AN author whose book was rejected 47 times before it was finally published is among three Irish writers to make the longlist of the world's most important literary prize, the Man Booker Prize.
Donal Ryan's debut novel, 'The Spinning Heart', completed more than two years ago, was plucked out of the slush pile by an intern working at Lilliput Press in Dublin who raved about it to the publisher, Anthony Farrell.
It has catapulted Mr Ryan alongside fellow Irishmen Colum McCann and Colm Toibin on to the longlist of 13, the famous Booker baker's dozen, for the award.
Tipperary-born Mr Ryan, a father of two and civil servant who works in Limerick, said last night he could not believe what was happening.
"It's unbelievable the way the book has connected with so many people," he said.
"There's not much plot, but people seem to like the characters. It's a very local story but you could say it's universal because this economic crisis and all the austerity is damaging people in small towns not just in Ireland but across Europe."
'The Spinning Heart' is a relatively short book set in rural Ireland, and deals with the effect of the economic crash on local people. Written in visceral language from several viewpoints, it was highly praised by the critics but may not be substantial enough to win the prize.
Mr Toibin yesterday told the Irish Independent he was particularly pleased at Ireland's showing. "I am really delighted to be on the longlist with Colum McCann and Donal Ryan. I think they both deserve it, and what is fascinating about the list itself is how varied it is. I don't know some of the books and I look forward to reading them now."
Mr Toibin has been listed for 'The Testament of Mary', which tells the story of Jesus from his mother Mary's point of view as a much older woman. The short novel has proved controversial, but may also not be substantial enough to take the prize.
Despite being behind the other two in the early betting odds yesterday, the most likely winner among the Irish writers is Mr McCann for 'TransAtlantic', a big novel that uses his favoured technique of building a multi-faceted fictional story around real events.
The award favourite is likely to be British novelist Jim Crace (67). Although highly regarded by critics, Mr Crace has been somewhat overlooked by the public. He recently announced his retirement, and there may be a feeling that he deserves recognition.
His book, 'Harvest', a historical novel set in rural England, has been hailed as one of his best.
At the announcement in London yesterday, chairman of the judges Robert Macfarlane said it was "the most diverse longlist in history: wonderfully various in terms of geography, form, length and subject".
A shortlist of six will be announced in September with the winner announced on October 15.
The longlist (odds in brackets): Jim Crace, 'Harvest' (9/2); Colm Toibin, 'The Testament of Mary' (5/1); Eleanor Catton, 'The Luminaries' (6/1); Alison MacLeod, 'Unexploded' (6/1); Donal Ryan, 'Spinning Heart' (6/1); Colum McCann, 'TransAtlantic' (7/1); Ruth Ozeki, 'A Tale for the Time Being' (8/1); Richard House, 'The Kills' (8/1); Charlottle Mendelson, 'Almost English' (9/1); Tash AW, 'Five Star Billionaire' (10/1); Noviolet Bulawayo, 'We Needs New Names' (10/1); Jhumpa Lahiri, 'The Lowland' (10/1); and Eve Harris, 'The Marrying of Chani Kaufman' (12/1).