Towers and Tales Children’s Book Festival line-up; Margo Jefferson wins Rathbones Folio Prize

Books newsletter: a round-up of the latest news and preview of Saturday’s pages

In The Irish Times this Saturday, Michael Magee talks to me about his outstanding debut novel, Close to Home. Ten writers champion a book by an Irish author, which they believe deserves to be better known. Anne Tiernan writes about the suicide of her mother which led the author to write her first novel, The Last Days of Joy. Mary M Burke, author of Race, Politics and Irish America: A Gothic History, explains how Grace Kelly became an icon of Irish-American assimilation. And there is a Q&A with Sheena Wilkinson about her first novel for adults, Mrs Hart’s Marriage Bureau.

Reviews are Diarmaid Ferriter on Contraception and Modern Ireland: A Social History, c.1922-92 by Laura Kelly; Martin Wall on Playing God: American Catholic Bishops and The Far Right by Mary Jo McConahay; Andrew Gallix on Christiana Spens’s The Fear; Jessica Traynor on the best new poetry; Tony Clayton-Lea on the best new music books; Stephen Burgen on Spain by Michael Reid; Ray Burke on John Betjeman in Ireland by Dominic Moseley; Michael Cronin on ‘Look Back to Look Forward’: Frank O’Connor’s Complete Translations from the Irish; Lucy Sweeney Byrne on Liliana’s Invincible Summer by Cristina Rivera Garza; and Sarah Gilmartin on The Last Days of Joy by Anne Tiernan.

These Days by Lucy Caldwell, her acclaimed novel set during the Belfast Blitz, is this weekend’s Irish Times Eason book offer. You can buy it for €4.99, a €6 saving, at any branch. Here’s our review.

The Towers and Tales Children’s Book Festival returns to Lismore Castle in Co Waterford on Saturday, April 29th. The castle and participating venues in Lismore will provide the magical and inspirational setting for a celebration of books, stories and illustration for the ninth year.


Featured artists include illustrator Kathi Burke; Waterstones Children’s Laureate Joseph Coelho; Irish Book Award-winner Aoife Dooley; Waterford-based authoro Muireann Ní Chíobháin; Robin Stevens, bestselling author of the Murder Most Unladylike Mysteries series and Blackwell’s Children’s Book of the Year 2022 winner; award-winning and New York Times bestselling writer and illustrator of picturebooks, Ed Vere who created works such as The Artist, How to be a Lion and Grumpy Frog; author and illustrator Paddy Donnelly.

The festival will also feature a joint exhibition of work by Olivia Golden who has illustrated over 30 books for children of all ages including Scéalta le hInsint don Ghealach and Cillian ag Comhaireamh;  and author, award-winning illustrator and designer Jennifer Farley who has illustrated books such as Scout’s Best Day Ever, Island of Adventures and Shooting For The Stars. Further details and tickets for the 2023 festival are now available at

Margo Jefferson has won the £30,000 Rathbones Folio prize for her memoir, Constructing a Nervous System, which the judges described as ‘astounding and rhapsodic’. Jefferson’s memoir also won the nonfiction category, while Michelle de Kretser won the fiction award for Scary Monsters and Victoria Adukwei Bulley won the poetry prize for her debut collection Quiet. The category winners each received £2,000. The prize is looking for a new sponsor after Rathbones stepped down following seven years as sponsor.


Kaliane Bradley has won the £1,000 VS Pritchett Short Story Prize 2022 with Doggerland. An annual award for unpublished short stories between 2,000 and 4,000 words in length, it is worth £1,000 and includes publication in Prospect magazine online and the RSL Review. The judges were Jenn Ashworth, Cynan Jones and Emma Paterson.

Ashworth said: ‘A story that enthralls, shocks, engages and delights - Doggerland plays expertly with genre, conjures this world and other worlds with confident economy, builds delicious suspense, deploys humour with near-perfect precision and, in the hands of a coolly dispassionate yet utterly compelling narrator, edges the reader towards an ending that will both unsettle and satisfy.’

Bradley is an Anglo-Cambodian writer and editor based in London. Her essay The Wishing Dance appeared in Gifts of Gravity and Light (Hodder & Stoughton, 2021). She was the winner of the Harper’s Bazaar 2022 short story prize.


Hodder & Stoughton has announce the publication of The Land of Lost Things by bestselling author John Connolly. The Land of Lost Things, publishing in September, marks a return to the world first created by Connolly in The Book of Lost Things, which sold over 250,000 copies in the UK and Ireland alone. The ne novel is a dark fable that explores the heart of the human condition: love, loyalty and sacrifice.