Kerry Group Irish Novel of the Year shortlist revealed

A preview of Saturday’s books pages and a round-up of the latest literary news

One of the strongest ever shortlists for the Kerry Group Irish Novel of the Year award has been announced today. The five contenders for the €15,000 prize are The River Capture by Mary Costello (Canongate); Leonard & Hungry Paul by Rónán Hession (Bluemoose Books); Night Boat to Tangier by Kevin Barry (Canongate); Shadowplay by Joseph O’Connor (Harvill Secker Random House); and Girl by Edna O’Brien (Faber).

More than 40 novels were submitted for this year’s award, adjudicated by authors Carol Drinkwater and Ian McGuire on behalf of Listowel Writers’ Week. The winner will be announced on May 27th.

McGuire said: “It has been another great year for Irish fiction, and it was a tremendous pleasure to read so many fine, inventive and risk-taking novels. Very hard to choose only five, but the shortlist we came up with reflects very well the wide range of theme and subject matter, and the rich variety of styles that we encountered. They are all five terrific novels which deserve to be widely read and admired.”

Catherine Moylan, chairperson of Listowel Writers’ Week, said: “Whilst it has been a difficult year for ourselves and all literary festivals, it has given us hope and excitement to be able to continue with the Kerry Group Irish Novel of the Year. This year’s shortlist includes a wonderful combination of celebrated Irish writers along with a debut novelist. The winner of this award will join David Park, Anne Enright and Christine Dwyer Hickey to name but a few.”



Many Irish bookshops are set to reopen on June 8th. John Keane, chair of Bookselling Ireland, told the Bookseller that most shops were planning a phased reopening with shorter hours and fewer staff before ramping up their business properly again.

He told the trade magazine: “With around 40 per cent of bookshops closed for all business and the remainder partially open – mainly doing mail order – and trading at an average of 20 per cent of what their normal turnover would be, it’s encouraging to see the light at the end of the tunnel for bookshops.”

“We know that most booksellers are planning a phased reopening with shorter opening hours and reduced staff to begin with. We also know that customer and staff safety is paramount, so they will have appropriate plans in place for a secure shopping environment. And we know that the book-loving Irish people love their bookshops and can’t wait to reconnect with them when they can.”

Sadly, the awardwinning Blessington Bookstore in Co Wicklow will not be reopening. Owner Janet Hawkins announced on her website: “It is with a very heavy heart that The Blessington Bookstore must announce that from the end of May, we will close our doors for the last time. Everything that made us special – the buzz, the craic, sharing stories, food, good coffee and wonderful books will not be possible for a long time to come. The emotional, physical and financial strain of trying to hang on is too immense, and it is better to finish on a high with a wealth of special memories.

“All the team here would like to thank you, our customers, so much for your loyalty over the years. It has been a very great privilege to serve you and we thank you for your love and support. A special thank you to those who are buying online from us – we will continue to dispatch orders till the end of the month and will be adding more stock over the next days. Stay well, stay safe and stay reading!”

Many small independent Irish and British presses face financial ruin as a result of the coronavirus lockdown, according to a survey by the Bookseller. Jacaranda Books and Knights Of, meanwhile, have launched Inclusive Indies, a crowd-funder to help them survive.

Almost 60 per cent of small presses polled said they could be out of business by the autumn; 75 per cent were concerned they would cease trading before March next year and 36 per cent stating that they were a medium to high risk of closing; 18 per cent said they could no longer offer advances; while 25 per cent said they could not afford to take on new titles.


In Saturday’s Irish Times, Richard Ford discusses his new collection of Irish-themed short stories with John Self. Reviews include Paschal Donohoe on Radical Uncertainty by John Kay and Mervyn King; Andrew Gallix on Saving Lucia by Anna Vaught; Claire Mitchell on May Tyrants Tremble: The Life of William Drennan by Fergus Whelan; Helen Cullen on A Theatre for Dreamers by Polly Samson; Seán Hewitt on Heaven and Hell by Bart D Ehrman; Lara Marlowe on War, Suffering and the Struggle for Human Rights By Peadar King; Sarah Gilmartin on on Almost the Same Blue by John O’Donnell; and Claire Hennessy on the best new YA fiction.


Dublin’s Jane Casey & Belfast’s Adrian McKinty have been longlisted for the most prestigious crime novel award, the Theakston Old Peculier Crime Novel of the Year 2020. The winner of the £3,000 prize will be revealed on July 31st.

The full longlist is:
My Sister the Serial Killer by Oyinkan Braithwaite (Atlantic Books)
Fallen Angel by Chris Brookmyre (Little, Brown Book Group, Abacus)
Nothing Important Happened Today by Will Carver (Orenda Books)
Cruel Acts by Jane Casey (HarperCollins, Harper Fiction)
Blue Moon by Lee Child (Transworld, Bantam)
 The Long Call by Ann Cleeves (Pan Macmillan, Macmillan/Pan)
Red Snow by Will Dean (Oneworld, Point Blank)
Platform Seven by Louise Doughty (Faber & Faber)
Worst Case Scenario by Helen Fitzgerald (Orenda Books)
The Lost Man by Jane Harper (Little, Brown)
Joe Country by Mick Herron (John Murray Press)
How the Dead Speak by Val McDermid (Little, Brown Book Group, Little, Brown)
The Chain by Adrian McKinty (Orion Publishing Group, Orion Fiction)
Conviction by Denise Mina (VINTAGE, Harvill Secker)
Smoke and Ashes by Abir Mukherjee (VINTAGE, Harvill Secker)
The Whisper Man by Alex North (Penguin Random House, Michael Joseph)
Blood & Sugar by Laura Shepherd-Robinson (Headline Publishing Group, Wildfire)
Blood Orange by Harriet Tyce (Pan Macmillan, Mantle/Pan)


The Big Book Weekend is a three-day virtual book festival that brings together the best of the cancelled British literary festivals, with a range of events "presented" by the relevant festival, featuring the authors and other artists that would have appeared.

It has been co-founded by the authors Kit de Waal and Molly Flatt, is supported by the BBC and Arts Council England, and will take place on the online book festival site MyVLF.

Expect interviews, panel discussions, in conversation debates, performances and interactive sessions from the biggest names in books, alongside unknown debut authors and rising talents. It kicks off tomorrow at 10am with Maggie O’Farrell and Damian Barr and climaxes on Sunday with Bernardine Evaristo and Mairi Kidd. Kit has programmed some great Irish content, including Marian Keyes , Jane Casey and Liz Nugent and a panel with Paul Muldoon, Lucy Caldwell and Glenn Patterson.


Cúirt International Festival of Literature has shown what can be achieved by a digital version of a festival. More than 6,000 people registered to attend its events last month, with nearly 4,000 tuning in to watch the events live. More than 18,000 people have watched or listened to Cúirt’s digital events online.

All events were broadcast on the Cúirt YouTube channel, Soundcloud page and website and are available to watch and listen again now the festival is over.


For the first time in its 30-year history the KPMG Children's Books Ireland Awards will be announced online, with all welcome to join in. These awards are the most prestigious awards for children's books in Ireland . The ten shortlisted titles will compete for a total of five awards, with the winners to be announced from noon on May 19th on YouTube Live by broadcaster Rick O'Shea. The shortlisted titles are:

All The Bad Apples written by Moïra Fowley-Doyle
Madame Badobedah written by Sophie Dahl and illustrated by Lauren O'Hara
Mór agus Muilc based on a traditional tale told by John Óg Hiúdaí Neidí Ó Colla and illustrated by Kim Sharkey
Nóinín written by Máire Zepf
The Deepest Breath written by Meg Grehan
The Hug written by Eoin McLaughlin and illustrated by Polly Dunbar
The Tide written by Clare Helen Welsh and illustrated by Ashling Lindsay
The Star-Spun Web written by Sinéad O'Hart
Toffee written by Sarah Crossan
Scúnc agus Smúirín written by Muireann Ní Chíobháin and illustrated by Paddy Donnelly

The five awards are The Book of the Year Award, The Honour Awards for Fiction and Illustration, the Judges’ Special Award, and the Eilís Dillon Award for a first children’s book.

CEO of Children’s Books Ireland Elaina Ryan said, “In a year when artists are facing unprecedented challenges and interruptions to their work, we are so proud of our partnership with KPMG and the ability of these awards to support authors and illustrators, with the prize fund doubled compared to last year. We are excited to showcase excellent Irish writing and illustration in new and innovative ways as we move our ceremony online.”


The LIVE Network, a literary network that supports writers and publishers to share work, has created a digital series during the lockdown featuring six Irish writers. Each writer speaks to audience development officer Dani Gill about their latest book. The first episode, with Alan McMonagle, will go live on You Tube tomorrow, May 8th, and new episodes will air each Friday for six weeks. Kevin Barry (15th), Hilary Fannin (22nd), Jane Clarke (29th), Elaine Feeney (June 5th), and Liz Nugent (12th). To subscribe to the channel and watch the series just follow this link.

The supporting venues are The Backstage Theatre (Longford) The Roscommon Arts Centre (Roscommon), The Ramor Theatre (Cavan), The Sources Arts Centre (Tipperary) The Droichead Arts Centre (Louth) and The Riverbank Arts Centre (Kildare).


A new audio presentation of Eavan Boland's poetry and prose has been launched by composer and producer Colm Ó Foghlú, and hosted by Poetry Ireland on its Soundcloud page for streaming and/or download. A public release had been in the works prior to Eavan's death, and it is now released with a great deal of poignancy after her passing.

Actor Geraldine Plunkett, provides the lead voice performance, with Ken Edge (saxophone), Noleen O’Donoghue (harp), Avril Carey (voice) and The Dublin String Quartet.

“In these uncertain times, I hope it might offer some solace as it reveals the mundane trials of everyday life and the heroic secrets of surviving it,” said Colm.


The popular Gravespeakers’ series of children’s books, written by Anthony Garvey, is one step closer to coming alive on the big screen. A three-minute animated trailer of the first book in the series, Gravespeakers: Maria, is under development by a team of students at the IT Tralee, in Kerry. Garvey will work closely with final year animation students, Niall O’Shea and Darragh Horgan, under the watchful supervision of Marty Boylan, Lisa McElligott and Rosie Dempsey, from the ITT’s Creative Media Department. The books are aimed at children between 8-12 years of age and can be found on