident (Hachette Ireland, March, €17.35). In Linda Kavanagh's The Secret Wife (Poolbeg, €13.99), the dark side of a marriage is revealed, while Emily Gillmor Murphy's Desire Lines (Transworld, June, €17.35) brings us inside the gritty, sexy world of showjumping; and in Muriel Bolger's The Pink Pepper Tree (Hachette Ireland, May, €17.35), a chance encounter in Monte Carlo drives June and Peter apart.

In Johanna Lane's Black Lake (Tinder Press, May, €17.35), the Campbells will have to fight to save their beloved Dunlough estate; in After the Wedding by Roisin Meaney (Hachette Ireland, April, €17.35), a little girl's disappearance casts a shadow over a holiday idyll; in Emma Hannigan's Summer in Caracove Bay (Hachette Ireland, March, €17.35), the arrival of a mysterious stranger upsets the balance of a small community, and in Anna McPartlin's The Last Days of Rabbit Hayes (Transworld, May, €17.35) a woman fights for her life and family.

In crime fiction, John Connolly's new Charlie Parker novel The Wolf in Winter (Hodder, April, €17.35) takes him to Prosperous, Maine, to look at the death of a homeless man; Stuart Neville builds on his reputation as a thrilling voice with The Final Silence (Harvill, July, €17.35) and in Adrian McKinty's In the Morning I'll be Gone (Serpent's Tail, Jan, €17.35) Sean Duffy is faced with tough choices when MI5 comes calling. Mark O'Sullivan's Sleeping Dogs marks the return of Leo Woods, here embroiled with the dodgy Larkin family (Transworld Ireland, April, €17.35) and in Irish duo Karen Perry's The Boy That Never Was, a boy seems to have come back from the dead (Michael Joseph, March, €17.35).

Eoin McNamee's Blue is the Night completes his 'blue' trilogy, in which he reimagines notorious real-life cases (Faber, March, €17.35) and Benjamin Black assumes the mantle of Raymond Chandler in The Black Eyed Blonde (Feb, Mantle, €18.70).

Spring provides a scattering of non-fiction, with two touching memoirs from broadcaster Evelyn O'Rourke in Dear Ross (Hachette Ireland, March, €18.70), about her breast cancer, and the late Marie Fleming, who chronicles her remarkable life in An Act of Love (Hachette Ireland, Feb, €18.70).

Laurence Fenton's Frederick Douglass in Ireland: 'The Black O'Connell' (Collins Press, March, €17.35) is a compelling account of the escaped slave's visit to Famine-ravaged Ireland, while Enda Delaney's The Great Irish Famine (G&M, March, €14.99) offers first-hand accounts of the tragedy. In 1014: Brian Boru and the Battle for Ireland, Morgan Llywelyn tells the story of the "most ferocious battle ever fought in Ireland" (O'Brien, April, €11.99).

In Dublin: The Making of a Capital City (Profile, May, €35.00), David Dickson looks at the development of the city from mediaeval times to the present and in According to Their Lights (Liberties, March, €17.99), Neil Richardson tells the story of the Easter Rising from the perspective of the Irish members of the British Army.

And finally, two cookery heroines: Donal Skehan's The Pleasures of the Table: Rediscovering Theodora Fitzgibbon (April) and Myrtle Allen's The Ballymaloe Cookbook (May; both G&M, €24.99).

Irish Independent

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