Monday 22 April 2019

Madeleine Keane

Our literary expert identifies the ideal reads for Christmas

Literary diary 

Fill a stocking and do a good deed at the same time by purchasing The Broken Spiral for the book lover in your life. Launched in aid of the Dublin Rape Crisis Centre, this interesting and worthwhile anthology has writing from some of our leading authors, among them Louise O’Neill, Pat McCabe and Sinead Gleeson as well as work by emerging talent. Priced at €15 (and it’s good to note that all proceeds go to the charity), The Broken Spiral is available at Dubray Books, Hodges Figgis and Books Upstairs.

Sunday Independent Editor Cormac Bourke with Ruth Fitzmaurice, winner of the Sunday Independent Newcomer of the Year, and Sunday Independent Books Editor Madeleine Keane Photo: Patrick Bolger Photography

The night Ireland's literary stars came out to shine 

Accepting the Listener's Choice Book of the Year for he, his novel about Stan Laurel, John Connolly talked about "people who are in love with books" and last Tuesday night at the Irish Book Awards the Clayton Hotel was filled with them. Authors, agents, retailers, editors, librarians and publishers came together for what our elegant compere Keelin Shanley described as "some writers one and only Christmas party night out". Later, much later, leaving the after-party knee deep in bibliophiles, I couldn't help feeling they'd taken her very much at her word.

Award: Ruth Fitzmaurice, who wrote 'I Found My Tribe', was named the 'Sunday Independent' Newcomer of the Year at the Irish Book Awards

'It's in the tough stuff that you learn the measure of who you are' 

'Life doesn't make sense,'' says Ruth Fitzmaurice. And she should surely know. In October she buried her adored husband Simon. ''It's in the tough stuff that you learn the measure of who you are,'' remarks the composed, rangy 41-year-old as we drink coffee in hip Greystones hangout The Happy Pear. The last 10 weeks of Simon's life were spent in hospital. ''I was with him when he died,'' she tells me. ''I thought I had figured out how I would feel, but grief is a monster.''

Richard E Grant. Photo: David Conachy

Withnail and the enduring charm of tights and make up 

'There is no life that is a gilded lily of gorgeousness,'' said Richard E Grant once. On first meeting the very gorgeous Mr Grant, one would be inclined to disagree. Happily married for over 30 years to voice coach Joan Washington, father to Olivia, stepdad to Tom, he has had a long, successful career in film, and moves in a rarified, glamorous world of thesps (as he calls them) and creatives. Fortune has also smiled on his forays outside celluloid. A lifelong obsession with scent led to the creation of 'Jack' in 2014; it swiftly became Liberty of London's third best-selling perfume. All this...

Today's news headlines, directly to your inbox every morning.

Claire Messud, who appeared at Dun Laoghaire LexIcon on September 22

Fabulous fiction to get cosy with in autumn 

'A shudderingly well- written, dead real, hallucinatory trip across famine Ireland,'' declares Emma Donoghue of Paul Lynch's Grace which will be published on Thursday by Oneworld, one of a raft of exciting new novels coming out this autumn. I've always loved Peter Cunningham's work, so was happy to hear Sandstone Press is bringing out his Acts of Allegiance this month. Andrew Meehan makes his novelistic debut with One Star Awake (September) which his publisher New Island describes as "a funny and touching testament to the highs and lows of self-discovery and love found in...

The Past by Tessa Hadley

Fiction: The Past by Tessa Hadley 

A quartet of siblings gather for a three-week summer holiday at their grandparents' rectory. There's the eldest, Harriet, a quiet revolutionary, and her sister, flighty former actress Alice, who is accompanied by her ex-boyfriend's moody son Kasim. The youngest is Fran, harassed mother of Ivy and Arthur, sans musician husband Jeff. The three sisters are joined by philosopher brother Roland, his teenage daughter Molly and his new (third) wife, Pilar - beautiful, Argentinian and a lawyer.

Villa America by Liza Klaussmann

Fiction: Villa America by Liza Klaussmann 

Anyone with an interest in 1920s Europe and the creative geniuses who stalked its beaches and bars will fall for this. Liza Klaussmann, whose first novel Tigers in Red Weather demonstrated her talent for creating stifling, atmospheric stories has taken the riveting true tale of Gerald and Sara Murphy (several factual books have already been written about the couple) and fashioned it into a fascinating novel about love, lust and loss set against the sultry backdrop of the Cote D'Azur .

Dish of the day: Avonmore Cookbook of the Year winner Susan Jane White with Derek Hughes, founder of the awards, on Wednesday night

A glittering night of champagne, fine dining, and passing the book 

'My mother always told me there was no career in being a tart. I'm delighted to prove her wrong," said Susan Jane White as she received the Avonmore Cookbook of the Year Award for The Virtuous Tart. Resplendent in red, the happy cookery writer whose healthy musings had their naissance in this newspaper, was among a chic gathering of book industry folk (or lots and lots of lovely talented people under one roof as my dashing dining companion put it) at the Bord Gais Energy Irish Book Awards 2015 last Wednesday evening.

Taken to book: At the Irish Book Awards 2015 shortlist announced in the The Bord Gais Energy Theatre last week were Sinead Gleeson, Alastair Giles, Executive Director of the Irish Book Awards, and Madeleine Keane.

Shortlists launch of 2015's best books 

He'd gone off for a long walk, he told us and while it was great craic, he was back now. And so he was, among his people. Ryan Tubridy, or the boy who eats books for breakfast, as I once dubbed him, joined a starry array at the Bord Gais Energy Theatre last Wednesday for the launch of this year's BGE Irish Book Awards shortlists. We're ten years old now, so spirits were high as Dave Kirwan, Bord Gais Energy's book-loving leader, and Keelin Shanley, who will be our host on the big night (November 25 at the DoubleTree by Hilton), along with Ryan, formally launched proceedings.

I am a camera: William Boyd gets behind the lens of his characters

Dramatic chronicle of love and loss in a time of war 

Amory Clay's start in life does not augur well. Her parents announce, via The Times of London, the birth of a son. And with this unforgettable opening are we introduced to the intriguing and infuriating Amory. Despite, or perhaps because of, a mother who "managed to conceal whatever affection she felt for her children with great success" and a father driven so insane by war that he requires a lobotomy, Amory survives and thrives; as do, somewhat improbably, her siblings, one becoming an internationally successful concert pianist, the other a poet of sensitivity and flair.

Poetry in motion: Niall MacMonagle was inspired to create the anthology (Windharp Poems of Ireland) while living in the US. Photo: Tony Gavin

A man and a poem for all seasons 

For his bounty/There was no winter in't. Niall MacMonagle uses a quote from his favourite writer to dedicate his latest anthology of poetry to one of Ireland's most loved poets. Reverently removing a typewritten letter from Windharp, he reads the missive containing Seamus Heaney's characteristically gracious message replying to Niall's request for a poem. Since that exchange the much loved bard has died but it is typical of Niall that he would dedicate this volume to him.

A life: Hanya Yanagihara with Sunday Independent Literary Editor Madeline Keane in Dublin last week.

Books: A Little Life: a monumental, moving achievement 

The tidal wave of Transatlantic praise which preceded this novel's European launch, followed by its appearance on the Man Booker longlist and the bookmakers' favourite seal of approval, perhaps explains the tepid appraisal it has received in these quarters. A Little Life is this Japanese-American's second novel. Her first, The People in the Trees, explored the gruelling subject of child abuse, from the perpetrator's point of view. In A Little Life, she flips the concept and we are instead shown the devastating legacy and inescapable shadow engendered by the sexual exploitation of innocence.

Bloody 'Hamlet' and a boy's legacy 

Great news for lovers of Shakespeare's greatest oeuvre - a stunning "Hamlet" is slated for the autumn. To mark the 450th anniversary of the Bard of Avon's birth, this year's Dublin Theatre Festival will present his most famous play in a spectacular production from one of the world's great theatre houses, Berlin's Schaubühne. Directed by Thomas Ostermeier, whose last festival production of Hedda Gabler in 2006 was a sell-out hit, this remarkable show will transform the stage of the Bord Gáis Energy Theatre to resemble a huge graveyard, covered in earth, blood and water. Since its 2008 première this Hamlet has toured worldwide to enormous critical and audience acclaim, to cities including Buenos Aires, Taipei, Sydney, Seoul, Athens and London. Now it makes its Irish première, officially opening the next Dublin Theatre...

Jung Chang

Stacks of fun, food and fine minds at expanded Hay 

Having just drawn breath after the excitement of hanging out with Salman Rushdie, Amos Oz et alia last weekend, we're bracing ourselves for yet another onslaught of international literary heavyweights in a few days. Louis de Bernieres, Jung Chang and Jeremy Paxman are just some among a constellation of distinguished names descending on the town of Kells from Wednesday next when the Hay Festival - offspring of the famous Welsh festival at Hay-on-Wye - kicks off.

MORNING KISS: Ed the giraffe greets Madeleine's daughter Julia at Giraffe Manor in Nairobi, a hotel and sanctuary for the long-legged animals established in 1979. The hotel includes an education centre where guests can feed and learn more about the animals

Travel: Take a walk on the wild side 

"I had a farm in Africa, at the foot of the Ngong hills." Karen Blixen's wistful refrain had echoed in my head since I watched Out of Africa a couple of days before setting off on my adventure there in October with my teenage daughter Julia. So it was with delight that I discovered that the second leg of our trip started in a place called Karen (apparently named after the great Dane), a district of Nairobi, and home to Giraffe Manor, a quirky cross between a Scottish baronial home and a sanctuary for these long-legged beauties.

ARRIVAL: Irish band The Strypes made a big impact on the musical scene this year

The Great Arts Quiz 2013 

The end of the frenzy of the last few weeks is in sight and in a few days' time the turkey will be a carcass, the carpet a curtain of pine needles and the head-zinging stress of it all a distant memory. So time to relax and enjoy the Great Arts Quiz, now such a firm family tradition that I recognise the handwriting on a lot of the entries that flood into Talbot Street year after year. As ever I'm indebted to my erudite quiz-setter, Alison Walsh, who has trawled the artistic year with characteristic élan. There's also the usual glittering prize for the hard work. I hope art lovers and artists everywhere...

Cheers for beautiful Boston 

My Gatsby mom-ent this summer happened on a sultry Sunday morning. We raced across Nantucket Bay in a small cruiser, weather-beaten Cap'n Joe, dazzling in his nautical whites, at the wheel. Approaching the wooden jetty, we saw a tall dark handsome man, who greeted us warmly and led us past a terrace, immaculately laid out for Sunday lunch, into his oak-panelled bar where he cracked open a bottle of pink champagne while we watched the thrilling last set of Andy Murray's Wimbledon triumph before taking a picnic to a nearly deserted beach and frolicking in the Atlantic surf for the afternoon.


British Airways offers a seven-night fly-drive to Boston from £689 per person based on September 2013 departures. Includes return flights from Dublin to Boston (via Heathrow) and inclusive Avis car rental for the duration. 0844 493 0758. British Airways offers three nights at the five-star Fairmont Copley Plaza, Boston, from £929 per person based on selected travel during September/October 2013. Includes return flights from Dublin to Boston (via Heathrow) and accommodation only. 0844 493 0758

Castlemartyr, Co. Cork: A castle –– but no martyrs 

I adore the occasional road trips with my girlfriends. The setting can be anywhere from Brittany to Bellinter and the focus is always fun. My travelling companion is usually one or other of my two closest friends – G and T (I kid you not.) This time it was the turn of Dee, a clever, capable working mother whom I've known all my adult life. So on a recent Saturday morning, this stylish blonde pulled up in a navy Merc and off the pair of us set in rare sunshine, chattering 19 to the dozen.

Five find bliss on beautiful beaches 

LAST summer, the word "staycation" started to feature in my conversation. "Why?" cried my children in consternation. Well, Mummy has always liked to stay in touch with the zeitgeist, and it was time to get loyal to the Irish economy (to make up for the guilt at doing the Christmas shop in Lisburn) and she was sick to the back teeth of airports and it was going to be a fabulous summer according to everyone. Also we had a new addition to our household. I don't have the spine of steel that would have let me put her in kennels -- not for her first summer, anyway -- and it would prove an interesting experience to book a holiday with a pet in Ireland.

Great Arts Quiz 2009 

Once more, with feeling, it's over for another year. You've eaten all round you, unwrapped your pressies and had the mandatory family row. Now you can really relax. Our annual Great Arts Quiz has become as much part of the festive rituals as kissing under the mistletoe. So get yourself a glass of mulled wine and a mince pie, light the fire, take down this page and slowly read, as Yeats would say. Our inspired quiz setter Alison Walsh has looked back over a year in the arts and she covers the gamut from high brow to low -- so expect an X Factor question. As usual we like the whole family to join in, so all areas of the arts are covered from ballets to books via visual art and architecture. And, as ever, we've a superb prize for the best boy or girl in the class. Good luck and a very happy New Year to artists and...

Madeleine Keane's vignette 

MY mother was the age I am now -- 44 -- when she took me to London on one of our jaunts. I was 20, reading English and French at UCD. We two were taking time out together to visit the city she grew up in for a long, lovely weekend of friends, theatre, shopping, art galleries. A perfectly pleasant, typical mother/daughter mini-break. (In fact we had a similar London break with my two sisters five weeks before Terry's untimely death suddenly this summer.) But with mum, the journey always had an extra, dazzling dimension.

Starry night for book lovers 

A geek's paradise is how Ryan Tubridy described Thursday night's brilliant party in the Mansion House to celebrate the Irish Book Awards. And indeed for anyone who loved writers, it was heaven. The roll call of literary luminaries was stellar -- William Trevor, Joseph O'Connor, Anne Enright, John Banville, Roddy Doyle, Marian Keyes -- all gathered with publishers, agents and retailers under a canopy of stars in the Round Room for a gala black tie dinner. Indeed, the shortlists contained no fewer than three Booker Prize winners and a Pulitzer award winner.

Burrell put to the sword 

SO THAT duplicitous, unctuous, oleaginous opportunist finally got his comeuppance, and at the hands of a law lord. And Mohamed al Fayed was censured too. What bliss it was to see the unspeakable Paul Burrell roughed up by the elegant Lord Justice Scott Baker as he attempted to wind up the Diana inquest in London last week. Bertie probably wouldn't agree, but a distinguished lawyer in full eloquent flow can be a joyous sight to behold. Lord Justice Scott Baker in directing the jury who, six months and 250 witnesses later, retired (a trifle tired no doubt) to consider the verdict, told them precisely what he thought of what the butler thought he saw. Or lied about what he saw.