books & reading

A New Harry Potter? Yes, but...

Harry Potter and the Cursed ChildQuestion: When might a Harry Potter not be a Harry Potter? Stumped? Answer: When it is not written by J.K. Rowling!

So what then is this we hear of a new Harry Potter book to be launched on the 31st July? Indeed it's true, the eight book in the series, Harry Potter and the Cursed Child - Parts I & II, is to be officially launched in Livraria Lello (Lello Bookstore) in Porto in Portugal. Now it might be a tad unfair to say it is not a J.K. Rowling book as, though not penned by her,  it is based on an original story by her together with a number of others. And it is officially the eight book on the Harry Potter series. So there, record clarified.

Reading the Somme

Soldiers at the SommeThe Battle of the Somme was the largest and bloodiest battle fought on the Western Front during World War I. It was fought between 1 July and 18 November 1916 and left more than 1 million men wounded or killed on both sides, including 3,500 Irish men (read some of their stories as recorded in the RDFA Archive). In our minds, the Somme signifies the horror of war especially the inexorable hardship, suffering and futility of trench warfare.

Image: Detail from DCLA/RDFA1.09.047A  "War 1914-15-16... in the Somme French Offensive Relieving the trenches at Dompierre" (see larger image).

If you would like to read about the Battle of the Somme we have compiled this short reading list.

Two Irish Authors on Bailey's Women Prize Shortlist

Baileys Women's Prize for FictionCongratulations to Anne Enright and Lisa McInerney who have been shortlisted for the 2016 Baileys Women's Prize for Fiction for The Green Road, and The Glorious Heresies respectively. "After a long and often passionate debate we are proud to present our 2016 shortlist," said Margaret Mountford, Chair of judges. "Our choices reflect a really diverse mix of brilliant writing from new and established authors around the world and we hope that everyone will find much to enjoy in them."

In The Green Road, Enright tells the story of the Madigan family, mother Rosaleen and her adult children Dan, Emmet, Constance and Hanna who have gathered at home for Christmas for the first time in years. Enright first introduces us to each character when they are younger, more innocent and less damaged: Hanna as a schoolgirl, Dan enjoying the freedom of the New York art scene of the 1990s, Constance, the only sibling to have stayed in Ireland, raising her young family; and Emmet, an aid worker in Mali. When they reunite in 2005 they are very different people and the reader must ponder what life has meant to each in the intervening years.

Great Novelists May Pass, But Great Novels Never Do

To Kill a MockingbirdWhat a sad month February has been in the literary world, witnessing as we have the passing of world-renowned novelists Harper Lee and Umberto Eco. And within hours of one another, how strange that is. And let me mention too English novelist Margaret Forster, who passed away on the 9th February.

America's Nelle Harper Lee,  widely known for her book 'To Kill a Mockingbird', died on the 19th February, aged 89 years, in her home state of Alabama. This modern classic was first published in 1960; indeed until the publication of the sequel 'Go Set a Watchman' in 2015 Harper Lee was a member of that rather unique club of authors known as the "one-hit wonders".

What's the Greatest British Novel?

BooksBBC Culture has asked critics and writers from all over the world to pick the greatest British novel and the resulting list is a great mix of stalwart classics and contemporary favourites. I must admit to loving top 100 lists. These are tried and tested, well-loved books, which much to offer. With so many shiny, newly published books grabbing my attention, it's good to be reminded of classics I've yet to read. 

So what title did critics from outside the UK choose as the quintessential English novel? It's not a Dickens, though three of his books feature in the top ten. It's a book by a woman, written at a time when to do so was a brave and challenging act. She published under the male pseudonym George Eliot...yes it's Middlemarch, a psychological study peopled with a range of characters each flawed in their own unique ways. Eliot shares the top ten with Virginia Woolf, Charlotte Brontë, Emily Brontë and Mary Shelley; leaving space for only two men, Dickens and Thackeray. 

Nails, Axes, Mirrors. And Love! Much ado about Crime

crime titlesIt is all too infrequent these days that I get a chance to post here on the blog regarding my crime fiction reads. It's not to say that I haven't been reading of late, far from it, but it does mean that I can struggle a little to recall the story line details of the many books I have read since my last post and how exactly I felt about them. But let me try at any rate. The following five books are either of an Italian, Thai, French or South African flavour, and I'm glad to say that none of them will disappoint. So read on!

Author Spotlight #1 - Michael Morpurgo

Michael MorpurgoWe decided to kick off our new series of regular blog posts on individual authors by putting the spotlight on that most prolific and popular of children's authors, Michael Morpurgo. A decision heavily influenced I might add by Michael's presence in Ireland right now to attend a big family event in the Concert Hall in Cork this evening.  Michael could be heard on RTE radio's 'Today with Sean O'Rourke' show yesterday morning when he was interviewed by Claire Byrne. If you missed it, you can listen to the interview online (c.16 minutes in length).

Right: Michael Morpurgo (Source)

Magical book found in Dublin - READ All About It!

The Boook of LearningWe invite children to delve into the world of Ebony Smart, a 12-year old girl whose world has just changed forever  - a new home in Dublin that is full of secrets, a magical book that unlocks the mystery to her past and a mysterious boy called Zach who befriends her – for the Citywide Reading Campaign for Children 2016.

The campaign is run by Dublin UNESCO City of Literature and Dublin City Public Libraries, in partnership with Mercier Press, and runs from January to March 2016.

New Author Sara Baume is Getting Noticed!

Sara BaumeSara Baume was yesterday awarded the Rooney Prize for Irish Literature in recognition of her outstanding achievement as a fiction writer. The prize is awarded annually to an emerging Irish writer under forty years of age for a body of work that the selection committee considers shows exceptional promise. However the Prize website does state that 'a single exceptional work may warrant an award'.

Right: Sara Baume (photo: Tramp Press)

Moone Boy Thrills Hundreds!

Moone BoyThere were some 400 children in the audience at a special 'Moone Boy' event in Dublin's Liberty Hall yesterday (14th October). Chris O'Dowd and Nick V. Murphy, co-authors of 'Moone Boy: The Fish Detective' were there entertaining the children and reading from the second in the hilarious illustrated series inspired by the Sky TV series they co-wrote.

The event was organised by the Dublin UNESCO City of Literature Office in conjunction with Dublin City Public Libraries.

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