Dara McAnulty and Maggie O’Farrell win fiction and nonfiction awards

A preview of Saturday’s pages and roundup of the latest book news

Dara McAnulty

Dara McAnulty

 

In Saturday’s Irish Times, we publish Dirty Linen: a personal history of Northern Ireland, a revised version of my contribution to The 32: An Anthology of Irish Working-Class Voices, edited by Paul McVeigh, to be published by Unbound in July.

Reviews are Diarmaid Ferriter on The Partition: Ireland Divided, 1885-1925 by Charles Townshend Louise Kennedy on Real Estate by Deborah Levy; Claire Hennessy on the best new YA fiction; Sarah Moss on Snowflake by Louise Nealon; Paschal Donohoe on Together: 10 Choices for a Better Now Ece Temelkuran; Sarah Gilmartin on The Rules of Revelation by Lisa McInerney; Anna Carey on The Beauty of Impossible Things by Rachel Donohue; Paul Gillespie on State and Nation in the United Kingdom: The Fractured Union by Michael Keating; and Houman Barekast on Intimacies by Lucy Caldwell.

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17-year-old Dara McAnulty has won Book of the Year: Non-Fiction Narrative for Diary of a Young Naturalist at the British Book Awards and Maggie O’Farrell’s chart-topping Hamnet won Fiction Book of the Year. Douglas Stuart’s Booker-winning debut novel, has been awarded the prestigious overall Book of the Year accolade.

The announcement was made in a virtual awards ceremony, which was live-streamed from 4pm this afternoon. Richard Osman was named Author of the Year and Charlie Mackesy Illustrator of the Year.

The Book of the Year judges hailed Shuggie Bain, which took Stuart over a decade to write, “a classic” and found it best demonstrated all three tenets that make a Book of the Year : the quality of the writing; the innovative publishing vision; and excellent sales.

Stuart said: “Shuggie Bain wouldn’t be in the world without the support of my family, and obviously my mother, who is at the very heart of the novel, but I would like to thank all the British booksellers and readers who have really taken Shuggie and Agnes to heart. My thanks to the amazing team at Picador, who took a chance on my wee sad Scottish book. And to everybody who embraced the story and - especially in such a tough and weird year - has kept literature at the heart of our communities. I’m so grateful for you.”

Jay Shetty’s Think Like A Monk won Audiobook; The Highland Falcon Thief by MG Leonard and Sam Sedgman, illustrated by Elisa Paganelli won Children’s Fiction; Black and British: A Short, Essential History by David Olusogawon Children’s Illustrated & Non-Fiction; Troubled Blood by Robert Galbraith won Crime & Thriller; Where the Crawdads Sing by Delia Owens won Pageturner.

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Belfast Book Festival returns from June 10th-13th with an online programme of live events for book lovers, covering everything from love and politics to Cinderella as a zombie!

Presented by the Crescent Arts Centre, highlights include Annie MacManus (BBC Radio 1) unveiling her debut novel Mother, Mother, which is set in Belfast; Ian McElhinney (Derry Girls) and literary biographer Roy Foster exploring the work of Seamus Heaney; Glenn Patterson (The Northern Bank Job) in conversation with author Conor O’Callaghan; Colm Tóibín (Brooklyn), reading from Queer Love: An Anthology of Irish Fiction and a special recorded performance from the official poet of the 2012 London Olympics, Lemn Sissay.

For full programme details and to book tickets - priced either £3 or free - visit belfastbookfestival.com

Rachel Drury
Rachel Drury

Buy the Book is a new business idea and marketplace from author Rachel Drury after she faced her own difficulties selling her book online through Amazon. In setting up Buy the Book, Rachel was able to sell her book directly to her readers on an independent and Irish-owned marketplace.

Since setting the business up in February, Rachel has now listed over 20 self-published Irish authors on her platform. Buy the Book offers authors an independent marketplace to sell their book and also be part of a growing author community and support network. For more information visit buythebook.ie

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The 50th anniversary Listowel Writers’ Week programme promises a fantastic line-up of diverse events delivered online this year from June 2nd to 6th. For more details, check out writersweek.ie. The fascinating, topical line-up includes Colm Tóibín, Patrick McGrath, Christine Dwyer Hickey, Damon Galgut, Rachel Kushner and many more.

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Words Ireland, a group of seven literature organisations, is carrying out the first major survey of writers & illustrators in Ireland in over a decade. It is also surveying people who work in Ireland’s literature & publishing sector.

The information gathered will feed the group’s efforts to improve the pay and working conditions of writers, illustrators and literature workers for years to come. The surveys will also identify barriers to being published or employment in the sector that people traditionally underrepresented in literature may face, with the hope of increasing diversity.

Writers and illustrators particularly lead financially precarious lives. Today, they rely less and less on advances and royalties to make ends meet, and more on the arts gig economy. Some highly successful writers, such as Donal Ryan, have been pushed back into full-time employment.

As the government plans to launch its Universal Basic Income pilot for artists, Words Ireland is keen to find out if careers in writing and illustrating, and in the literature sector generally, are becoming more or less sustainable.

Writers and artists are often subsidized by partners earning a steady wage. People entering the literature or publishing sector often rely on rent-free rooms from family or relations while interning or taking low-paid entry-level jobs. For many, this inevitably reduces access to a life in the arts, and thus diversity in the sector. The surveys aim to quantify these things, along with other economic and social barriers to entry, or continuation in the arts.

These surveys are only the first step in a year-long project led by Words Ireland to identify barriers to anyone wanting to make a life in literature. Over the coming months, in collaboration with the wider sector, it will develop a ‘Charter for Inclusion’ that it hopes everyone working in the sector can sign up to. Through its webinar series, it will tease out solutions to address a potential lack of diversity in the sector.

Full details of the project, and links to both surveys, are available here.

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Headline Review is to publish The Secrets of Blackwater Hall, the debut novel from Irish-based geologist Amanda Geard, next spring.

Born in Australia, the author’s adopted home in the west of Ireland inspired her debut novel which is set in the fictional Blackwater Hall, the ancestral home of the Rathmore family and where a young woman vanishes in 1940, assumed drowned in the lough.

Geard said: “Sometimes it takes the right landscape to inspire a writer’s first story and south-west Ireland did that for me, as it has for many authors before.”

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