Tish Delaney wins Authors’ Club’s Best First Novel Award

A preview of Saturday’s books pages and a round-up of the latest literary news


In The Irish Times this Saturday, Jarvis Cocker talks to Peter Murphy about his memoir.

Books reviewed are: Marie Coleman on Great Hatred by Ronan McGreevy; Christopher Kissane on Oceans of Grain; Roisin Kiberd on Look Here: On the Pleasures of Observing the City by Ana Kinsella; Declan Burke on the best new crime fiction; Anna Carey on Managing Expectations by Minnie Driver; Eleanor Hooker on Search & Rescue: Stories of Irish Air-Sea Rescues and the Truth about R116 by Lorna Siggins; Declan Burke on Brouhaha by Ardal O’Hanlon; Adesewa Awobadejo on Yeah, But Where Are You Really From? How Dublin Made Me - And What I’ve Learned Along the Way by Marguerite Penrose; John Self on The Written World by Kevin Power; Eamon Sweeney on Good Pop Bad Pop by Jarvis Cocker; Rory Kiberd on The Game: A Lifetime Inside and Outside the White Lines by Tadgh Coakley; and Sarah Gilmartin on Vladimir by Julia May Jonas.

Irish author Tish Delaney has been awarded The Authors’ Club’s Best First Novel Award for Before My Actual Heart Breaks (Hutchinson Heinemann).

Judge Alex Weatle chose the book from a shortlist drawn up by a panel of Authors’ Club members chaired by Lucy Popescu. Wheatle, who presented the £2,500 award to Delaney at a reception at the National Liberal Club in London yesterday, said: “The reader has to endure an emotional rollercoaster with Mary Rattigan as we follow her life as a young girl, woman and mother. I think I wept at least three times as Mary made her choices and described her life. It’s an extraordinary debut.”

Popescu described the book as “a stunning evocation of a woman emotionally stunted by an abusive childhood and her affecting rites of passage”.

Delaney won from a shortlist of Yvonne Bailey-Smith’s The Day I Fell Off My Island (Myriad Editions), AK Blakemore’s The Manningtree Witches (Granta), Lucy Jago’s A Net for Small Fishes (Bloomsbury) and Melody Razak’s Moth (W&N). Inaugurated in 1954, the prize was wob last year by Ingrid Persaud.

Delaney’s second novel, The Saint of Lost Things, will be published on June 30th by Hutchinson Heinemann and reviewed by Neil Hegarty in The Irish Times on July 2nd. The author is from Co Tyrone. After graduating from Manchester University, she moved to London to work as a journalist. She left the Financial Times in 2014 to move to the Channel Islands to pursue her career as a writer. Before My Actual Heart Breaks is out in paperback in October. The audiobook is read by Derry Girls actor Saoirse-Monica Jackson.

Echoes, the annual literary festival celebrating Maeve Binchy, is returning to Dalkey Castle and Heritage Centre from September 30th to October 2nd, starting with staged adaptation of Maeve Binchy’s heart-warming story Minding Frankie, adapted by Shay Linehan. The Tales We Tell is a day of conversations and readings featuring: Paul Howard, Emily Hourican, Nuala O’Connor, Dean Ruxton, Lenny Abrahamson, Roddy Doyle, Elaine Murphy, Christine Green, Conor O’Clery, Declan Kiberd, Barry Pierce, Éilís Ní Dhuibhne, Ann Ingle, Séamas O’Reilly, Sinéad Crowley, Sarah Binchy and Gordon Snell.

When Paul Howard was 15, Maeve Binchy told him that to be a writer you must be a good listener, and that her habit of eavesdropping was the source of many of her best stories. He pays tribute to the writer he describes as the “real” mother of Ross O’Carroll Kelly in A Tribute to Maeve. The festival ends with a Marvellously Maeve Guided Walk from Dalkey Castle on the Sunday at 11am. Full programme and booking at dalkeycastle.com.

The Pavilion Theatre in Dún Laoghaire presents The Presidents’ Letters: An Unexpected History of Ireland, on Sunday, June 10th, at 8pm, with The Presidents’ Letters editor Flor MacCarthy, special guests David McCullagh, Martina Devlin, Catriona Crowe, Lise Hand, Justine McCarthy and Rory Montgomery, with musical interludes from Niamh Ní Charra.

With over 400 letters, memos, cards, telegrams, drawings, notes and photographs, MacCarthy’s anthology brings to life our presidents, Áras an Uachtaráin and all those who have passed through its doors. MacCarthy will discuss the key themes with some of the contributors to her book, which was shortlisted for Best Irish-Published Book of the Year, and there will also be readings from selected letters.

The West Cork Literary Festival is a week-long celebration of writing and reading with a varied and extensive programme and takes place this year in and around Bantry from July 8th to 15th. An annual highlight of the Irish Literary calendar, famous Irish and international writers, as well as established and emerging writers, gather in Bantry each year. There are master classes, readings, and workshops, as well as interviews with authors, book launches, and a myriad of other events. The long list of visitors to Bantry this year includes Colm Tóibín, Jane Casey, Paul Muldoon, Zadie Smith and west Cork native Louise O’Neill whose latest novel, Idol, is already a No 1 bestseller. westcorkliteraryfestival.ie

Francis Spufford has won the £10,000 RSL Encore Award for his “tender, endlessly inventive” novel Light Perpetual (Faber), a tender, endlessly inventive novel that resurrects five children killed in a wartime bomb-blast and asks what kind of a future these working-class youths would have had. The annual Encore Award of £10,000 celebrates outstanding achievements in second novels.

Spufford said: ‘I’m unusually old for a second-time novelist, having taken so long to get up my courage to write fiction – but that makes me all the more grateful, and all the more heartened, for the vote of confidence the Encore Award represents. It’s a beacon for writers of any age who are negotiating the tricky territory that follows a first book. It’s a call to persist, as you discover how rich and how plural the art is in which you’re taking your second step.’

This year’s judges, Sian Cain, Nikesh Shukla and Paul Muldoon, said: ‘If the defining characteristic of fiction is “making it up,” Francis Spufford’s Light Perpetual is a triumph in the form. Opening with an actual V-2 attack on the New Cross Road branch of Woolworths in 1944 that killed 168 people, Spufford invents five children and imagines their lives as if they did not die that day, telling their alternative histories through the 20th century. This version of “what might have been” affords us memorable and moving insights into what we have come to think of as our own reality. Light Perpetual is a bold and poignant novel, one that encourages the reader to fully comprehend that the lives of others, even people they have not and will never meet, are as vivid and filled with meaning as their own; a remarkable work of empathy. This is an assured second novel from Spufford, who has fast become one of Britain’s most exciting fiction writers after his debut Golden Hill. It is a great pleasure to award this novel the Encore, and to wonder at what he might write next’

Spufford is the author of five works of non-fiction. His debut novel Golden Hill won the Costa First Novel Award, the RSL Ondaatje Prize and the Desmond Elliott Prize. Light Perpetual was longlisted for the 2021 Booker Prize.

The winners of the 2022 KPMG Children’s Books Ireland Awards were announced this week by broadcaster Rick O’Shea, as part of the International Literature Festival Dublin in Merrion Square.

This year’s winners include a free-verse novel exploring chronic illness, a quick-witted story of first love and a skilful début sharing the human stories behind the night the Titanic sank. Eight-year-old Daisy Magill from Glenarm, Co. Antrim received the KPMG Reading Hero Award, which celebrates a young person’s reading efforts and remarkable passion for books.

Author CG Moore took home the coveted KPMG Book of the Year Award for Gut Feelings, a powerful, free verse novel that tenderly tells the story of a young gay man’s journey with an inherited, potentially fatal condition. Praised by the judges for its engaging narrative, ‘filled with darkness and light, despair and hope, fear and desire, and love and trust’, Moore’s semi-autobiographical prose is paired with Becky Chilcott’s powerful illustrations in this excellent work of young adult fiction.

The Judges’ Special Award has been presented to Adiba Jaigirdar for The Henna Wars. The Henna Wars is Jaigirdar’s debut and, with wit and refreshing narrative, it follows Irish-Bangladeshi teenager Nishat as she navigates first love, cultural appropriation and learns to reconcile her family’s expectations with her own identity. The Henna Wars also won The KPMG Junior Juries’ Award, having been voted for by 100 Junior Juries of young readers throughout the country that read their way through the awards shortlist. The judges wish to recognise The Henna Wars as an important text for young readers, for its original portrayal of queer women of colour in Ireland.

For the second year running, Pádraig Kenny has won the Honour Award for Fiction ­for his Rookhaven series, with The Shadows of Rookhaven, illustrated by Edward Bettison. The Shadows of Rookhaven’s dark narrative follows protagonist Mirabelle as monsters from far and wide descend on Rookhaven for the Great Configuration, a once in a century event. The judges said: ‘Kenny’s brilliant second book about Rookhaven is wonderfully paced story – with truly excellent illustrations by Bettison – exploring ideas of loss, difference, forgiveness, family and friendship.’

Dublin-based illustrator Lauren O’Hara is the winner of the 2022 Honour Award for Illustration for Frindleswylde, a delicately illustrated picturebook created with her sister, Natalia O’Hara. This original tale contains echoes of Hans Christian Andersen as well as Russian folktales and features beautifully whimsical illustrations. The quality of O’Hara’s hand-drawn, watercolour illustrations was described by the judges as ‘nothing short of outstanding’.

Belfast-based author-illustrator Flora Delargy has won The Eilís Dillon Award for her ‘stunning’ debut, Rescuing Titanic: A True Story of Quiet Bravery in the North Atlantic. This award is named in honour of the revered Irish children’s author and recognises an outstanding first book for children and young people. Rescuing Titanic is both written and illustrated by Delargy and offers a different perspective on one of the world’s most famous maritime disasters. The judges said, ‘Intertwining the stories of passengers and crews on both ships allows for a collective tale of heroism while also paying respect to the victims of the catastrophe. Illustratively, the detailed hand-drawn artwork is excellent and reveals the extraordinary research behind the project.’

The KPMG Reading Hero Award is awarded annually to a young person in Ireland or Northern Ireland who deserves special recognition for their reading efforts. This year’s Reading Hero is Daisy Magill (8) from Seaview Integrated Primary School, Glenarm in Co Antrim. Daisy was nominated by her teacher, Ashleigh Moran, for the countless hours she dedicates to becoming a better reader:

‘Daisy comes to the class teacher (myself) every morning for extra support to improve her literacy skills and can be seen reading all the time. She reads all types of books and loves nothing more than a good chat and natter about the text she is reading. Daisy is my reading hero because she puts so much effort, time, sweat and tears into becoming a better reader and never resents the stories on a page but cherishes them.’

Chair of the judging panel, Dr. Pádraic Whyte, said: ‘This has been an extraordinary year for Irish children’s books, and huge congratulations to the brilliant and talented illustrators and writers who received awards today. These awards demonstrate that children’s literature in Ireland is not only thriving but is also producing high quality, world-class, engaging, and inspiring works for a wide range of younger readers.’

Elaina Ryan, CEO of Children’s Books Ireland, said: ‘This year’s shortlist shows remarkable breadth, with our winners including picturebooks, fiction and non-fiction, a verse novel, artists from across the island of Ireland and from a variety of backgrounds. The KPMG Children’s Books Ireland Awards are a celebration of these extraordinary writers and illustrators as well as their readers – we hope many children and young people will be inspired by our Reading Hero, Daisy, and will pick up one of our shortlisted and winning books today.’