Patricia Forde is new Laureate na nÓg; Michelle Gallen’s Factory Girls shortlisted for Encore Award

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

In The Irish Times this Saturday, teacher Kevin Curran talks to Henrietta McKervey about his novel, Youth, which is firmly rooted in his hometown of Balbriggan, characterised by its population of first- and second-generation African immigrants. Writer Yan Ge tells John Self about writing her first book in English, her time in Ireland and her desire to do stand-up comedy. Author Ann Henning Jocelyn tells Alison Healy about her novel on Anne Boleyn and how a lot of accounts of the Boleyn women ‘have been written by men and they all had their own hidden agendas’. There is a Q&A with Cecelia Ahern on her new novel, In a Thousand Different Ways, and why her work is so attractive to film-makers. Aaron Edwards, author of A People Under Siege: The Unionists of Northern Ireland, From Partition to Brexit and Beyond, writes about his own experience of growing up as part of that community.

Reviews are Chris Kissane on The Great Defiance: How the World Took on the British Empire by David Veevers; Hugh Linehan on Public Morality and the Culture Wars by Bryan Fanning and Left is Not Woke by Susan Neiman; Claire Hennessy on the best new YA fiction; Sarah Gilmartin on The Bee Sting by Paul Murray; John Self on Orwell by DJ Taylor; Martina Evans on Magpie by Frieda Hughes; Molara Wood on Great Kingdoms of Africa, edited by John Parker; Ruth McKee on Slant by Katherine O’Donnell; Sally Hayden on Anjan Sundaram’s Breakup: A Reporter’s Marriage amid a Central African War; Ian d’Alton on The Tilson Case: Church and State in 1950s Ireland by David Jameson; and Edel Coffey on Tell Me What I Am by Una Mannion.

This Saturday’s Irish Times Eason offer is There’s Been a Little Incident by Alice Ryan. You can buy this award-winning debut novel for €4.99, a €6 saving, with your newspaper at any store.



Patricia Forde has been announced as the seventh Laureate na nÓg, Ireland’s Children’s Literature Laureate. An award-winning children’s author from Galway, Forde will hold the title until 2026, taking over from the outgoing Laureate, Áine Ní Ghlinn.

By honouring an artist of exceptional talent and commitment, Laureate na nÓg champions and celebrates literature for children and young people, inspiring generations of writers, illustrators and readers. It is an initiative of the Arts Council, administered by Children’s Books Ireland with the support of the Arts Council of Northern Ireland and the Department of Children, Equality, Disability, Integration and Youth.

Forde writes for all ages in Irish and in English. She has published more than 20 titles, including her award-winning first novel, The Wordsmith. A former primary school teacher, Patricia is also a former director of the Galway Arts Festival. She co-founded the Baboró International Arts Festival for Children in Galway in the mid-1990s; a world-class festival, based on the child’s right to culture. She is also a former chair of Children’s Books Ireland.

Prof Kevin Rafter, chair of the Arts Council/An Chomhairle Ealaíon, said: “Laureate na nÓg is the highest honour that can be awarded to a children’s writer or illustrator in Ireland. The role celebrates children’s literature and its contribution to cultural life and most critically seeks to connect children and young people with books and the joys of reading. I am delighted that a writer of the calibre of Patricia Forde is Ireland’s seventh Laureate. Her writing for children and young people is original and thought-provoking while her picture books for younger readers are captivating. I have no doubt that she will inspire a new generation of readers and writers in her role as Laureate over the next three years.”

Forde said: “I’m delighted and honoured to be the seventh Laureate na nÓg and I look forward to bringing books and reading to children and young people all over the country for the next three years.

“My theme, ‘Samhlaigh, Samhlaigh! Making It Up As We Go Along’ is all about creativity and using imagination to enrich our lives. Creativity has been important to me throughout my life, and I feel strongly that children need this life skill now more than ever. Books are the fuel of imagination, and every child should have access to wonderful stories and the very best of children’s literature.”

Liam Hannaway, Arts Council of Northern Ireland chair, commented: “The appointment of Patricia Forde as Laureate na nÓg is welcome news. During her time in this important role, Patricia will act as an ambassador for children’s writing, inspiring a new generation of readers and writers to open up their imaginations to new stories, poems, concepts and ideas. Laureate na nÓg is a unique honour, strengthening opportunities for young people across the island of Ireland to engage in high quality children’s literature.”

Forde’s latest book, The Girl Who Fell to Earth, will be published by Little Island Books this month.


The Royal Society of Literature has today unveiled the shortlist for the 2023 Encore Award, a £10,000 prize for the best second novel: Milk Teeth by Jessica Andrews; Factory Girls by Michelle Gallen; Emergency by Daisy Hildyard; Complicit by Winnie M Li; and Here Again Now by Okechukwu Nzelu.

The judges said of Gallen’s Factory Girls: “An hilarious and touching coming-of-age-summer story. The Factory is a world of possibilities our late-teens negotiate before they head for university. Against the background of the Troubles, and set in a town on the border, this novel movingly exposes the insidious slow burn of political damage just as much as the witty, vexed and ultimately heart-warming narrative of loveable characters.”

Gallen, whose debut was the hugely acclaimed Big Girl Small Town, said: ‘Having read many of the previous Encore Award-winning books, I know this prize recognises ambitious, mischievous books, teeming with memorable characters, challenging ideas and compelling human stories. So it’s a huge honour to see Factory Girls on the shortlist, and a validation of my publishers’ commitment to finding and amplifying previously marginalised voices.’

Previous recipients of the award have included Sally Rooney, Ali Smith, Sunjeev Sahota, Neil Mukherjee, AL Kennedy, Colm Tóibín, Caoilinn Hughes and last year’s winner Francis Spufford. This year’s winner will be announced on June 15th.

Ulysses is for everyone is the message from Trinity College Dublin immunologist Professor Cliona O’Farrelly, who teamed up this week with Dublin Bus driver and regular Ulysses reader Kevin Anderson and other James Joyce enthusiasts to launch the 2023 version Ulysses in 80 summer book club.

The online club, running from June 1 to August 19, divides James Joyce’s epic novel into 80 daily chunks of six to eight pages. The underlying idea is to democratise James Joyce’s sometimes challenging writing for everyone who would like to give it a try. Follow along to read this epic classic in 80 days on Twitter (@Ulyssesin80), Instagram (ulysses80bookclub) and Facebook (Ulysses80 at Sweny’s).

It is the brainchild of Prof Cliona O’Farrelly, who said: “We had so much fun reading and re-reading Ulysses together last year and chatting about it online that we just had to try it again. We want to bring this incredible book to all those people who thought they never had the interest, time or patience to read it. Ulysses is for everyone - even if we never finish it....”

Book club members will be invited to contribute their thoughts, comments and insights - and maybe even dance moves - about the day’s section using the hashtag #Ulyssesin80.

Hachette Books Ireland has announced a two-book fiction deal with former Irish State Pathologist Dr Marie Cassidy, represented by Faith O’Grady of Lisa Richards Agency.

Publisher Ciara Considine said: “We are thrilled to publish Marie Cassidy’s debut fiction. Fans of Patricia Cornwell will delight in her creation, Dr Terry O’Brien, a young pathologist with a troubled past and exceptional forensic skills. When the body of a young podcaster is found, murdered, she finds herself at odds with the garda investigation and begins her own enquiries. Body of Truth is full of suspense and the kind of in-depth forensic detail we would expect from a former state pathologist – riveting.”

Cassidy said: “I’m so pleased to have signed with Hachette Books Ireland, the publisher of my memoir Beyond the Tape, for my Terry O’Brien novels. As a lover of the thriller genre, it’s been a great experience to immerse myself in the world of fiction and combine my professional knowledge as a pathologist with my passion for storytelling.”

Cassidy moved to Ireland in 1988 to work as deputy state pathologist, and later was appointed State Pathologist. She retired at the end of 2018. Her memoir, Beyond the Tape, sold more than 80,000 copies. Body of Truth will be published on October 5th.


Dublin City Council has unveiled a commemorative plaque to the Irish language writer Seosamh Mac Grianna at the site of his home in St Anne’s Park, Raheny.

Born in Donegal in 1901, Mac Grianna came from a storytelling background, and his brother Séamus Ó Grianna was also an Irish-language author. Trained as a national school teacher in St Pat’s, Drumcondra, Mac Grianna was a staunch republican, took the anti-treaty side in the Civil War, and was interned in Newbridge camp.

In 1924 he began writing as Gaeilge and during 1924–5 he contributed many of his early short stories, including ‘Teampall Chonchubhair’, ‘Teacht Cheallaigh Mhóir’, and ‘Leas ná Aimhleas’, to the newly founded An tUltach. These later formed the basis of his first book, ‘Dochartach Dhuibhlionna & sgéalta eile’ (1925).

He also contributed numerous articles to a range of publications, including the Irish Press. Although his active literary career only lasted around eleven years, he made a significant contribution to the development of literature in the Irish language, publishing ten original works, translating twelve books into Irish, and also publishing a substantial number of reviews and letters.

Four particular books stand out within his body of work: An Grádh agus an Ghruaim (1929), An Druma Mór (1935/1969), Mo Bhealach Féin (1940), and Dá mBíodh Ruball ar an Éan (1940).

In the main, he ceased writing after 1935; in his own words “Thráigh an tobar” - the well dried up. Around this time, be began to suffer from psychiatric illness, which afflicted him for the rest of his life.

Mac Grianna lived in Dublin through the 40s and 50s, moving from place to place. Sometime around the early 1950s, he settled in a house on the coast road, in St. Anne’s Park, near Watermill Road. The commemorative plaque is erected on one of the remaining gate pillars of the house.

Speaking at the unveiling Cllr Donna Cooney, representing the Lord Mayor, congratulated the local Ciorcal Comhrá Raheny group who proposed that the plaque be erected, saying “Comhgairdeas to the members of the Irish language group in Raheny who have ensured that someone who lived in our area and who contributed to the culture and artistic life of our city will not be forgotten.”


Scholar-activist Joanna Kusiak has won the Nine Dots Prize for creative thinking that tackles contemporary societal issues. Entrants wee asked to respond to the question ‘Why has the rule of law become so fragile?’ in 3,000 words, with the winner receiving US$100,000 to write a short book expanding on their ideas.

Kusiak’s response takes the case of the 2021 Berlin referendum, in which voters decided to expropriate more than 240,000 properties from corporate landlords, moving ownership from corporate landlords to the public. She uses this as the basis of an argument advocating for what she calls radically legal politics, to deepen our democracies and renew the rule of law. Kusiak was chosen by a panel of leading international thinkers including politics professor and podcast host (Talking Politics) David Runciman and international lawyer/novelist Petina Gappah.


The longlists for the 2023 Great Reads Award for debut YA novels, run for the past nine years by the School Libraries Group at the Library Association of Ireland, have been announced.

Junior YA:

· Nick Brooks - Promise Boys

· Meabh Collins - Freya Harte is Not a Puzzle

· Amy Clarkin - What Walks These Halls

· Anika Hussain - This is How You Fall in Love

· Xena Knox - Sh!t Bag

· Aislinn O’Loughlin - Big Bad Me

· Amara Sage - Influential

· Josh Silver - Happy Head

· M.J. Sullivan - Game Over: Rise of the Raid Mob

· Trang Thanh Tran - She is a Haunting

Senior YA:

· James Acker - The Long Run

· Sam Blake - Something Terrible Happened Last Night

· Candice Braithwaite - Cuts Both Ways

· Triona Campbell - A Game of Life or Death

· Sarah Daniels - The Stranded

· Jenny Éclair - The Writing on the Wall

· Bryony Gordon - Let Down Your Hair

· Jenny Ireland - The First Move

· Clara Kumagai - Catfish Rolling

· Krystal Marquis - The Davenports

Supported by Dubray, Alan Hanna’s, Raven Books, The Book Nest, Interleaf Technology and Bookselling Ireland, the shortlist is out on September 1st, with the winners announced next February.