Books newsletter: Book deal for debut author; Ennis Book Club Festival; Limerick Literary Festival

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

In The Irish Times this Saturday there is a Q&A with Joseph O’Connor about his career and his chart-topping new novel, My Father’s House, which has sold more than 2,000 copies in its first week on sale.

Reviews are Denis Staunton on Red Memory: Living, Remembering and Forgetting China’s Cultural Revolution by Tania Branigan; Ray Burke on The Guru, the Bagman and the Sceptic: A story of science, sex and psychoanalysis by Seamus O’Mahony; Sean Duke on We Are Electric by Sally Adee; Martina Evans on the best new poetry; Éilís Ní Dhuibhne on You Are Not Alone by Cariad Lloyd; Sally Hayden on And Then What?: Inside Stories of 21st-Century Diplomacy by Catherine Ashton; Liam Cagney on Still Pictures by Janet Malcolm; Martina Evans on Ordinary Time, Fragments of a Family History by Carmel McMahon; Niamh Donnelly on Fling by Joseph Murray; Mia Levitin on The Writers’ Torch, Stinging Fly writers on The Bell; and Sarah Gilmartin on History Keeps Me Awake at Night by Christy Edwall.


Ferdia Lennon, an Irish writer from Tallaght, Dublin, has signed a deal with Fig Tree, who will publish what it calls his “exhilarating and fiercely original” debut novel, Glorious Exploits, in February next year, after buying the rights in a three-way auction from his literary agent Rebecca Carter. It will be published in the US by Henry Holt, and rights have also been sold to Germany, France, Italy and Spain.


Set in ancient Sicily during the Peloponnesian War, Glorious Exploits is the story of Lampo and Gelon, two unemployed potters who decide to stage a performance of Euripides’ Medea in the quarry outside Syracuse where thousands of Athenian prisoners have been left to the elements and who form an unlikely, bedraggled cast.

But as the performance draws near and the audacity of their enterprise dawns on them, it becomes difficult to distinguish between enemies and friends. Lampo, whose ambitions have never stretched beyond having enough coin for the next jug of wine, finds his aspirations elevated, his heart entangled and his courage tested in ways he could never have imagined.

Lennon’s fiction has appeared in The Irish Times and the Stinging Fly and his stories have been nominated the Hennessy Emerging Writer Award and the Galley Beggar Short Story Prize. In 2019 and 2021, he was awarded Arts Council bursaries.

Fig Tree publishing director Helen Garnons-Williams said: “Reading Ferdia’s novel for the first time felt like a jolt of electricity. It’s an extraordinary achievement and we are incredibly excited to be publishing it at Fig Tree. His writing is bold and beautifully crafted, darkly funny, thrilling, and profoundly affecting. Glorious Exploits is an unforgettable novel about brotherhood and war, beauty and violence and about our collective urge to tell stories and make art even in the direst of circumstances and the darkest of times.”

Carter said: “As soon as I read Ferdia Lennon’s short story in the 2014 anthology of UEA Creative Writing students’ work I knew I had encountered a writer of exceptional talent. It has been an honour and a pleasure to be a first reader of a novel he has honed to perfection over many years and to have the opportunity to be the agent making sure it gets into as many readers’ hands as possible.”

The Ennis Book Club Festival is back, running from March 3rd to 5th, featuring writers such as Megan Nolan, Luke Cassidy, Seán O’Driscoll, Kit de Waal, Manchán Magan, Ellen Ryan and Donal Ryan.  Artistic director, Martina Durac said: “We celebrate those groups up and down the country, all over the world, in fact, who meet regularly to closely discuss and analyse books that move them. This year, we want to bring our audience on a fascinating journey through Irish and international fiction, memoir, poetry, history, ecology and myth”.

The festival is thrilled to bring Tessa Hadley to Ennis this year, she said, a novelist of great subtlety and power. Eavan Boland and her legacy will be celebrated in an event featuring Annemarie Ní Churreáin, John O’Donnell and Olivia O’Leary. Ennis will also host top crime fiction authors Jane Casey, Liz Nugent and Catherine Ryan Howard, in conversation with Declan Hughes.

Ten Books You Should Read features Róisín Ingle and Manchán Magan exploring their most recommended books, a Saturday highlight of the festival. There will also be a screening of Clouded Reveries, a documentary about local poet and novelist Doireann Ní Ghríofa.

Northern Irish fiction is thriving.  Neil Hegarty will moderate a discussion with three writers, Lucy Caldwell, Olivia Fitzsimons and Michelle Gallen, whose work displays an impressive, layered and sometimes devilishly funny rendering of life in the North.


The full programme for this year’s Limerick Literary Festival has been announced in O’Mahony’s Bookshop, Limerick by Ann Blake, whose autobiographical play, The Morning After The Life Before was performed at the 2019 Limerick Literary Festival and went on multi-award winning success abroad.

The festival itself opens in The People’s Museum, 2 Pery Square on February 24th, continues there on the 25th, then moves to the Belltable on the 26th. This year’s theme is resilience, inspired by the Kate O’Brien quotation: “And she did not know that she carried armour”. The festival honours the life and works of the Limerick author.

The festival will be opened by Shirley Keane and Fiona Linnane; Saturday 25th will feature authors Casey King, Seán Hewitt, Donal Ryan, Claire-Louise Bennet and Maylis Besserie, who will be interviewed by her translator Clíona Ní Ríordáin and Doireann Ní Ghríofa. Maggie O’Neil will lead the Kate O’Brien Hour on Sunday 26th, preceding the presentation of the Kate O’Brien Award for 2023 with a reading by each of the three shortlisted authors, Sheila Armstrong, Emilie Pine and Olivia Fitzsimons.

Other highlights will include the launch of an exhibition of archive materials from the late Limerick poet Desmond O’Grady which will go on display in the People’s Museum.

The festival will culminate with The Road To Riverdance, an afternoon of music and chat with Riverdance Composer and Freeman of Limerick City Bill Whelan who will chat with radio broadcaster and comedian Dermot Whelan and be accompanied by fiddler Zoë Conway and her guitarist husband, John McIntyre.