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Saturday 17 November 2018

Hoping to win another Booker Prize for Ireland

Anne Enright has been living in the Vevay area of Bray with her husband Martin and their two children for the last six years.

Recently announced as one of the six short-listed authors for this year's esteemed Man Booker Prize for her bleak and insightful' novel, The Gathering, the Dublin native enjoys living her life in the seaside town.

A relative grew up here and warned me that people drank cider on the beach,' laughed Anne. But I grew up near beaches in Dublin where they were doing far worse!'

She added that the town is very well supplied with schools and all the other amenities a young family needs, and that traffic here is much easier to cope with than in the city.

Bray Arts has warmly welcomed the author to a reading of her work at one of their monthly meetings, and, when she has been able to find the time, Anne has taken advantage of the exhibitions, performances and films at the Mermaid Arts Centre.

Born in Dublin in the 1960s, Anne attended St. Luey's primary school in Templeogue, as well as Trinity College Dublin where she studied English and Philosophy. The author ultimately graduated with an MA in Creative Writing from the university of East Anglia.

At Trinity, Anne was initially more interested in drama than in creative writing. She had written some bad, schoolgirl poetry,' during her adolescence but had never applied any definite structure to the craft.

That all changed when, for her 21st birthday, she was given a typewriter and began to write in earnest.

From graduating at East Anglia, Anne returned to Ireland where she began working as a producer for the RTE programme Nighthawks.

After four years working on the show, she moved on to children's programming and wrote at the weekends. The Portable Virgin, a book of short stories, was the product of that,' she said.

In 1993, Anne left producing behind her and started to write full-time.

Since then, the prolific scribe has produced five novels, including The Gathering and The Wig My Father Wore; two non-fiction books, Making Babies and Stumbling into Motherhood; as well as one collection of short stories, with another to come out next year.

Proud and delighted to have been short-listed for the 2007 Man Booker Prize, Anne has had been associated with some eminently prestigious awards. She won the Rooney Prize for The Portable Virgin and her novel, What Are You Like, was short-listed for the Whitbread Novel Award and won the Encore Award.

The Man Booker Prize for Fiction, also known in short as the Booker Prize, is a literary prize awarded each year for the best original full-length novel, written in the English language, by a citizen of either the Commonwealth of Nations or the Republic of Ireland.

The winner of the Booker Prize will generally be assured of international renown and success as well as a prize fund of Stg£50,000.

It is, however, also a mark of distinction for authors to even be nominated for the long-list.

Anne is in distinguished company, as only three Irish authors have ever won the prize since its inception in 1969. Iris Murdoch, who was born in Dublin, won in 1978 for The Sea, The Sea; Roddy Doyle in 1993 for Paddy Clarke, Ha Ha Ha; and John Banville in 2005 for The Sea.

Contentment has settled on Anne and her husband Martin, who is the director of Dun Laoghaire's Pavilion Theatre, as their careers in the arts continue to blossom.

There were years when life was not so good,' said Anne. It was a struggle at the start, I was writing very slowly, not sure where I was supposed to be going. The biggest lesson I've learned as a full-time author is that the only way to write a book is to sit down and write it, then to re-write it.'

While she doesn't apply a rigid schedule to her working days, Anne is focused and disciplined. More of a night-owl than an early-bird, she starts to write early in the afternoons after dealing with her administration, and will keep going for as long as she has the energy, managing to seamlessly fit her work around her home life.

The Gathering, the story of a woman trying to overcome her grief after the suicide of her brother, has been buoyed considerably by its association with the Booker, having sold poorly before the announcement in August.

The winner will be announced next Tuesday and the residents of the Enright Household are keeping all of their fingers and toes crossed until then. In the meantime, Anne is being passed from pillar to post as interviews and other engagements keep her from her much-loved desk, from which she intends to work for many years to come.

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