The best debut fiction of 2020

The standout first novels and collections from home and abroad this year

It was a strong year for Irish debuts on the whole. All of the books from emerging Irish authors reviewed in New Fiction this year had something to commend them. Photograph: iStock

It was a strong year for Irish debuts on the whole. All of the books from emerging Irish authors reviewed in New Fiction this year had something to commend them. Photograph: iStock

In the strangest of years, it feels appropriate to start with the most unusual prose debut of 2020, Doireann Ní Ghríofa’s A Ghost in the Throat. A mesmeric mix of essay and autofiction, the Cork author’s book is an intricate, beautifully crafted text linking two Irish women over centuries.

The book charts Ní Ghríofa’s work on a new translation of the 18th-century poem Caoineadh Airt Uí Laoghaire (the Keen for Art Ó Laoghaire) by Eibhlín Dubh Ní Chonaill, with themes of desire, domesticity and death explored over centuries. Shortlisted for two categories at this year’s Irish Book Awards, it deservedly won Non-Fiction Book of the Year and then this week was named overall Book of the Year.

The Irish Times
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