Christine Dwyer Hickey and Sinéad Gleeson win first Dalkey Literary Awards

Their books The Narrow Land and Constellations win €20,000 and €10,000

Christine Dwyer Hickey has won novel of the year, for The Narrow Land, and Sinéad Gleeson was named emerging writer, for Constellations , in the inaugural Dalkey Literary Awards.

With a total prize fund of €30,000 – €20,000 for novel of the year and €10,000 for emerging writer – the awards, in collaboration with Zurich Insurance, are the most lucrative for Irish-born or resident writers, and recognise “some of the most remarkable home-grown literary talents”.

The winners are announced via video link on Saturday evening, June 20th.

Dwyer Hickey's novel of loneliness and regret depicts the legacy of the second World War and the ever-changing concept of the American dream, which the judges described as "luscious", "enthralling" and "emotionally engaging". Dwyer Hickey says: "I am so thrilled to have won such a special award in its very first year. This means so much to me, and that someone out there appreciates it validates all of the hard work. I spent five years working on The Narrow Land, from beginning to end, so to even be nominated for a prize means the world to me. I will celebrate this for sure!"

Gleeson's Constellations, a collection of essays delving into art, illness, ghosts, grief and our ways of seeing was, the judges felt, "easily one of the standout books in any field over the last 12 months".

Gleeson is delighted, “not just because Dalkey Book Festival is one of my favourite festivals but because it’s the first year of the awards. To be recognised for your work is always a wonderful thing, and, for me, just to get on a shortlist is enough, because you already know there have been a lot of people in this crowded field, and you got to the final part. I’m thrilled!”

The winning authors were selected by three judges from a shortlist of 12 writers resident or born in Ireland and published here or in the UK in 2019. The shortlist for each category was nominated by a panel of 14 critics, writers and public figures.

The awards mark a new step for the popular Dalkey Book Festival, which has grown since its 2010 debut, and is also supported by Zurich. The festival will “return in full swing” in summer 2021, according to its director, Sian Smyth.

The festival's cofounder, the economist and Irish Times columnist David McWilliams, says: "Over the next 10 years we aim to make the Dalkey Literary Awards a central part of Ireland's literary calendar, and we will be delighted to continue to reward Irish genius and literary talent as it develops."

Zurich’s chief executive, Neil Freshwater, says supporting the awards “reinforces our commitment to and championing of writers, literature and creativity in Ireland at a time when it’s never been more important”, adding that Dwyer Hickey and Gleeson “represent our very best creative talent” and congratulating the shortlisted authors.

Dalkey Literary Awards: The shortlists

Novel of the year
The Narrow Land, by Christine Dwyer Hickey
Girl, by Edna O'Brien
The Fire Starters, by Jan Carson
Shadowplay, by Joseph O'Connor
Night Boat to Tangier, by Kevin Barry
The River Capture, by Mary Costello

Emerging writer
Adrian Duncan, for Loves Notes from a German Building Site
Eleanor Fitzsimons, for The Life & Loves of E Nesbit
Lucy Sweeney Byrne, for Paris Syndrome
Nicole Flattery, for Show Them a Good Time
Rónán Hession, for Leonard and Hungry Paul
Sinéad Gleeson, for Constellations

Deirdre Falvey

Deirdre Falvey

Deirdre Falvey is a features and arts writer at The Irish Times