Louise Kennedy wins Francophonie award

Books newsletter: a wrap of the latest news and a preview of tomorrow’s pages

In The Irish Times this Saturday, Catherine Doyle tells Edel Coffey about her latest YA novels; Harpy author Caroline Magennis explains why she is among the growing number of childfree women; Roy Foster introduces Arnold Marsh’s autobiography, Memoirs of a Happy Belfastman; and there is a Q&A with Alice Winn, award-winning author of In Memoriam.

Reviews are Ian Hughes on Vulture Capitalism: Corporate Crimes, Backdoor Bailouts and the Death of Freedom by Grace Blakeley; Tony Clayton-Lea on the best new music books; Brian Cliff and Elizabeth Mannion on the best new crime fiction; Rowena Macdonald on No Judgement by Lauren Oyler and Unwords by Andrew Gallix; Matthew O’Toole on Eyewitness to War and Peace by Eamon Mallie; Ray Burke on Four Shots in the Night by Henry Hemming; Val Nolan on In Her Place by Edel Coffey; Oliver Farry on Gaza Diaries: Don’t Look Left; Brian Maye on A Very Hard Struggle: Life in the Military Service Pensions Collection edited by Anne Dolan and Catriona Crowe; Declan Burke on the best new scifi and fantasy; and Mei Chin on The House of Hidden Meanings: A Memoir by Ru Paul.

This Saturday’s Irish Times Eason offer is the award-winning best-seller Strange Sally Diamond by Liz Nugent. You can but it for €5.99, a €5 saving, at any branch with your paper.



In a celebration of International Francophonie Day (March 20th), Louise Kennedy was awarded the ninth annual Literary Award of the Francophonie Ambassadors in Ireland for her novel Trespasses, published in French by les éditions Denoël et d’ailleurs as Troubles. The translator Cécile Leclère was also recognised by the award and will receive a one-week translator’s residency hosted by Literature Ireland.

The annual selection of titles to be considered for the award is made in partnership with Literature Ireland, the national organisation for the promotion of Irish literature abroad; the other shortlisted works were En ces lieux bienfaisants by Kerri ní Dochartaigh (original title: Thin Places), Ligne de fuite by Sara Baume (original title: A Line Made by Walking and Soleil oblique et autres histoires irlandaises by Donal Ryan (original title: A Slanting of the Sun).

Kennedy’s novel is the story of a young woman named Cushla and Michael, a married man from Belfast, who meet in the pub owned by her family in the darkest days of the Troubles. Kennedy was presented with the award (a bespoke artisan glass bird) by Luxembourg ambassador Florence Ensch at a ceremony at the Luxembourg Residence.

At a ceremony at Canova Hall in Brixton on Tuesday, debut novelist and editor Tom Crewe was named winner of the £10,000 Sunday Times Charlotte Aitken Young Writer of the Year Award for The New Life, a novel described by judge James McConnachie as ‘thrillingly intimate’ and ‘a compassionate and tenderly sensual account of masculine sexuality.’

A daring novel of nineteenth-century forbidden desire, The New Life is a bold and beautiful book set in London, 1894; the Oscar Wilde trial is igniting public outcry, and everything John and Henry have longed for is suddenly under threat. United by a shared vision, the two begin work on a revolutionary book arguing for the legalisation of homosexuality.

Middlesbrough-born, Tom Crewe is an editor at the London Review of Books. The New Life is his first novel, which won the 2023 Orwell Prize for Political Fiction and the South Bank Sky Arts Award for Literature, and was shortlisted for the Polari First Book Prize.

Chair of judges and Chief Literary Critic for The Times and Sunday Times, Johanna Thomas-Corr, said: ‘Sometimes a debut novel comes along that feels like an immediate classic- a book that you suddenly can’t imagine not existing. If you’ve read Tom Crewe’s bold and beautifully observed debut, The New Life, you’ll know that it is just such a book. He is a writer of rare promise.’


Tenaya Steed has won the Linen Hall Michael McLaverty Short Story Award for her story Heavenly Mutha. The runners-up are Helena Close for Under the Bridge and Ciarán Folan for The Quiet of the Lake.

The winner will receive £2,000 and the winning story will be published in a limited-edition anthology along with the runners-up, who also receive £250 each. The anthology entitled Heavenly Mutha and Other Stories is available to purchase in The Linen Hall.

The award was set up to foster and encourage the tradition of the Irish short story. It has run biennially since its inception in 2006. Michael McLaverty (1904–1992) was one of the foremost proponents of the Irish short story. His archive was donated to The Linen Hall by his literary executors in 2005. Adjudicators for this year’s competition were Bernie McGill (This Train is For, The Watch House and The Butterfly Cabinet) and Emma Warnock, editor at No Alibis Press.

Steed said: “When I got the email saying I was a finalist for The Michael McLaverty Short Story Award, I was on cloud nine all day. I kept rereading the message. It took all I had not to print it out, laminate it, glue gun it to the wall. Despite my joy for making the shortlist, I had no real expectations of winning; I joked to friends that I was going for ‘Best Dressed’ instead. To have won this, then, is to have been confronted with the reality that my work can and should be taken seriously. For my story to have been chosen by Bernie McGill and Emma Warnock is especially meaningful; I truly admire Bernie’s work and No Alibis Press.

Heavenly Mutha is my first published story, so you can imagine what this means to me as a new writer. And if you can’t imagine it, try to imagine the sound of my own mutha sobbing soap opera style in the Linen Hall audience when I was announced as winner. That should do it.”

McGill said: “Michael McLaverty would exhort his pupils to ‘Look for the intimate thing’, would praise the ‘note of exile’ that is redolent in the stories of the Russian writers he so admired. I would vouchsafe that all three of these excellent stories contain both the intimacy and the exile that McLaverty so passionately advocated for.


West Cork Literary Festival has announced this year’s creative writing workshops which will take place from July 15th to 17th. The workshops are on sale now and each will have a maximum of 15 participants. These include Finding Writing Inspiration in the Everyday with Aoife Barry, The Short Story Writer’s Starter Kit with Jan Carson, Nature and Place Writing with John Connell, Poetry with Mícheál McCann and Novel Writing with Priscilla Morris. Four of the workshops take place in Bantry and participants in John Connell’s workshop will be boarding the ferry to Whiddy Island each morning. Full details here.


The shortlist for the world’s largest and most prestigious literary award for young writers, the Swansea University Dylan Thomas Prize, has been revealed: A Spell of Good Things by Ayòbámi Adébáyò; Small Worlds by Caleb Azumah Nelson; The Glutton by AK Blakemore; Bright Fear by Mary Jean Chan; Local Fires by Joshua Jones; and Biography of X by Catherine Lacey.

Worth £20,000, this global accolade recognises exceptional literary talent aged 39 or under, celebrates the international world of fiction in all its forms including poetry, novels, short stories and drama. The prize invokes the memory of Dylan Thomas to support the writers of today, nurture the talents of tomorrow, and celebrate international literary excellence. The winner will be revealed on May 16th.


The European Bank for Reconstruction and Development has announced the shortlist for this year’s EBRD Literature Prize: The End by Attila Bartis, translated from the Hungarian by Judith Sollosy; Niki, A Novel by Christos Chomenidis, translated from the Greek by Patricia Felisa Barbeito; The Wounded Age and Eastern Tales by Ferit Edgü, translated from the Turkish by Aron Aji; Jimi Hendrix Live in Lviv by Andrey Kurkov, translated from the Russian by Reuben Woolley; Exiled Shadow by Norman Manea, translated from the Romanian by Carla Baricz; History of Ash by Khadija Marouazi, translated from the Arabic by Alexander E. Elinson; Let’s Go Home, Son by Ivica Prtenjača, translated from the Croatian by David Williams; This Thing Called Love by Alawiya Sobh, translated from the Arabic by Max Weiss; A Sensitive Person by Jáchym Topol, translated from the Czech by Alex Zucker; Barcode by Krisztina Tóth, translated from the Hungarian by Peter Sherwood.

The works were chosen by three independent judges: award-winning writer and critic, Maya Jaggi (chair); novelist and translator, Maureen Freely; and author and professor of international law, Philippe Sands.

Unveiling the shortlist at the Oxford Literary Festival, Jaggi said: “Our shortlist is testimony to the vigour, inventiveness and imaginative breadth of fiction emerging from often troubled regions of the world. From the lyric to the epic, the picaresque to the carnivalesque, these books swept us from Moroccan dungeons and the snowy Turkish mountains to encounters with a Czech theatre troupe on the run and ageing Ukrainian rockers innocently unaware of the cataclysm to come. We found humour in abundance, tenderness and always a stubborn insistence on memory. Among the persistent themes were the psychological scars of authoritarianism, a Europe marred by erupting xenophobia, trepidation at Russian expansionism long before the 2022 invasion of Ukraine, and the sullen resentments and quiet rapprochements between fathers and sons.”

Three finalists will be announced in late April and the winning author will be declared on June 13th.


Writers across Ireland are invited to apply for the 2024 John Broderick Residency.

2024 marks the centenary of Athlone writer John Broderick’s birth. This unique writer’s residency series provides support to a selected writer while increasing the awareness of John Broderick, his works, and his engagement and generosity to the people of Athlone.

The residency is made possible by John Broderick’s generous contribution to the artistic life of his hometown. Following his death in 1989, Broderick bequeathed money to the Arts Council for ‘ ... the benefit and assistance and advancement of the arts in Athlone’. Previous recipients of the residency include Annemarie Ní Churreáin, Martin Dyar and Keith Payne.

A sum of €16,500 will be granted to a selected professional writer for 10 weeks beginning in September. The residency period may extend until April 2025. Later in the year, there will be an additional award of €7,000 for an emerging writer as part of the John Broderick series.

Director of the Arts Council, Maureen Kennelly said: “The John Broderick Residency is a wonderful opportunity to celebrate the life and literature of John Broderick while providing a platform of support for an emerging writer. Hosted in Athlone, the residency programme offers a unique perspective for the potential recipient to immerse themselves in John’s heritage. The programme also allows the writer to concurrently develop their literary prowess and to establish themselves as mentor. The residency has been a notable success, with poet and authors Annemarie Ni Churreáin, Martin Dyar and Keith Payne.”

Applications are now open. The deadline is April 17th. Visit Westmeathculture.ie for more.