Entertainment Books

Sunday 25 August 2019

Read all about it... here's six of the best newcomers

Tuesday night is 'Oscars night' for Irish authors, and the 'Sunday Independent' Newcomer of the Year is definitely one to watch out for

One half of the Rubber Bandits
One half of the Rubber Bandits
Sarah Breen and Emer McLysaght

Donal Ryan, Belinda McKeon and Sara Baume, besides being among our most bankable authors, have one thing in common: their debut novels have all won the Sunday Independent Newcomer of the Year in the Bord Gais Irish Book Awards. So who will be our next shiny new writer this coming Tuesday?

The shortlist for 2017 is as diverse as ever, with short stories and comedy, a moody Bildungsroman set in the 1980s, a tender memoir and a disturbing novel based on fact.

The Gospel According to Blindboy is a collection of 15 short stories from one half of the Rubber Bandits comedy duo.

In his introduction he describes them as simply "gas c**tism", rarely straying from his well-trodden path of vicious satire.

Depicting the oul' sod as a country without heroes and with nobody in the driver's seat, it's evident from these stories that Blindboy can write, sometimes quite beautifully. Hailed enthusiastically by Kevin Barry as "a brilliant debut" although not as polished as Barry's own exquisite prose, it's a fresh take on Mother Ireland. Without a single flattering or comforting word.

Oh My God What A Complete Aisling The Novel by journalists Sarah Breen and Emer McLysaght is satire of a somewhat gentler nature. What was launched by the authors as a Facebook page about the life and times of Aisling, a culchie office worker commuting daily to Dublin and mad to get wed, gained such momentum that they were approached by Gill to write the novel. It's a kind of Bridget Jones journal with a specifically Irish twist. The authors are Aislings themselves (country girls now living in Dublin) and while their satire is the stuff of shrewd observation, it's both gentle and affectionate.

"Breen and McLysaght have created a character so intrinsically and deliciously Irish, that every reader will identify with her," said the Irish Examiner. Hearty endorsements from Marian Keyes and Paul Howard haven't hurt, either.

Montpelier Parade by New York-based Irish emigre Karl Geary is a love story of the forbidden kind. Sonny is young, poor and troubled, living in one of the less salubrious parts of Monkstown. He meets a mature Englishwoman from one of the posher parts of Monkstown and a relationship of sorts ensues.

Sonny is completely obsessed. The object of his obsession is crushed and suicidal. This can't end well. But Geary's picture of a rain-sodden and utterly depressed 1980s Dublin is uncannily haunting. A review in Books Ireland states: "In the past five years I've read some exceptional debuts - literary, experimental, innovative and clever - but none has engaged me as much as this one. It's a piece of perfection."

I Found My Tribe by Ruth Fitzmaurice is a chronicle of her life with her husband Simon Fitzmaurice, who was diagnosed with Motor Neurone Disease in 2008 and who died just last month. Harrowing and funny by turns, it describes her chaotic family home with five small children and a terminally ill, completely disabled husband. The "tribe" she speaks of is not her beloved family, but a group of daily sea swimmers whom she has befriended in Greystones.

The Yorkshire Evening Post described this book as "…a love letter to her husband, an homage to the sea and a tribute to the power of friendship, but most of all it is a testament of one woman's fortitude in the face of a cruel fate".

Just as Louise O'Neill's novel Asking for it explored the appalling prevalence of rape culture among young males, so Lisa Harding's Harvesting depicts the seething, grotty underworld of sex trafficking, particularly involving children, in Ireland. Young Dublin teenager Sammy and even younger Moldovan immigrant Nico tell their respective horror stories in alternating chapters.

Inspired by the first-hand accounts of sex workers in this country, it exposes the uncomfortable truth: child prostitution is not just happening in Thailand. It's here, too. Deirdre Conroy, reviewing for this newspaper, wrote: "Each line is gripping: mind and body are hooked into a world you don't want to know exists, but which thrives under our very noses."

Sally Rooney's Conversations With Friends traces seven months in the lives of two young Trinity students who used to be school friends, then became girlfriends and are now simply best friends, as they stumble into a menage a quatre with an older married couple. A first-person narrative from the perspective of Frances, one of the students, she describes her friend Bobbi's relationship with the wife, while she herself falls for the husband. The New Yorker had this to say: "…Rooney's natural power is as a psychological portraitist. She is acute and sophisticated about the workings of innocence."

Just one of these six disparate titles will win the award and if I was a gambling woman I'd back Montpelier Parade, but it will be a closely-run race.

Sunday Indo Living

Editors Choice

Also in Entertainment

Back to top