Loose Leaves


Bainbridge finally bags a Booker for Georgie:It is best to win the Man Booker Prize when you are alive but, failing that, you can do so posthumously.

Beryl Bainbridge, who was shortlisted five times but never won the ultimate literary gong this side of the Atlantic, got the distinction this week when her novel Master Georgie, set during the Crimean War, was voted tops in the specially created Man Booker Best of Beryl competition. Was this a gimmick the revered Booker name could have done without ? Some devotees of the prize thought so – but that didn’t stop the public voting for their favourite of her shortlisted books: The Dressmaker(1973); The Bottle Factory Outing(1974); An Awfully Big Adventure(1990); Every Man for Himself(1996) and Master Georgie(1998).

The voting on the Man Booker website was close, Master Georgiejust beating Every Man For Himself. The prize – a designer-bound edition of the book – was presented to Bainbridge’s daughter Jojo Davies and grandson Charlie Russell. Master Georgiewas shortlisted the year Ian McEwan’s Amsterdam won. Also on that list were Julian Barnes’s England England, Patrick McCabe’s Breakfast on Pluto, Martin Booth’s The Industry of Soulsand Magnus Mills’s The Restraint of Beasts.

Bainbridge died last July but has left her fans with a final novel, T he Girl in the Polka Dot Dress, to be published by Little, Brown in June.

Novelist MacMahon remembers grandmother

Many messages reached the books desk this week following news that RTÉ reporter Kathleen MacMahon had signed a two-book deal worth £600,000 (€679,000) with Little, Brown in the UK and Grand Central in the States.Negotiated by agent Marianne Gunn O’Connor, who did the deal after last week’s London Book Fair, the first novel, So This Is How It Endswill be published next year.

In these days of gloom and doom, people relished a good-news story. One well-wisher said it was great to see a writer trumping the recession; another that it would be good for Irish writers generally. MacMahon , a niece of mine and a grandaughter of the short-story writer Mary Lavin, acknowledged there might have been a grandmotherly influence, all right, albeit in an oblique way. “My memory of grandmother as a writer is of her in bed with a wooden tray writing, with endless pots of tea. That must have lodged in my brain at some point as being quite a nice job.”

She wrote So This is How It Endsin two years, although, not while sitting up in bed like her grandmother, she says.

Writers reading their way around the country

The Irish Writers’ Centre isn’t just a Dublin institution. Its Peregrine Readings, sponsored by the Arts Council, are in their second series and start on home terrain at 19 Parnell Square, but will travel all over the country in the coming weeks. Among those taking part is thriller writer John Connolly, whose 10th novel, The Burning Soul, featuring former policeman Charlie Parker will be out in September. More recently also the author of books for young adults, his latest, Hell’s Bells, is out next month.

The line-up also includes Eugene McCabe, Kevin Barry, Anne Haverty, Molly McCloskey, Dermot Bolger, Jennifer Johnston, Alex Barclay and Pól Ó Muirí. Among the many venues readings will take place in are the Boyle Library in Co Roscommon; City Library in Kilkenny and the Yeats Memorial Building in Sligo. writerscentre.ie