Irish Debut Novelists as Award Contenders

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A Girl is a Half-Formed ThingWith the news just out that the debut novel of Irish author Eimear McBride has been shortlisted for the Goldsmiths Prize, I got thinking about how much of an impact Irish authors have been making of late, most particularly first-time novelists. Eimear's book, 'A Girl is a Half-formed Thing', had in fact been rejected by publishers for a good number of years until Galley Beggar Press took a chance on it, a book other publishers thought too experimental. And of course, appropriately enough, the new literary award that is the Goldsmiths Prize is awarded to fiction that "breaks the mould and opens up new possibilities for the novel form" (site quote).

So best wishes to Eimear McBride with her debut novel, one which Ann Enright of the Guardian newspaper describes as "an instant classic", Anne in fact going on to say that McBride is "that old fashioned thing, a genius, in that she writes truth-spilling, uncompromising and brilliant prose". Eimear's book by the way is amongst some illustrious contenders, with none other than Man Booker Prize favourite Harvest by Jim Crace in the mix.

The Spinning HeartThe first-time Irish novelist that you will have heard most about over the past couple of months has surely got to be Donal Ryan, whose book 'The Spinning Heart' was one of the thirteen titles included on this year's Man Booker longlist. While the book did not unfortunately make the shortlist of five, making the rather short longlist (!) was an accolade in itself. And, as if that wasn't enough, 'The Spinning Heart', which has received rave reviews (The Spectator, The Guardian,, is on the current Guardian First Book Award longlist. Talk of McBride and publisher rejection, word is that this book was rejected 47 times before eventually being published!

City of BohaneWhile Donal Ryan might have been the most mentioned Irish debut novelist in recent months, Kevin Barry is surely THE Irish author of 2013 when it comes to accolades and achievements. His winning of the International IMPAC  Dublin Literary Award in June of this year with his first novel, 'City of Bohane', must rank him among the top achievers in terms of international authors, not to mind Irish. In winning the Award he is the recipient of the largest prize there is for a single novel published in English, nominations for which are made by public libraries around the globe. The Award is an initiative of Dublin City Council and is administered by Dublin City Public Libraries. Of the book, the Award judges said: "Kevin Barry’s Ireland of 2053 is a place you may not want to be alive in but you’ll certainly relish reading about. This is not a future of shiny technology but one in which history turns in circles and quirks an eyebrow at the idea of ‘progress’".

SolaceThe next author that comes to mind and who I consider very much worthy of mention has to be Belinda McKeon who, with her debut novel 'Solace', won the Bord Gáis Irish Book of the Year Award in 2011 and the Sunday Independent Best Newcomer Award for the same year. In July 2012, she was awarded the Geoffrey Faber Memorial Prize for the same book. This Award is given in alternate years for works of fiction and works of poetry The book was also shortlisted for the 2012 James Tait Black Memorial Prize in Fiction. Claire Coghlan of the Irish Independent said that McKeon had produced "a gorgeously written love story" where her "characterisation is flawless", and where the dialogue is "spot on in cadence and nuance" and at times is "both funny and achingly sad".  

This is How it EndsAn author vying to make her mark and shortlisted for the 2013 Kerry Group Irish Novel of the Year Award is Kathleen MacMahon, whose debut novel  'This is How it Ends' has been described in the Irish Independent as "truly a story for our time". This book, a love story between an Irish architect and an American searching for his roots, seems to have become something of a worldwide hit, with sales in 25 countries across the globe. The Irish Independent article goes on to claim that the book "signals the belated arrival of a new Irish commercial writer with an extraordinary gift and a voice that is entirely her own". Nicola Barr of the Guardian says  of this love story that, while it may not have a "cross-gender appeal" it will "leave you a weeping mess"! Kathleen MacMahon of course has literary pedigree, being as she is the granddaughter of that well-known short-story writer and novelist Mary Lavin. And in case you are wondering, no, she did not win the Irish Novel of the year Award!

DisappearedShould you wonder too if I have wandered from my usual topic for good, fear not, for my last mention is the detective thriller and debut novel 'Disappeared' by Northern Irish writer Anthony Quinn. Obviously not to be confused with a certain famous actor of the same name, or for that matter a certain Liverpool-born author. This Anthony Quinn was shortlisted for this year's US Strand Magazine Book Critics Award for 'Disappeared', the winning debut author incidentally being Matthew Quirk. Should you be curious, you might want to check out this Q&A involving Quinn and leading Irish crime fiction author, reviewer and journalist, Declan Burke. Quinn's book has been described as "a complex, but very intriguing story", one which is very exciting, well-plotted and atmospheric, and with characters that are "richly drawn". That from a source (Eurocrime) that I regularly refer to for its commentaries on new and not so new crime fiction works. So I for one will in due course seek it out.

Now, all this talk of debut novels and award nominees and winners has made me very curious as to how Irish crime fiction writers fare in that regard, and I have this certain feeling that the answer awaiting will not disappoint. More anon! 


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