Caitriona Lally cleans up at this year’s Rooney Prize ceremony

A sneak preview of Saturday’s books pages

If not quite rags to riches, the dusters to dustjackets transformation of Trinity College Dublin cleaner Caitriona Lally to winner of this year’s €10,000 Rooney Prize for Irish Literature for emerging Irish writers became one of this week’s most popular stories.

There was a comical moment during the ceremony in the foyer of Trinity’s Provost House, whose enviable address is 1 Grafton Street, when the doorbell rang in the middle of a speech and Provost Patrick Prendergast answered his own front door. In Ireland, there is no standing on ceremony, noted the prize’s patron Peter Rooney approvingly.

“The muse is a capricious drab, fickle in her comings and her goings, but it can be said for her that at least she is not ageist.” John Banville reviewing the latest poetry collection by Derek Mahon is one of this Saturday’s highlights in The Irish Times’s books pages.

What’s that, dear reader? There are never any lowlights? Why, you are too kind.


Other treats we have in store for you are The Essex Serpent author Sarah Perry celebrating Melmoth the Wanderer, an early Gothic masterpiece by Irish author Charles Maturin, an inspiration for her own new novel, Melmoth. Continuing in a Gothic vein, Xavier Aldana Reyes explores the hugely successful Barcelona series of novels by Carlos Ruiz Zafón, which began with The Shadow of the Wind 17 years ago and climaxes this month with The Labyrinth of the Spirits (reviewed here too by Seán Hewitt). And ahead of the Maeve Binchy Festival in Dalkey next week, Henrietta McKervey challenges cosy preconceptions of the author whom she hails as a quiet feminist in her fiction and in her journalism.

As well as this month’s Hennessy New Irish Writing winning story and poems, we have Robert Brigham on Vietnam by Max Hastings; Sarah Gilmartin on The Incendiaries by RO Kwon; Jerry White on JH Elliott’s Scots and Catalans: Union and Disunion; Jonathan McAloon on Dark Water by Elizabeth Lowry; Anna Carey on Mrs Gaskell and Me by Nell Stevens; Claire Hennessy on the best new YA fiction; and Julie Parsons on Italian Food by Elizabeth David.

If you buy The Irish Times this weekend in Eason’s, you can clean up too, by saving €6 on the price of Travelling in a Strange Land, the acclaimed new novel by David Park.