Twenty-five titles to pack this summer
From John le Carré’s latest to Rachael English’s debut, there’s something for everyone in our selection of books for the beach
By Kevin Maher
(Little Brown, £12.99)
It’s 1984 in Dublin, and Jim Finnegan is more concerned with dancing to Bronski Beat than with the political issues of the day. But then the teenager attracts the attention of both a predatory priest and a cool older girl. Perfectly capturing what it was like to grow up in 1980s Dublin, Irish journalist Kevin Maher’s wildly funny debut handles its often dark subject matter with aplomb.
Let’s Explore Diabetes With Owls
By David Sedaris
Sedaris is the master of the stringently comic yet strangely poignant essay. He’s on fine form in his new collection, in which he writes about his father’s unorthodox dinnertime wear (which doesn’t include trousers), his attempts to befriend members of minority groups and how his love of owl-themed ornaments almost led him to buy a human skeleton. As ever, Sedaris’s work is very funny, beautifully written and surprisingly moving.
The Ocean at the End of the Lane
By Neil Gaiman
Both a pitch-perfect fantasy and a moving examination of childhood memories and their effects on our adult selves, Gaiman’s superb The Ocean at the End of the Lane is his first novel for adults since 2005. It begins with the unnamed narrator returning, after his father’s funeral, to his childhood home, where memories start to return of an extraordinary experience that to1ok place when he was seven, after the family’s lodger killed himself in the family car. What follows features familial tension, ancient magic, a very old little girl and an ocean that can be carried in a bucket.
Instructions for a Heatwave
By Maggie O’Farrell
(Tinder Press, £13.99)
The story of an Irish family in 1970s London begins when Robert Riordan goes to buy a newspaper and doesn’t come back. The disappearance of this quiet, ordinary man brings together his fractured family; after Robert’s bewildered wife, Gretta, tells their grown-up children about his disappearance, the three younger Riordans return to the family home, where they find themselves wondering if any of them ever really knew their father at all. Elegantly written and populated by unforgettable characters, especially the youngest Riordan, Aoife, it’s a fantastic book.
Town and Country:
New Irish Short Stories
Edited by Kevin Barry
(Faber and Faber, £9.99)
Collected by the Impac award-winning author, Faber’s fourth book of Irish short stories features contributions from both established writers, such as Pat McCabe, Paul Murray and Keith Ridgway, and exciting newcomers, such as Lisa McInerney and Mary Costello, making it a must-read for anyone interested in the future of Irish fiction – and indeed anyone who just wants to read a collection of original, well-crafted short stories.
Kiss Me First
By Lottie Moggach
This original and unsettling psychological thriller is already one of the most talked-about debut novels of the year. Leila is an introverted and isolated young woman who finds an online home at a libertarian philosophy website called Red Pill. Then Red Pill’s charismatic founder, Adrian Dervish, makes an extraordinary request: he asks Leila to take over the online life of a young woman called Tess, who has decided to take her own life and wants to “slip away from this world unnoticed . . . without causing pain to her family and friends”. Worryingly convincing, Kiss Me First is a brilliantly twisty thriller that will make you wonder how well you really know your online friends.
By Rumer Godden
(Virago Modern Classics, £9.99)
Made into an extraordinary film by the great Michael Powell and Emeric Pressburger, Godden’s recently reissued 1939 novel is the beautifully unsettling tale of a group of English nuns who establish a convent school in a remote castle in the Himalayas. The nuns are full of good intentions, especially the Irish-born Sr Clodagh, but their isolation, repressed desires and ignorance of the world around them lead to tragedy. Virago Modern Classics has reissued several of Godden’s novels, most of which are set in India and all of which are worth reading.
Anna Carey’s debut novel, The Real Rebecca, won the Senior Children’s Book prize at the 2011 Irish Book Awards. Her third book, Rebecca Rocks, will be published in August.