The Bee Sting by Paul Murray has been named the An Post Irish Book of the Year 2023.
The book was among six category winners at the 2023 An Post Irish Book Awards competing for the accolade, which were chosen on the principle of the highest number of votes secured during the shortlist voting process.
Murray’s novel, which was also shortlisted for the Booker Prize, was unveiled as the winning title on RTÉ One this evening on a show hosted by Oliver Callan. The Bee Sting had already been voted Novel of the Year.
Murray’s The Bee Sting attracted a chorus of unanimously positive reviews on publication. His elevation to the Booker Prize longlists and shortlists merely confirmed his inexorable rise from promising talent to a first-rank world novelist. Murray combines a level of seriousness with an attractive strain of humour which endears his work not just to critics and reviewers but to individual readers, an unbeatable combination.
Paul Murray was born and raised in south Dublin and wrote his first novel, An Evening of Long Goodbyes, while studying for an MA in creative writing at the University of East Anglia. It was shortlisted for the Whitbread First Novel Award and nominated for Kerry Group Irish Fiction Award. Murray’s tragicomic masterpiece Skippy Dies was a finalist for the National Book Critics Circle Award and longlisted for The Booker Prize. The Mark and the Void was the joint winner of the Bollinger Everyman Wodehouse Prize.
The Irish Book of the Year 2023 was chosen by Madeleine Keane, literary editor of the Sunday Independent, author Sinead Moriarty, broadcaster Rick O’Shea, Elaina Ryan, CEO of Children’s Books Ireland, Tómas Kenny of Kenny’s bookshop, Galway and Cyril McGrane of An Post.
Keane, chair of the judging panel, said: “The Bee Sting was the judges’ unanimous choice. Paul Murray is an exceptional contemporary Irish novelist as evidenced in his fine body of work, culminating in this dazzling achievement. The Bee Sting is a bravura feat - a wildly funny, tragic giant of a novel with a symphony of compelling voices. Murray evokes Ireland’s complexities and vagaries while taking in vital universal themes of love, greed, desire, and disappointment. Along with my fellow judges, I am very proud to see it crowned the most outstanding book of 2023.”
Reviewing it in The Irish Times, Sarah Gilmartin wrote: “Paul Murray’s new novel brought to mind Charles Dickens’s quote on the mechanics of good fiction: make them laugh, make them cry, make them wait. Murray is a natural storyteller who knows when to withhold, to indulge, to surprise. He specialises, like Dickens, in lengthy sagas that are mammoth in scope, generous with detail and backstory, flush with humour and colourful characters, all of it steeped in social realism.”
The other shortlisted titles were: Strange Sally Diamond by Liz Nugent; Poor by Katriona O’Sullivan; A Thread of Violence by Mark O’Connell; I Am the Wind: Irish Poems for Children Everywhere, edited by Lucinda Jacob and Sarah Webb, illustrated by Ashwin Chacko; and The Grass Ceiling by Eimear Ryan.
David McRedmond, CEO of An Post, said: “Paul Murray’s novel was a standout in a great year for Irish fiction. The Bee Sting is marked by originality and beautiful writing; and it will stand the test of time.”
Previous winners include Sally Hayden for My Fourth Time, We Drowned, Fintan O’Toole for We Don’t Know Ourselves, Doireann Ní Ghríofa for A Ghost in the Throat, the late Vicky Phelan for Overcoming, Emilie Pine for Notes to Self, John Crowley, Donal Ó Drisceoil, Mike Murphy and John Borgonovo for Atlas of the Irish Revolution, Mike McCormack for Solar Bones, Louise O’Neill for Asking For It, Mary Costello for Academy St, Donal Ryan for The Spinning Heart, Michael Harding for Staring at Lakes and Belinda McKeon for Solace.
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