‘The Trick to Time’ by Kit de Waal is May’s Book Club choice
A tragic Birmingham Irish love story set against the backdrop of IRA bombings
Kit de Waal: will discuss her work with Martin Doyle, Books Editor of The Irish Times, on Saturday, May 26th, at 6pm, in Smock Alley Theatre, Dublin. Photograph: Justine Stoddart.
The Trick to Time by Kit de Waal is May’s Irish Times Book Club choice. Longlisted for the Women’s Prize for Fiction even before it was published in late March, it is a tragic Birmingham Irish love story set against the backdrop of the IRA bombings that devastated the city in 1974.
Mona is a young Irish girl in the big city, with the thrill of a new job and a room of her own in a busy boarding house. On her first night out in 1970s Birmingham, she meets William, a charming Irish boy with an easy smile and an open face. They embark upon a passionate affair, a whirlwind marriage – before a sudden tragedy tears them apart.
Decades later, Mona pieces together the memories of the years that separate them. But can she ever learn to love again? The Trick to Time is an unforgettable tale of grief, longing, and a love that lasts a lifetime.
In her Irish Times review, Sarah Gilmartin wrote: “De Waal has an effortless way of making you care about her fictional community, from fleeting cafe owners and teenage assistants, to a gentle giant Irish father, to his busybody relation who ultimately comes good. Villains and heroes are interchangeable in her worlds, catching the reader off guard and providing the kind of suspense that’s far more rewarding than a cliffhanger.”
The Sunday Times called it an “emotionally sure-handed novel exploring harrowing terrain with deft sensitivity”. The Irish Independent saluted “a deftly crafted story of suffering and grief” qwhile the Sunday Independent reviewer declared: “This story is an engaging, poignant read and I loved it”. RTÉ Guide recognised “another quietly impressive work from an empathetic writer”.The Financial Times said: “In their deftness and detail, these distillations of everyday life have all the beauty of a finely crafted life drawing.” The Guardian comented: “The “trick to time” is that it can expand or contract at will, and in creating a mature heroine with decades of history, De Waal has herself performed a feat of skilful comprehension.”
De Waal, whose real name is Mandy Theresa O’Loughlin, was born in Birmingham in 1960 to an Irish mother, who was a childminder and foster carer, and a Caribbean father and now lives in nearby Leamington Spa. She worked for 15 years in criminal and family law, was a magistrate for several years and sits on adoption panels.
Her debut novel, My Name Is Leon, about two half-brothers in 1980s Britain who face being split up by the social care system, was published by Penguin in June 2016. The audiobook is voiced by Lenny Henry, who has also optioned it for a television adaptation. It won the Kerry Group Irish Book of the Year prize at Litowel Writers’ Week and was shortlisted for the Desmond Elliott Prize and Costa First Novel Award.
The author used some of her advance to set up the Kit de Waal Creative Writing Fellowship at Birkbeck, University of London to help improve working-class representation in the arts by funding one student to study on the Birkbeck creative writing MA.
As part of International Literature Festival Dublin, Kit de Waal will discuss her work with Martin Doyle, Books Editor of The Irish Times, on Saturday, May 26th, at 6pm, in Smock Alley Theatre, Dublin. Tickets are €12, €10 concessions. The interview will be available as a podcast on irishtimes.com from May 31st.
An interview with the author by fellow writer Paul McVeigh will be published in The Irish Times next week and other articles will appear throughout May.