Sally J Morgan wins Portico Prize; Stephen Rea reads Butcher’s Dozen; new book deals

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


In tomorrow’s Irish Times, Gary Shteyngart talks to John Self about his brilliantly funny new novel tackling Covid and the other calamaties befalling the US. Raven Leilani talks to Róisín Ingle about her brilliant debut novel, Luster, as it comes out in paperback. Edel Coffey writes about her debut novel, Breaking Point, and argues that, for many of us, breaking point is now the default baseline from which we live our day-to-day lives.

Reviews are Ronan McGreevy on Ireland 1922: Independence, Partition, Civil War, edited by Darragh Gannon and Fearghal McGarry; Katie Lewin on The Love Songs of WEB Du Bois by Honoree Fanonne Jeffers; Tony White on The Anomaly by Hervé Le Tellier; Martina Evans on the best new poetry; Helen Cullen on Free Love by Tessa Hadley; Jan Carson on What I Wish People Knew About Dementia by Wendy Mitchell; Eoin Ó Broin on A Little History of the Future of Dublin by Frank McDonald; and Sarah Gilmartin on I Love You But I’ve Chosen Darkness by Claire Vaye Watkins.

This weekend’s Irish Times Eason book offer is Acts of Desperation, the acclaimed debut novel by Megan Nolan, which you can buy for €4.99, a saving of €6.


Sally J Morgan has won The Portico Prize for Literature for her debut novel Toto Among the Murderers. Mostly set in Leeds and Sheffield in 1973, Toto Among the Murderers (JM Originals) follows the story of Toto and her friends as they begin life after college, a time when the lives of women were overshadowed by the constant threat of sexual violence. The book is based on the author’s own experience of being offered a lift by the infamous murderers Fred and Rosemary West.

Morgan, who grew up in Yorkshire, and now lives and works in Wellington, New Zealand, will receive £10,000 for winning the Portico Prize, the UK’s only award for outstanding writing that best evokes the “spirit of the North of England”.

Chair of judges Gary Younge, the award-winning author, broadcaster and a professor of sociology at the University of Manchester, said: “Finding a winner among this year’s shortlist was not easy but ultimately, while all were serious contenders, we were in broad agreement. Sally J Morgan’s Toto Among the Murderers vividly evokes a period in recent history with themes that carry clear, if painful echoes, to today – a time when women in the North, in particular, lived in mortal fear of sexual violence made explicit by daily headlines about mass murderers targeting vulnerable women. But what comes through is the determination of Toto, the main character, to refuse to allow the fears to define her as she lives a life of reckless adventure, longing and love.”


Actor Stephen Rea is to read Butcher’s Dozen by the recently deceased poet Thomas Kinsella ahead of the 50th Anniversary of Bloody Sunday as part of Saoícht: A Night of Poetry and Music in TradFest Temple Bar 2022 at 6.30pm, on Friday, January 28th, in the Pepper Canister Church, Dublin. as part of a night of poetry and music with Natalya O’Flaherty, Sasha Terfous, Louise & Michelle Mulcahy & Neill Martin. Tickets are on sale now at


Vermillion is to publish Irish broadcaster and podcaster Angela Scanlon’s debut book Joyrider on May 12th. Part memoir, part empowering guide, she details her lifelong relationship with control and how she finally learnt to let go, opening up about her own struggles, and is searingly honest about the vulnerability she felt in becoming a mother.

Gill Books’s Seán Hayes to publish John Connell’s river memoir in his first acquisition

In his first acquisition as commissioning editor for Gill Books, Seán Hayes will publish John Connell’s lockdown memoir The Stream of Everything in May .

Described by Donal Ryan as an “edifying, soul-nourishing book” and by Michael Harding as “full of imaginative wonders and absorbing philosophical musings”, Connell’s third non-fiction book turns his attention to the Camlin river, as he and a close friend decide to canoe down its course – a two-day trip along a river bursting with life, set against the backdrop of the world growing still. As they meander downstream, John reflects on his own life: his travels, his relationships and his battle with depression, as well as on Irish folklore, climate change, geopolitics, social injustice and philosophy.

On June 16th, to mark Bloomsday, Sagging Meniscus Press will publish David Collard’s Multiple Joyce: 100 short essays about James Joyce’s cultural legacy, with a foreword by Rónán Hession and advance praise from Eimear McBride.

Holding up a funhouse mirror to our times, Collard finds a multitude of Joyces, in often ludicrous disguises, wherever he looks-whether at Ally Sloper, Borsalino hats, Anthony Burgess, Cher, first editions, Flann O’Brien, Guinness, Hattie Jacques, John Cage, Kim Kardashian, Lego, Moby- Dick, numismatics, perfume, pianos, Princess Grace, puns, The Ramones, Sally Rooney, Stanley Unwin, Star Wars, waxworks or Zylo spectacles.

Jonathan Cape is to publish Ian McEwan’s new novel, Lessons, described as a powerful meditation on history and humanity told through the prism of one man’s lifetime, on September 13th.

Spanning the last seventy years, from the end of the Second World War to the Suez and Cuban Missile Crises, from the fall of the Berlin Wall to the current pandemic and climate change, McEwan’s protagonist, Roland, rides with the tide of history, but more often struggles against it.

Scholastic is to publish a debut children’s novel by Irish actor, scriptwriter and novelist Amy Huberman this September. The Day I Got Trapped in My Brain is a middle-grade story about a Frankie, who, when she appears to be in another world, really is. Huberman said: “I have wanted to write another book for a long ime now, and am delighted to be writing children’s fiction this time round. I’m so excited to be embarking on this journey into a whole new world of imagination.”

Huberman is the author of the adult novels Hello, Heartbreak and I Wished for You.

Little, Brown will publish bestselling author Celeste Ng’s new novel Our Missing Hearts on October 4th. Ng is best known for Little Fires Everywhere, which was adapted into a major TV drama in 2020 starring Reese Witherspoon and Kerry Washington. Her new novel explores themes such as the power and limitations of art to bring about change in the world, what being a good parent really means, and whether we can retain our humanity in a society where fear dominates.


To celebrate one hundred years since Sylvia Beach, publisher and bookseller, published James Joyce’s Ulysses, the bookshop Shakespeare and Company, Paris, is producing an ensemble recording of the complete text to be released as a free podcast between the 100th anniversary of the publication on February 2nd and Bloomsday on June 16th.

The project was conceived by its literary director Adam Biles, and will include over one hundred writers, artists, comedians, and musicians from all over the world.

The readers include Will Self, Jeanette Winterson, Olivia Laing, Ben Okri, Ishion Hutchinson, Paul Murray, Deborah Levy, Caoilinn Hughes, Eddie Izzard, Margaret Atwood, Meena Kandasamy and the bookshop’s owner Sylvia Whitman, with other exciting names still to be released. The readings will be accompanied by a 10-episode Bloomcast, an entertaining primer for listeners, hosted by Adam Biles, alongside Prof Lex Paulson, and Alice McCrum, programs manager at the American Library in Paris. Listen here

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