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Nothing on Earth by Conor O’Callaghan: April’s Irish Times Book Club choice

Debut novel set on ghost estate highly praised by The Irish Times, Guardian, John Banville, Donal Ryan, Dara Ó Briain and Rick O’Shea

Conor O’Callaghan is from Newry, Co Down, and now lives in Manchester. Nothing on Earth is his first novel

Nothing on Earth by Conor O’Callaghan is the April 2017 Irish Times Book Club selection.

Described by Irish Times literary correspondent Eileen Battersby as “one of the most impressive pieces of Irish fiction writing since Neil Jordan’s The Dream of a Beast in 1983”, it is a mysterious tale told by an unreliable narrator of a family living on an Irish ghost estate.

“Many writers of virtuoso prose have nothing to say; equally novels based on important events are often written in dull, laboured prose,” writes Battersby. “Conor O’Callaghan has without pretence of affection or straining for effect, told an original story, and brilliantly, in plain prose which does shimmer in shade and nuance. The bleak ghost estate in all its unfinished bleakness, to the last pile of rubble and lone dusty weed, is as clear as the relentless daylight illuminating the mess. Little is spelt out, nothing is given away. Mystery drives the narrative. There is also the calm menace reminiscent of William Trevor. This adroit, uncompromising novel leaves questions unanswered and won’t easily release its hold.”

Nothing on Earth has been heaped with praise: “I greatly admired Conor O’Callaghan’s Nothing on Earth, as fine as it is frightening,” wrote John Banville; “Strange, beautiful and quietly terrifying . . . I could not put it down,” said Donal Ryan; “Nothing on Earth is beautiful, and haunting, and disturbing,” declared Dara Ó Briain; “A total curveball, Conor O’Callaghan’s book is extraordinary,” wrote Rick O’Shea.

The Guardian review summed it up as “A beautifully judged balancing act between revelation and frustration, making the reader complicit and terrified by turns . . . This one will stay with you like your shadow, as hard to shake off and as impossible to pin down”. The Herald Scotland declared: “Ominous and fearful. . . this striking debut is a psychological chiller that cleverly resonates with modern concerns.”

Conor O’Callaghan is from Newry, Co Down, and now lives in Manchester. He has published four acclaimed poetry collections: The History of Rain (1993); Seatown (1999); Fiction (2005); and The Sun King (2013). He also wrote the non-fiction book Red Mist: Roy Keane and the Football Civil War (2004). He lectures at Sheffield Hallam University and at Wake Forest University in North Carolina. Nothing on Earth is his first novel.

Over the next four weeks, we shall publish a very personal piece by the author himself on ghost estates, an essay by his author and articles by Rick O’Shea, who runs one of Ireland’s most popular online book clubs, fellow author Mary Morrissy and Jarlath Killeen of Trinity College Dublin. The month culminates with Eileen Battersby interviewing Conor O’Callaghan at the Irish Writers Centre in Dublin’s Parnell Square on Wednesday, April 26th, at 7.30pm. It will be available as a podcast on April 30th.
Nothing on Earth was released in paperback last month by Black Swan Ireland, priced £7.99. However, it can be purchased for only €4.99 if bought with a copy of The Irish Times in any branch of Eason until April 14th