Sunday 22 April 2018

Spring into an array of top quality reading

With Christmas a distant memory, banish January miseries with a good book, writes Alison Walsh

There’s lots of top-quality new fiction, crime, biography, poetry and even history to savour this spring
There’s lots of top-quality new fiction, crime, biography, poetry and even history to savour this spring

Alison Walsh

There's lots of top quality fiction to savour this spring, with family, as ever, a theme.

Anne Enright's The Green Road (Jonathan Cape, May) is set in the west of Ireland as a family flocks home for one final Christmas; suburban Dublin in the 70s is rudely awoken by the arrival of an American family in Christine Dwyer Hickey's The Lives of Women (Atlantic, April), whilst Kathleen MacMahon's The Long Hot Summer takes a look at the collapsing lives of the prosperous MacEntees (Little Brown, May). Kevin Maher's Last Night on Earth (Little, Brown, April) looks at what it means to be a good father whilst Jay, in Jarlath Gregory's The Organised Criminal (Liberties Press, April) just can't escape his dodgy relatives.

Second novels come from Belinda McKeon in Tender, as a relationship between two college students has unintended consequences (Picador, April), whilst Gavin Corbett's intriguingly titled Green Glowing Skull is 'breathtakingly original, darkly comic, surprisingly contemporary and deeply surreal' (4th Estate, May).

Spring is also marked by a number of debuts, including Lisa McInerney's The Glorious Heresies (John Murray, April), which looks at people on the fringes of Irish society, Over Our Heads by Andrew Fox, which chronicles 'the young and rootless' in Ireland and America (Penguin Ireland, April) and Claire-Louise Bennett's Pond (Stinging Fly, April), by the winner of the White Review short story prize, whilst Faber remind us of the magic of Julia O'Faolain in Under the Rose, Collected Stories (June). Two writers who have done so much for the short story, Ciaran Carty and Dermot Bolger, have edited The Hennessy Book of Irish Fiction 2005-2015 (New Island, March) whilst Deirdre Madden has selected the stories in All Over Ireland, New Irish Short Stories (Faber, May). Two notable poetry collections also make their mark: The Days of Surprise, from Paul Durcan (Harvill Secker, March) and Paul Muldoon's One Thousand Things Worth Knowing (Faber, Jan).

On the international scene, a new novel from Anne Tyler is always an event and A Spool of Blue Thread will be eagerly awaited by her legions of fans (Chatto, Feb). Also looking at family life is Kate Atkinson in A God in Ruins, the second of her novels about the Todds (Transworld, May), whilst in Early Warning, Jane Smiley returns to the Langdons in the second of her saga charting 100 years of their lives (Mantle, May).

Kazuo Ishiguro returns with The Buried Giant (Faber, March) his first novel in a decade, 'about lost memories, love, revenge and war'; Karl Ove Knausgaard's Dancing in the Dark (Harvill Secker, March) will please fans of this chronicler of his own life; in Andrew O'Hagan's The Illuminations (Faber, Feb), Anne Quirk and her grandson Luke search for her hidden past, and Picador are proclaiming Ryan Gattis's All Involved (May) to be their debut of the season, looking the Los Angeles riots in 1992.

In popular fiction, the Irish are out in force, with Patricia Scanlan leading the charge with A Time for Friends (Simon & Schuster, Feb), and Claudia Carroll following in March with Meet Me in Manhattan (Avon), a humorous look at the perils of online dating. In The Secrets We Share (Hachette Ireland, March), Emma Hannigan tells the story of Clara Conway and her long-buried secrets; Ella Griffin's The Flower Arrangement (Orion, June), tells the story of the customers of Blossom & Grow and Roisin Meaney's Two Fridays in April looks at the effects of loss in one family (Hachette Ireland, March). In Still You, Claire Allan looks at the relationship between an elderly woman and her carer (Poolbeg Press) whilst The Curtain Falls by Carole Gurnett (Ward River, March) is a slice of gothic Victoriana set in London and South Africa.

The Irish continue to dominate in crime, too, with the notable exception of SJ Watson, who follows her mega-selling Before I go to Sleep with Second Life (Doubleday, Feb). The dark forces of the Second World War are a theme for John Connolly, in A Song of Shadows (Hodder, April), and also for Declan Burke in The Lost and the Blind (Severn House, April).

America is the home of Alex Barclay's Ren Brice, as she takes on another serial killer in Killing Ways (Harper, April), whilst in Stuart Neville's Those We Left Behind (Harvill Secker, June), DCI Serena Flanagan is sure that there is more than meets the eye to her new case and Adrian McKinty's Gun Street Girl (Serpent's Tail, Jan) takes us back to Belfast in 1985.

In non-fiction, Whispering Hope, five women - Nancy Costello, Kathleen Legg, Diane Croghan, Marie Slattery and Marina Gambold - tell the story of their time in the Magdalene Laundries (Orion, May). And a very different, but harrowing story is recounted by Kari Rosvall (with Naomi Linehan, Hachette Ireland, April), as she uncovers her past as a Lebensborn child, part of Hitler's Master Race.

Crime is a theme this spring, too, with Tosh: An Amazing True Story of Thirty Years in the Gardai by Tosh Lavery (Penguin Ireland, May), and NYPD Green, the story of Dubliner Luke Waters' time in the NYPD (Hachette Ireland, May), and, of course, there's lots of history: A Nation and Not a Rabble by Diarmaid Ferriter (Profile, March) looks at the years 1913-1923, whilst Maurice Walsh's Bitter Freedom, Ireland in a Revolutionary World covers the period 1918-23 (Faber, May) and Padraig Yeates completes his Dublin trilogy with A City in Civil War (Gill & Macmillan, April). Shane Kenna's Conspiracy: A Photographic History of Ireland's Revolutionary Underground (Mercier Press, May) looks at the Fenian movement, and When the Clock Struck in 1916 - Close-Quarter Combat in the Easter Rising by Derek Molyneux and Darren Kelly (Collins Press, March) looks at the conflict from the point of view of the combatants. Meanwhile a different slant on the Rising comes with A Terrible Beauty: the Poets of 1916 by Mairead Ashe FitzGerald (O'Brien, March).

If all this talk of revolution is too much, there are two soothing books on the Wild Atlantic Way: Ireland's Wild Atlantic Way - Classic Images by Giles Norman (Collins Press, April) and Ireland's Wild Atlantic Way by Carsten Krieger (O'Brien, March); In The Fall of the House of Wilde (Bloomsbury, June), Emer O'Sullivan charts the scandals which brought down father and son, and two memoirs look at bohemian lives in the mid-20th century: Eileen O'Mara Walsh's The Third Daughter's Tale: A Retrospective, (Lilliput Press, April) and Theodora FitzGibbon's A Taste of Love (Gill & Macmillan, April).

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