Saturday 24 March 2018

Seeds of the past prepare to bloom

Take heart in the cold grip of winter, writes Alison Walsh, because spring is set to deliver a bumper literary crop

Alison Walsh

The power of the past is a keynote theme in literary fiction this spring: In The Dead Republic, the last in Roddy Doyle's ambitious trilogy, our hero returns to Barrytown and becomes an unlikely icon for the Republican movement (Cape, €22.20); in Joseph O'Connor's Ghost Light (Harvill Secker, June, €19) the relationship between JM Synge and actress Molly Allgood is vividly reimagined, as is that of an iconic poet in Robert Waldron's novella The Secret Dublin Diary of Gerard Manley Hopkins (Brandon, February, €12.99).

"For Caro, the present is two dimensional: it is her past that is loaded with colour and scent," writes Aifric Campbell in The Loss Adjuster (Serpent's Tail, February, €13.55), and Alan Monaghan's The Soldier's Song (Macmillan, January, €14.80) takes us back to Ireland and Turkey in 1916, and a soldier's divided loyalties. Ciara Hegarty's The Road to the Sea returns to the Forties in a small rural community overshadowed by dark family secrets (Macmillan, February, €14.80). Childhood and the past is also a theme for Denise Sewell in Billy, Mario and Me in a small Border town in the Seventies and for Nuala Ni Chonchuir in You in Eighties' Dublin (both New Island, April, €12.99).

"My name is Justin Alexander Torquil Edward Peregrine Montague but my father calls me 'you little bollocks'," says the narrator of The House of Slamming Doors by Mark McCauley, a debut novel from Lilliput, as is Mary O'Donoghue's Before the House Burns about a family's struggle for survival on the Atlantic coast (both May, €12.99).

Skippy Dies is the long-awaited second novel from Paul Murray in which young Ruprecht tries to survive Seabrook College for Boys (Hamish Hamilton, February, €23.45). In Michael Collins' new novel, Midnight in a Perfect Life, failed writer Karl must decide between actual and literary posterity (W&N March, €21) and Hugo Hamilton's Hand in the Fire looks at an Irish family from the perspective of an outsider (4th Estate, April, €12.99).

In poetry, highlights include collections from Ciaran Carson (Until Before After, March), and Derek Mahon (An Autumn Wind), both Gallery, €11.95, as well as Anthony Cronin with The Fall (April) and Tom McIntyre's new and selected Encountering Zoe (March), both New Island, €12.99.

On the wider literary stage, Martin Amis' The Pregnant Widow deals with the fallout of the sexual revolution (Cape, February) while his contemporary Ian McEwan turns his hand to comedy climate change in Solar (Cape, March, €20). Peter Carey's Parrot and Olivier in America takes a fresh look at Alexis de Tocqueville (Faber, February, €23.45) and Don DeLillo, in Point Omega, details the disintegration of a war adviser (Picador, March, €18.50).

David Mitchell, superstar author of Black Swan Green, takes us to Japan in 1799 in The Thousand Autumns of Jacob de Zoet, (Sceptre, April, €16.50) and Nobel-winner JMG Le Clezio's Desert tells the story of an ancient tribe in Morocco (Atlantic, February, €16.50).

Trezza Azzopardi's The Song House (Picador, May, €16.50), in which a seemingly random job interview uncovers fragments of the past, is sure to be as beautifully written as Catherine O'Flynn's The News Where you Are (Viking, June, €16.05) which is darkly funny, telling the story of a local TV presenter haunted by his past. Booker-longlisted Jon McGregor's Even the Dogs (Bloomsbury, February, €16.05), is a testament to lives lived on the margins of society and I Curse the River of Time (Harvill Secker, June, €19.50) comes from Impac Award-winning author Per Petterson. Rose Tremain's Trespass deals with a culture clash in the Cevennes (Chatto, March, €22.20).

In popular fiction, summer heralds strong titles, notably The Tree of Seasons, the fantasy/fable on which Stephen Gately was working before his untimely death (Hodder, April, €17.05). To lighten your winter blues, there are Ciara Geraghty's second novel, Becoming Scarlett (Hachette, January, €14.99), which is a warm, funny story of plans gone awry, Roisin Meaney's stylish confection Love in the Making (Hachette, February, €14.99) or even the delicious Zoe Miller with the slick, glossy Sinful Deceptions (Hachette, March, €14.99).

The ever-popular Anita Notaro's No Ordinary Love (Transworld, April, €16.05) is a warm, funny read about love of a different kind and Kate Thompson offers us The O'Hara Affair, a lovely country yarn (Harper, March, €9.99).

In Niamh Greene's Rules for a Perfect Life (Penguin, June, €14.80) Maggie finds that the rules are there to be broken when she moves to a tiny country village, and Tara Heavey's Where the Love Gets In chronicles a love triangle in rural Clare (Penguin, April, €16.05).

In longstanding favourite Marita Conlon-McKenna's Mother of the Bride, plans for a summer wedding go awry (Transworld, April, €16.05) while Erin Kaye explores the bonds of female friendship in The Art of Friendship (Poolbeg, February, €15.99).

Last but not least, the inimitable Claudia Carroll has Personally I Blame it on the Fairy Godmother (Harper, June, €14.80).

Irish writers are really carving out a niche in crime, led by the master John Connolly. His new Charlie Parker novel is The Whisperers (Hodder, May, €19.50) in which renegade soldiers smuggle a terrifying cargo to Canada. Hot on Connolly's heels is Declan Hughes, whose City of Lost Girls (John Murray, May, €22.20) takes our hard-boiled hero Ed Loy to LA and the Three-in-One Killer. Ken Bruen's The Devil (Transworld, May, €13.99) is his new Jack Taylor novel, and with two film adaptations in the pipeline, this must be his year. Brian McGilloway's The Rising (Macmillan, April, €15.59) confirms his top reputation, with Ben Devlin facing a personal crisis.

Niamh O'Connor makes the transition from fact to fiction with If I Never See you Again, (Transworld, April, €12.99) and a first outing for her fictional creation, Jo Birmingham. Ellen McCarthy builds on her success in winning the Seoige 'Do the Write Thing' writing competition with Silent Crossing (Poolbeg, January, €9.99) as a Boston car crash is linked with the appearance of a woman with hands covered in blood.

In Arlene Hunt's Blood Money, the sordid death of a woman doctor is given a Serbian twist (Hachette, March, €14.99) while The Courier, by Ava McCarthy, enters the dark heart of South African diamonds (Harper, April, €9.09).

For those of you who like your crime warm and colourful, Ian Sansom's Israel Armstrong is a Jewish man who drives a mobile library around the North -- yes really -- in The Bad Book Affair (Harper, January, €9.85), and if you like a dash of the exotic, Norway's Jo Nesbo's The Snowman comes in March (Harvill Secker) and Valerio Varesi's River of Shadows in June (MacLehose Press, €20.40), featuring Italy's top TV sleuth Commissario Soneri.

In non-fiction, "how it all went wrong" books dominated the autumn lists, but spring promises more diverse offerings, notably the explosive Voices from the Grave by Ed Moloney (Faber, February, €18.50) in which two paramilitary leaders talk frankly about their activities during the Troubles. Another much-talked-about book is Dave Eggers' account of the shameful government response to Hurricane Katrina, Zeitoun (Hamish Hamilton, March, €23.45), as is Antonia Fraser's Must You Go? in which she writes movingly of her marriage to Harold Pinter (W&N, January, €20).

Gordon Bowker, biographer of George Orwell, has produced a new biography of James Joyce which promises to be "vivid and thorough" (W&N, June, €25), and the Sunday Independent's Declan Lynch brings his mordant wit and social commentary to Days of Heaven: Italia 90 and the Charlton Years (Gill & Macmillan, March, €16.99). Pat Walsh's Patrick Kavanagh and the Leader (Mercier, February, €14.20) promises to be a riveting account of the poet's doomed libel case and his encounter with John A Costello.

July sees A Preparation for Death, an intriguing-looking memoir by Greg Baxter, a Texan now living in Dublin (Penguin, €18.99), and a memoir of a different kind comes in An Irish Voice, telling the story of Niall O'Dowd, confidant to the Clintons and "authentic voice of the Irish in America" (O'Brien, March, €14.99). And finally, because no roundup would be complete without a mention of the GAA, Clare All-star Tony Griffin's autobiography, Screaming at the Sky (Transworld, €14.99), is out in May.

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