Sunday 18 March 2018

Take your pick from 2017's favourite page-turners


Publisher Sarah Davis-Goff. Photo: Colin O'Riordan
Publisher Sarah Davis-Goff. Photo: Colin O'Riordan
Second novel: Susan Stairs conjures up the atmosphere of the eighties.
Pat Kenny
Nuala O'Connor
Author Andrew Meehan
Hazel Gaynor
Andrew Michael Hurley
Regan Hutchins

Claire Coughlan

It was a seismic year, and this was reflected in the scope of literature that crossed our radar. Claire Coughlan asked some book-lovers for their most memorable reads of the past 12 months, resulting in an eclectic list that's sure to include at least one stocking filler for the reader in your life


Hazel Gaynor

My favourite books of 2017 made me laugh and cry and kept me thoroughly entertained. In The Woman at 72 Derry Lane (HarperCollins, €16.90) Carmel Harrington delivers another powerful, heart-warming page-turner (tissues absolutely required!) while Monica McInerney brings the Australian heat to the Irish winter with the wonderful Lola Quinlan making The Trip of a Lifetime (Penguin, €16.95). This year saw some excellent historical fiction, my favourite being Kate Quinn's brilliant World War One-set The Alice Network (HarperCollins, €11.70). The first book I read this year remains my overall book of the year. Gail Honeyman's extraordinary debut, Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine (HarperCollins, €16.90) should be on everyone's Christmas list.

Hazel Gaynor's novels The Cottingley Secret (HarperCollins, €16.90) and Last Christmas in Paris (HarperCollins, €11.70) are out now.


Pat Kenny

I read at least a book a week for the radio programme, so after a while they all blur a bit, but there are a few that stick in my mind. The first is a big doorstop of a book called Pachinko, (Head of Zeus, €11.70) by Min Jin Lee, a Korean-American author. It's a multi-generational saga and a wonderful story. Of all the books that I've read this year, it's the one that springs to mind, as a great read, and an unexpected one. Another one that comes to mind is Gail Honeyman's Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine (HarperCollins, €16.90). This was one of the books that we selected for our Eason Book Club. It's about a woman who's on the spectrum, it would appear, but she has been through a trauma which is only revealed in trickles throughout the narrative until we finally get a full picture of her life. It's a tale of redemption.

The third one that I would say was a surprise was The End of Eddy, (Vintage, €16.90) by Edouard Louis. It's an autobiography. Eddy is a young, working-class kid growing up in industrial France, and he's highly put upon by his father, who mistreats him. He happens to be gay. He escapes from this milieu and writes this book. He is a sensation in France, to the point now that he is an academic in the Ecole National Superieure.

Pat Kenny is the presenter of The Pat Kenny Show on Newstalk and Pat Kenny Tonight on TV3.


Second novel: Susan Stairs conjures up the atmosphere of the eighties.

This year, I probably didn't read as many books as I normally would, as I was chained to my desk for most of it, finishing my third novel.

Those that stand out for me include Little Deaths (Pan Macmillan, €10.40) by Emma Flint; Eileen (Vintage, €11.70) by Ottessa Moshfegh and Reservoir 13 (HarperCollins, €16.90) by Jon McGregor. I also enjoyed Joanna Cannon's The Trouble with Goats and Sheep (HarperCollins, €10.40) and Lie With Me (Hodder & Stoughton, €10.40) by Sabine Durrant. My stand-out book of 2017 is The Fact of a Body (Pan Macmillan, €19.50) by Alexandria Marzano-Lesnevich.

As they say, I couldn't put it down. A mix of true crime and memoir, it's a truly compelling and immersive read.

Susan Stairs's third novel, One Good Reason (Hachette Books Ireland, €16.99), will be published in January 2018.


Copy Regan Hutchins.jpg
Regan Hutchins

After a long wait, Faber has published the Selected Poems (Faber, €19.25) of Thom Gunn, the 20th-century British poet who lived most of his life in San Francisco. He's been somewhat neglected and that's a shame because he's very, very good. Sex, drugs, bars and bikers (among other subjects) find their way into his poems which are composed in styles ranging from free verse to strictly classical. The collection is edited by Clive Wilmer, who has written an excellent introduction and added valuable notes drawn from archives, notebooks and letters. It's perfect for Gunn's fans or as an introduction for anyone who hasn't read him.

Regan Hutchins is a producer for The Book Show on RTE Radio 1.


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Publisher Sarah Davis-Goff. Photo: Colin O'Riordan

I spent a lot of 2017 reading works about apocalypses, major and minor: The End We Start From (Pan Macmillan, €14.20) by Megan Hunter is a gem; hard, small, perfect and brilliant. Likewise Maggie O'Farrell's I Am, I Am, I Am (Tinder Press, €19.50), a memoir centred around brushes with death, is deft and compelling.

Much of any year's reading is, for me, re-reading, so I enjoyed again Cormac MacCarthy's The Road (Pan Macmillan, €11.70) and Colson Whitehead's Zone One (Vintage, €10), two of the best dystopian novels going. Whitehead's Pulitzer-winning The Underground Railroad (Little, Brown, €11.70) is great, too.

Meanwhile, Time Lived, Without Its Flow (Capsule Editions, €5.40) by Denise Riley is an extraordinary work of non-fiction, and Sally Rooney's Conversation With Friends (Faber, €16.90) was one of my favourite debuts of the year.

Sarah Davis-Goff is co-publisher at Tramp Press. Her debut novel, Last Ones Left Alive, will be published in 2019 by Tinder Press.


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Author Andrew Meehan

In October, I tutored on a filmmaking workshop in Amman - sharing Arak-soaked dinners with Jordanians, Palestinians, Syrians, Saudis, Iraqis, Egyptians, Lebanese, and several chain-smoking Tunisians - and, so that next time I would be able to follow the conversation, on the way home I bought Eugene Rogan's The Arabs: A History (Penguin, €19.95); an enormous and essential story of strife foretold. Another shard in the Middle-Eastern mosaic came from Nicole Krauss's Forest Dark (Bloomsbury, €16.90) whose setting, in the Hilton in Tel Aviv, has invaded my daydreams. Other than my dismay at not living in a faraway Hilton, I was also very frustrated by Elizabeth Strout's Anything Is Possible (Penguin, €16.90). It's far too short.

Andrew Meehan is a scriptwriter and novelist. His debut novel, One Star Awake (New Island, €13.95), was published this year.


SN Becoming Belle.jpg
Nuala O'Connor

Mary O'Donnell's acclaimed, reissued first novel The Light Makers (451 Editions, €12.25) is a wise and beautiful book set in 1980s Dublin. It's the story of photojournalist Hanna who, over the course of a day, tries to make sense of her troubled marriage and life. Subtle twists and gorgeous prose make this a great read.

Margaret the First (Scribe UK, €14.55) by Danielle Dutton - I adore this gorgeous novella about the daring, stylish 17th century writer Margaret Cavendish. The prose is luminous and odd and the heroine is eccentric and memorable.

A haunting, delicate book of poetry from one of our top poets - Mountains for Breakfast (Arlen House, €19.60) by Geraldine Mitchell, is a moving, poignant book about the bewilderments of memory loss and the beauty of the western landscape.

Unforgettable poems. Nuala O'Connor's new novel, Becoming Belle, will be published in 2018.


Andrew Michael Hurley.jpg
Andrew Michael Hurley

I was really impressed by Adam Thorpe's Missing Fay (Random House Children's, €22.10), in which the story of a missing Lincolnshire teenager is woven into a Britain of economic disparity, marginalisation and the scare-mongering of the right-wing media. It's a powerful and timely commentary on the preludes to Brexit.

Another novel that haunted me long after I read it was Fiona Mozley's Elmet (Hodder & Stoughton, €14.30). Although it's rooted firmly in the Yorkshire backwoods, there are shades of the weird and fantastical too, the characters partly archetypes and yet products of a very real and brutal modernity. It's a novel that talks about the complexities of power, violence, gender identity and family in a unique voice.

Terror of a different kind is present in David Foenkinos's book, Charlotte (Canongate, €16.90), based on the life of the German Jewish artist Charlotte Salomon. It's an astonishing novel. Every line has something profound to say about love and loss, hope and fear, time and memory, and the enduring power of art.

Andrew Michael Hurley's second novel, Devil's Day (John Murray, €16.90) was published this year.

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