John Boyne signs TV deal for The Echo Chamber; Lisa Harding is TV pick in US

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

John Boyne. Photograph: Nick Bradshaw

This Saturday’s reviews in The Irish Times are Lara Marlowe on The Vanishing by Janine di Giovanni; Niamh Donnelly on Winter Papers 7; Rónán Hession on the best new translations; John Connolly on It Rose Up edited by Jack Fennell; Éilís Ní Dhuibhne on Living with Cancer edited by Paul D’Alton; Thomas McCarthy on Memoir of an Irish Jew by Lionel Cohen; Paul Clements on local history books; Sarah Gilmartin on Lily by Rose Tremain; Ed O’Loughlin on Free by Lea Ypi; and Sara Keating on the best children’s books for Christmas.

John Boyne is to adapt his latest bestselling novel, The Echo Chamber, into a 10-part TV series after the rights were bought by RED, a production company in Manchester whose hits include Russell T Davies’ Queer As Folk, Years and Years and It’s A Sin, Sally Wainwright’s Happy Valley and Last Tango in Halifax, Lenny Henry’s Danny and the Human Zoo, Harlan Coben’s The Stranger and most recently Sarah Solemani’s Ridley Road .

The Echo Chamber is a satire on the social meddia age, featuring the The Cleverley family whose gilded life is just one tweet away from disaster.

Sarah Doole, CEO of RED, says: “I have always loved John Boyne’s beautiful writing, but The Echo Chamber was the most brilliant surprise. It is hilariously funny - a gasp-inducingly caustic and biting satire about cancel culture and modern Britain. It is a story that is absolutely for now and it takes a writer of John’s skill and confidence to pull it off. The wildly outrageous and vivid Cleverleys are a family begging to be brought to screen and their fall from grace is full of the most unexpected twists and surprises. It was described as a ‘British Schitt’s Creek on Acid’ – and it is! We are so excited to be aiding John in bringing his highly acclaimed novel to the small screen. It is exactly the kind of distinct and bold drama that I want RED to be making.”


Boyne said: “I’m delighted to be working with Red Production Company on bringing The Echo Chamber to television. Having produced so many of my favourite dramas over recent years, I know my novel is in safe and talented hands. I’m excited to enter the world of scriptwriting too, a new departure for me and one I hope to build on over the years ahead. The Echo Chamber was written after I received a particularly brutal mauling at the hands of Twitter trolls and I chose to turn that experience into a comedy. To that end, my plan is to fill every episode with as many laughs as I can!”

Boyne’s The Boy In The Striped Pyjamas, which has sold more than 11 million copies worldwide, has been adapted for cinema, theatre, ballet and opera. The Heart’s Invisible Furies is currently in development with Element, and A Ladder to the Sky, which is to be made into a film adapted by Andres Heinz (Black Swan, is currently at the casting stage.


Bright Burning Things by Lisa Harding got a big boost on the day of its US publicatino this week when the TODAY programme’s Jenna Bush Hager revealed live on national television from Rockefeller Plaza in New York that it would be December’s Read with Jenna book club selection. It’s the story of a former actor with an addiction problem who must make a choice to change her life or lose her beloved son.


Trinity College Dublin will host a free online symposium exploring the considerable revival of interest in the work of American author Shirley Jackson on Tuesday, December 14th, at 5pm.

Hosted by Trinity’s School of English and supported by the Trinity Long Room Hub Arts and Humanities Research Institute, Reading Shirley Jackson in the Twenty-First Century will hear how Jackson’s critical and cultural standing have in recent years been transformed by a surge of academic and popular interest.

The symposium combines live online panels with pre-recorded panels, discussions, essays, and video and audio material, which attendees can view in their own time. This material, which is now available here, includes such contributions as a presentation on Shirley Jackson's writings for younger readers; the challenges of adapting Shirley Jackson for film and television; and an exploration of haunted and contagious spaces in The Haunting of Hill House.

“Jackson’s gender, her ability to evade conventional critical and generic categorisation, and her commercial success during her lifetime meant that she was often denied the respect – and the attention – afforded to many of her contemporaries. Now after decades of relative critical neglect, Jackson’s critical and cultural standing has been transformed by a surge of academic and popular interest,” explains Dr Bernice M. Murphy from Trinity’s School of English, who was the academic consultant on the recently published The Letters of Shirley Jackson (July 2021), edited by Jackson’s eldest son, Laurence Jackson Hyman.

While Jackson is still best known for classic supernatural horror novel The Haunting of Hill House (1959) and her infamous 1948 short story The Lottery, her work also encompassed psychological thrillers, domestic humour, children’s writing, and short fiction, as well as cultural commentaries and advice for budding writers.

Registration is free and open to all, but every attendee must register here. Conference webpage.


The shortlist for the Portico Prize for Literature , the UK’s only award for outstanding Northern writing, is announced today, Tuesday 7 December.

The six books on the shortlist for the £10,000 prize are Ghosted by Jenn Ashworth; The Outsiders by James Corbett; The Family Tree by Sairish Hussain; Sea State by Tabitha Lasley; Toto Among the Murderers by Sally J Morgan; and Mayflies by Andrew O’Hagan.

Gary Younge, author, broadcaster, professor of sociology at the University of Manchester and chair of judges, said: “The list illustrates the degree to which there is not one North but many, rooted not just in place but time, gender, race and religion: all moulded into elegant prose and conveyed with engaging storytelling. Throughout runs a strong sense of unromantic nostalgia for a North that no longer exists and yet remains with us so long as the stories are told.”

The winner will be announced on January 20th.


Alison Hackett has opened another popup Visual Time Traveller gallery/bookshop until December 31st in ProPrint, 66A George's Street Upper, Dún Laoghaire (by the Poeple's Park). The owner and proprietor, Keith Guthrie, is kindly selling 21st Century Renaissance books there during the week and Alison will be there Friday afternoons and weekends. A short clip of the shop is on YouTube here.