Books newsletter: Sara Baume shortlisted for £20,000 Dylan Thomas Prize

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

In this Saturday’s Irish Times, John Robb talks to Peter Murphy about his new book, The Art of Darkness: The History of Goth, and how the late 1970s and 1980s music and style subculture has endured. Liz Nugent tells me about her runaway bestseller Strange Sally Diamond and her run-in with Malcolm Macarthur.

Reviews are Tom Clonan on The Irish Defence Forces, 1922–2022 by Eoin Kinsella and The Military Archives: A History by Daniel Ayiotis; Sally Hayden on Matthew Desmond Poverty, by America; Rónán Hession on the best new fiction in translation; Marc Mulholland on Colonialism: A Moral Reckoning by Nigel Biggar; Brian Hanley on A Broad Church 2: ;The Provisional IRA in the Republic of Ireland, 1980-1989 by Gearóid Ó Faoleán; Helen Cullen on Dirty Laundry by Disha Bose; Roisin Kiberd on Saving Time by Jenny Odell; Rory Kiberd on Man-Eating Typewriter by Richard Milward; Ray Burke on Perils & Prospects of a United Ireland by Padraig O’Malley; and Sarah Gilmartin on Biography of X by Catherine Lacey.

This weekend’s Irish Times Eason book offer is the acclaimed novel set during the Belfast Blitz, These Days by the award-winning author Lucy Caldwell. You can buy it for just €4.99, a €6 saving, with your paper in any store.

Sara Baume has been shortlisted for the Swansea University Dylan Thomas Prize, a leading international literary award for young writers – for her third novel, Seven Steeples (Tramp Press), which follows a young couple’s attempts to disappear from society after they relocate to the Irish countryside.


Baume, who is based in Skibbereen, west Cork, is a previous winner of the Geoffrey Faber Memorial Prize, the Rooney Prize for Literature and the EM Forster Award. She also works as a visual artist.

Also shortlisted are: the novels Limberlost by Robbie Arnott and I’m a Fan by Sheena Patel; short storyh collections God’s Children Are Little Broken Things by Arinze Ifeakandu and Send Nudes by Saba Sams; and Bless the Daughter Raised by a Voice in Her Head, a poetry collection by Warsan Shire.

Di Speirs, chair of the judges, and Books Editor at BBC Audio, said: “There’s brilliance and beauty in the six books shortlisted for this year’s Swansea University Dylan Thomas Prize. All six – while hugely different in style, subject and genre, and ranging from rural Tasmania and the wild Irish coast to the sharply contemporary in Nigeria and the UK – exemplify not only the talent and excitingly fresh, often startling, writing we were seeking, but draw the reader in and on. There’s wit and wisdom, pleasure and pain, acute observation of the natural world and of human relationships and above all, so much to savour. That we all agreed so clearly on our shortlist is testament to the strength of this potent mix of poetry, short stories and novels and to the power of the six writers.”

Fellow judge, author and lecturer Jon Gower, said of Seven Steeples: “This beautifully quiet and quietly beautiful novel maps out two lovers’ lives with custodial care and in delicate, precision prose. In Bell and Sigh, Sara Baume has created a marvellously shambolic and memorable pair of characters, setting them in a creaking house in a wind-blown Irish landscape, where they walk their dogs and grow ever closer. Tender and true, this is a book that lingers like the coconut scent of gorse in full flower.”

The winner of the £20,000 prize will be announced in Swansea on May 11th, prior to International Dylan Thomas Day on May 14th.


Jonathan Buckley and Anne de Marcken have won the 2022 Novel Prize for their novels Tell and It Lasts Forever and Then It’s Over. The Novel Prize is a biennial award for a book-length work of literary fiction written in English by published and unpublished writers around the world. It offers $10,000 to the winner and simultaneous publication in North America by the New York-based New Directions, in the UK and Ireland by the London-based Fitzcarraldo Editions, and in Australia and New Zealand by the Sydney-based publisher Giramondo.

Selected from the submissions of close to 1,000 writers, Anne de Marcken and Jonathan Buckley will share the award, and both of their novels will be published simultaneously by all three publishers in early 2024. The prize rewards novels that explore and expand the possibilities of the form, and are innovative and imaginative in style. Jessica Au’s Cold Enough for Snow was the inaugural winner in 2020.

Jonathan Buckley’s Tell is a probing, exuberant and complex examination of the ways in which we make stories of our lives and of other people’s. Buckley won the BBC National Short Story Award in 2015. Tell is his 12th novel. Anne de Marcken’s It Lasts Forever and Then It’s Over is a spare, haunting novel that asks how much of your memory, of your body, of the world as you know it – how much of what you love can you lose before you are lost? And then what happens? de Marcken is a queer interdisciplinary artist and writer living on unceded land of the Coast Salish people in Olympia, Washington state.


Gráinne O’Brien has been nominated for the Individual Bookseller of the Year at the British Book Awards. As head of the children’s department at O’Mahony’s in Limerick, Ireland’s biggest independent bookshop, “she has been on a mission to inspire all young people to read for pleasure,” her citation says. “She is a champion of local and under-represented writing talent and her work has inspired a book of her own, A Limerick Fairytale, to be published by O’Brien Press in May.”