Keith Ridgway and Luke Cassidy on UK prize lists as Irish Novel of the Year list is revealed

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

In Saturday’s Irish Times, Jane Coyle talks to Liam Browne and Seán Doran, the creators of Ulysses: A European Odyssey, which will take place across 18 cities, one for each of Joyce’s book’s 18 episodes. Deirdre Falvey taks to playwright Elaine Murphy about her adaptation of Maeve Binchy’s Circle of Friends. Micheál Smith, author of UDR Declassified, on the stunning level of collusion between the regiment and loyalists revealed by declassified files.

Reviews are Oliver Farry on The Avoidable War: The Dangers of a Catastrophic Conflict Between the US and China by Kevin Rudd; Mia Levitin on None of This Is Serious by Catherine Prasifka; Rick O’Shea on All Along the Echo by Danny Denton; Wendy Erskine on This Woman’s Work by Kim Gordon & Sinead Gleeson; Julia Kelly on The Passenger: Ireland; Éilís Ní Dhuibhn on In Love by Amy Bloom ; Sally Hayden on Africa Is Not A Country: Breaking Stereotypes of Modern Africa by Dipo Faloyin; Una Mannion on Memphis by Tara M Stringfellow; John Self on Circus of Dreams: Adventures in the 1980s Literary by John Walsh and The Lives of the Saints by Sebastian Barry; Sarah Gilmartin on Drift by Caryl Lewis; and Rónán Hession on the best new fiction in translation.

This weekend’s Irish Times Eason book offer is Snowflake by Louise Nealon, just €4.99 when you buy the newspaper, a saving of €6.

Small Things Like These by Claire Keegan, White City by Kevin Power, Bright Burning Things by Lisa Harding , Nora by Nuala O’Connor and The Raptures by Jan Carson have been shortlisted for this year’s €20,000 Kerry Group Irish Novel of the year Award from more than 60 submissions.

Manveen Rana, who is judging this year’s award with Rachel Joyce, said: “There was an exceptionally strong selection of entries this year, and this shortlist reflects the scope, variety and beauty we found. These five books are not only masterpieces in the written word, but they also capture the soul of their subjects, pinning them to paper in a way that reveals so much more about the human condition.”

Catherine Moylan, chairperson of Listowel Writers’ Week revealed the shortlist. “We are delighted to continue to celebrate Irish literature with the 2022 Kerry Group Irish Novel of the Year. Now in its 28th year, this award helps us showcase and promote the wealth of Irish literary talent. Thanks to Rachel Joyce and Manveen Rana for the arduous task of selecting the shortlist from an incredibly strong collection of entries. Thanks to Kerry Group who have also increased this year’s prize fund for this important literary award. We are grateful for their continued support.”

The winner will be announced on June 1st.

A Shock by Keith Ridgway, the London-based Irish author’s novel depicting life in south London through a series of vignettes, has been shortlisted for the £10,000 James Tait Black Prize for fiction.

Also shortlisted are English Magic by Uschi Gatward; Libertie by Kaitlyn Greenidge; and Memorial by Bryan Washington.

The awards, presented by the University of Edinburgh since 1919, are the only major British book prizes judged by literature scholars and students.

Fiction judge Dr Benjamin Bateman, of the University of Edinburgh, said: “At a time of extreme geopolitical unrest, these impressive works of contemporary fiction remind us of the local attachments and everyday intimacies that sustain people during difficult times.”

The shortlist for the £10,000 biography prize features A Little Devil in America: In Praise of Black Performance by Hanif Abdurraqib; Finding the Raga: An Improvisation on Indian Music by Amit Chaudhuri; In Memory of Memory: A Romance by Maria Stepanova, translated by Sasha Dugdale; and Burning Man: The Ascent of DH Lawrence by Frances Wilson. The shortlist was selected from more than 400 submitted books.

The winners of both prizes will be announced in August at the Edinburgh International Book Festival, which will take place for the second time at the University’s Edinburgh College of Art.

Iron Annie, the debut novel by Dundalk-born author Luke Cassidy, has made this year’s 10-strong longlist for the £10,000 Desmond Elliott Prize, which will be awarded to the most outstanding first novel of the past 12 months from the UK and Ireland.

This year’s longlisted books focus on themes of romance and reclamation – of freedom, bodies, and identities - with female protagonists featuring in many of the titles. In addition to this, the longlist includes four debuts from independent publishers, two of which are published by the not-for-profit And Other Stories (Somebody Loves You by Mona Arshi and Keeping the House by Tice Cin).

Also longlisted are: Assembly by Natasha Brown; Lessons in Love and Other Crimes by Elizabeth Chakrabarty; Hourglass by Keiran Goddard; Violets by Alex Hyde; Fault Lines by Emily Itami; Maps of Our Spectacular Bodies by Maddie Mortimer; and Moth by Melody Razak.

Iron Annie, published by Bloomsbury, looks at how comfort can turn to chaos as Aoife’s magnetic attraction to Annie, a woman she has just met, quickly turns to obsession. Cassidy has also adapted the work for the stage, which has been touring Ireland to great success.

Peggy Hughes, executive director at the National Centre for Writing, said: “We’re delighted to announce a longlist that explores one of our most fundamental social needs, love, and the desire to take control of our own narratives, with many having themes of personal growth too. We’re looking forward to hearing Derek, Symeon and Lyndsey’s opinions on these captivating and thought-provoking debuts.”

This year’s chair of judges, and winner of the 2020 Desmond Elliott Prize, Derek Owusu, said: “It’s a blessing to be able to read such a wide scope of stories from first-time novelists. Themes such as freedom and identity are foundations on which literature stands tall, challenges us to discover ourselves and provide the opportunity for others to experience the same. I’m excited to see so many indie publishers make the list, many of whom take risks with innovative fiction that challenges our way of thinking about narratives. Choosing a shortlist will be tough but that difficulty is offset by the bliss of being about to experience many of these novels for the first time.”

A shortlist will be announced on June 7th and the winner will be revealed on July 1st.

A Quiet Tide, the acclaimed debut novel by Marianne Lee, published by New Island in 2020, has been optioned by Mixed Bag Media for a fim adaptation.

Set in 1805, it’s the true story of an extraordinary Irishwoman Ellen Hutchens, Ireland’s first female botanist. In her short life she catalogued over a thousand species of seaweed and plants from her native Bantry Bay. A major contributor to 19th-century scientific discovery and yet, like so many brilliant women, her story was lost in history.

The project will be developed as a feature film by IFTA winner producer Garret Daly and adapted for the screen by Lee.

“It’s a beautiful novel that examines an inspiring long-forgotten Irish woman. Marieann’s attention to detail and perceptive research captures the heartbreak of missed opportunities. Its themes have a strong resonance for society today,” said Garret Daly.

Originally from Tullamore in Co Offaly, Lee is a graduate of creative writing from Trinity College Dublin. “Having spent some years immersed in Ellen Hutchins’s remarkable story, I’m excited to now adapt it for the screen,” she said. “ Ellen’s life was full of achievement and tragedy, set against a backdrop of family conflict during a fascinating period of Irish history. I look forward to creating her world for a new audience.”

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This year’s Poetry Day Ireland takes place on Thursday, April 28th, and the 2022 theme is Written in the Stars. A programme of events is taking place across the country, from workshops and musical performances to poetry trails and tarot readings. They include a Poets Coaching Clinic (28 April) where you can grab the chance to be coached by poet Anne Tannam around all things poetry, Druid: 20 Days of Poetry with the Druid Theatre Company (28 April - 27 May), a free online initiative for secondary schools with access to the Coole Park Poetry Series to inspire a new generation of poetry enthusiasts to watch one short poetry film every school day for twenty days.

“Poetry Day Ireland presents us all with an opportunity to celebrate poetry in all its richness and diversity and as a point for connection at home and abroad. All over Ireland, Poetry Day Ireland enriches us all whether we attend an event or pick up an exquisite Pocket Poem , it’s there for the taking”, director of Poetry Ireland, Liz Kelly, said.

The Towers and Tales Children’s Book Festival returns to Lismore Castle in Co Waterford on Saturday, April 30th, an enchanting and inspirational celebration of books, stories and illustrations.

The festival features a line-up of some of the most exciting Irish and international authors and illustrators and there will be lots of free activities for children of all ages throughout the day. Authors and artists include illustrator, author and character designer Dapo Adeola; Oein DeBhairduin, the award-winning author of Why the Moon Travels (illustrated by Leanne McDonagh) and former record-breaking athlete Olivia Hope with the author of soon-to-be-published picture book Be Wild, Little One (illustrated by Daniel Egnéus); David King, author of picture book, A Hug For You, illustrated by Rhiannon Archard and inspired by his son Adam, who will join him for the event; Áine Ní Ghlinn, Laureate na nÓg/the Children’s Literature Laureate; Nadia Shireen, award-winning author and illustrator of Barbara Throws a Wobbler and Welcome to Grimwood; Sarah Webb, winner of two Irish Book Awards whose latest book is The Little Bee Charmer of Henrietta Street (illustrated by Rachel Corcoran); and Waterford-based illustrator, Shona Shirley McDonald, whose latest title, Cluasa Capaill ar an Rí, written by Bridget Bhreathnach, won the Gradam Réics Carló, was selected as a World Book Day book and is shortlisted for the KPMG Children’s Books Ireland Awards.

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