Thirteen may be considered unlucky for some, but not to the thirteen on the Man Booker Prize longlist which includes three Irish authors this year. Donal Ryan’s "From a Low and Quiet Sea" is his second nomination for the prize after "Spinning Heart" in 2013. Anna Burns and Sally Rooney both receive their first nominations for "Milkman" and "Normal People" respectively. Belfast born Anna Burns was shortlisted for the Orange Prize, now the Women's Prize for Fiction, in 2001 for her debut; "No Bones". Sally Rooney, at 27, is the joint youngest author to be nominated this year. She can add that to an already impressive resume that includes being the 2017 Sunday Times Young Writer of the Year. Upon ditching the requirement of the author to be either from the U.K. or the Commonwealth two years ago, the two most recent winners of the prestigious accolade have both been from the U.S. Ireland can hold its head high to have the same number of nominations as the U.S. this year. There is only one previous winner nominated this year, Michael Ondaatje, whose book "The English Patient" was crowned the best Man Booker Prize winner of the last 50 years. This year he is nominated for his captivating novel "Warlight", set in post Blitz London in 1945. In a departure for the prize, this year sees a graphic novel, "Sabrina" by Nick Drnaso, nominated for the first time. Judges are quoted as being blown away by Drnaso's "oblique, subtle and minimal" style in a work that explores the chilling effect of 24-hour news after a girl has disappeared.Farouk's country has been torn apart by war. Lampy's heart has been laid waste by Chloe. John's past torments him as he nears his end. From a Low and Quiet Sea centres around the refugee, the dreamer and the penitent. From war-torn Syria to small-town Ireland, three men, scarred by all they have loved and lost, are searching for some version of home. Each is drawn towards a powerful reckoning, one that will bring them together in the most unexpected of ways.In this unnamed city, to be interesting is dangerous. Middle sister, our protagonist, is busy attempting to keep her mother from discovering her maybe-boyfriend and to keep everyone in the dark about her encounter with the Milkman. But when first brother-in-law sniffs out her struggle, and rumours start to swell, middle sister becomes 'interesting'. The last thing she ever wanted to be. To be interesting is to be noticed and to be noticed is dangerous. "Milkman" is a tale of gossip and hearsay, silence and deliberate deafness. It is the story of inaction with enormous consequences.Connell and Marianne both grow up in the same town in rural Ireland. The similarities end there; they are from very different worlds. But they both get places to study at university in Dublin, and a connection that has grown between them despite the social tangle of school lasts long into the following years. Sally Rooney's second novel is a deeply political novel, just as it's also a novel about love. It's about how difficult it is to speak to what you feel and how difficult it is to change. It's wry and seductive; perceptive and bold. Normal People will make you cry and you will know yourself through it.As a nation that has the most Nobel Laureates per capita in the world, Ireland has always punched far above her weight in the literary world. Donal Ryan, Anna Burns and Sally Rooney continue the hallowed Irish tradition of captivating their readers with their touching and unflinchingly human stories. We wish them the very best of luck and hopefully one of them will be the fifth Irish Man Booker Prize winner.The Man Booker Prize Longlist:Snap, Belinda BauerMilkman, Anna BurnsSabrina, Nick DrnasoWashington Black, Esi EdugyanIn Our Mad and Furious City, Guy GunaratneEverything Under, Daisy JohnsonThe Mars Room, Rachel KushnerThe Water Cure, Sophie MackintoshWarlight, Michael OndaatjeThe Overstory, Richard PowersThe Long Take, Robin RobertsonNormal People, Sally RooneyFrom a Low and Quiet Sea, Donal RyanPress on the Man Booker:Three Irish Authors nominated for Man Booker Prize 2018 (Irish Times)First Graphic Novel nominated for Man Booker Prize 2018 (The Guardian)About the Man Booker:The Man Booker Prize is one of the world's most famous literary prizes for contemporary fiction. From 2014 eligibility for The Man Booker Prize was extended to include novels originally written in English and published in the UK, regardless of the nationality of their author. Previously it was only awarded to the best novel of the year written by a citizen of the Commonwealth or the Republic of Ireland.
Christmas Holidays - time to curl up with a book...
I love the long, warm, bright summer evenings - but the long, chilly, dark winter evenings have their charms too, as long as I have something good to read. The girls in my house have stored up some special reads for those lazy days between Christmas and New Year. We've had to banish the chosen books from sight so we're not tempted to start reading immediately - there lies grave danger of no present buying, pudding making, tree trimming or other essential ingredients of Christmas. Daughter Number One is hoarding Caitlin Moran's 'Moranthology' - she enjoyed 'How To Be A Woman' and no doubt we'll all dip into this anthology if we get a chance. Her second choice is another anthology, 'We Have a Good Time, Don't We?' by Maeve Higgins. Having loved Maeve's quirky comedy routines and television appearances (especially 'Fancy Vittles' with her sister Lily Higgins) she is looking forward with mounting pleasure to meeting Maeve again in print. If Maeve's recent columns in the Irish Times as stand-in for Róisín Ingle are any indication, the book should be a great read (I'll be waiting in line to grab it as soon as she puts it down).Daughter Number Two is a history addict and has ordered the O'Brien Press graphic novel 'At War With The Empire' by Gerry Hunt - it will be an historic moment in itself if I can keep it out of her hands until after Christmas. She will also probably re-read 'The Fault In Our Stars' a sad and funny coming of age novel by John Green. In fact, given enough time curled up in her new dinosaur 'onsie' she will probably read her way through John Green's entire back catalogue.Both of them will spend many competitive minutes scanning 'Where's Larry' - Ireland's answer to 'Where's Wally' - to find Larry the Leprechaun at the Cliffs of Moher, Newgrange, the St. Patrick's Day Parade and, my favourite, Puck Fair (who says you have to grow up?)And me? I've squirreled away 'Standing in Another Man's Grave', the new Rebus novel by Ian Rankin - fans don't need an explanation. I might also try 'Brother Grimm' by Craig Russell, as recommended by a fellow blogger on this site - who could resist the joint lure of crime and fairytales? Neither daughter is a crime fiction fan (yet) so I won't have to fight to keep the books to myself - though I reserve the right to steal glances at their choices. Roll on the holidays!All seven of our holiday reading choices are available in Dublin City Public Libraries - though you might have to join a waiting list for the more popular titles (or ask Santa). Ten seems to be the magic number for lists, so I'd love to hear your three suggestions to finish the holiday reading list - go on...tell us - who will you be curling up with this Christmas?
Have you ever speculated which books you would bring with you to a desert island? (I've always thought that should be 'deserted' not 'desert' but perhaps it's an obscure grammar point I don't get?) As part of the Re Think + Re Act Exhibition, Pivot Dublin have set up a Reading Room in Filmbase in Temple Bar, Dublin. They invited readers in Dublin to submit their favourite book to be displayed in the Reading Room during the exhibition. My choice? The three girls in my family got together to raid our groaning bookshelves and share our favourite books with Dubliners at the Reading Room. Come along and see if you can find them.Persepolis: The Story of a Childhood and the Story of a Return, by Marjane Satrapi - all three of us love this book. It's a graphic novel that tells the story of one girls experience in pre and post revolution Iran. It's funny and sad and infuriating and brilliant. It was made into an excellent animated film by Vincent Paronnaud and Marjane Satrapi.An Chanáil, by Marie-Louise Fitzpatrick - one of the very few children's books that depicts an accurate, modern (relatively) urban Dublin. This is a very special book, unfortunately now out of print. If you live anywhere between the two canals, take a close look at this and inhabit the streets along the Grand Canal in a new, virtual way, while sharing the story of a child and a lost dog. The Tin-Pot Foreign General and the Old Iron Woman, by Raymond Briggs - we show this book to everyone who comes into our house, and then sit back and watch their reaction. Have a look yourself and see the genius of the creator of the (much more famous) Snowman in a much darker mood in this savage political satire and heart-breaking anti-war picturebook that defies categorisation, but is definitely not for young children. The book was created in reaction to the Falklands War and the two main characters are thinly disguised versions of the Argentinian General Galtieri and Britain's Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher. A perfect example of 'Re Think, Re Act'. This is Ireland, by M. Sasek - This is part of a series, which includes 'This is London', 'This is Paris', 'This is Edinburgh' and 'This is New York' - published over fifty years ago but re-issued in the original format with some updates at the end. They are a kind of time-warp Pathé News style 'best bits' travelogue of each place. For some strange reason 'This is Ireland' highlights Kilbeggan and its distillery as one of the highlights of Ireland - maybe the writer had a granny from Westmeath! Mister Magnolia, by Quentin Blake - almost anything by Quentin Blake could have been included here, but Mister Magnolia has a special place in our hearts. When children are very young they often insist on the same story being read again, and again, and again, and ag...you get the drift. This is when a well written, brilliantly illustrated and consistently amusing story is worth anything you have to pay for it. This is one I never got bored with - even when daughter number one would ask for it just 'one last, last, last time'. Quentin Blake is probably best known as the illustrator of Roald Dahl's stories, but he has proved time and time again that he can write his own stories too.Horrible Histories: Ireland, by Terry Deary - this one was chosen by the younger members of the household, but who am I to argue with them? History with all the good bits left in! And, unlike one or two of my other choices, at least it's easily available.A Monster Calls, a novel by Patrick Ness, from an original idea by Siobhan Dowd - this book has been deservedly chosen by so many people as one of the best childrens books of recent years, in fact, one of the best books of recent years. It's about facing up to impending bereavement and making the best of flawed but emotionally 'good enough' relationships. I got my (adult) Book Club to read it last year and they were stunned by its integrity and emotional power. It may be written for children, but it doesn't talk down to anyone. Kissing the Witch, by Emma Donoghue - Dublin born, Canada based writer Emma Donoghue had a small but loyal following until the Booker Prize-winning novel 'Room' catapulted her to international literary stardom. Emma wrote 'Kissing the Witch' in 1988, long before 'Room' - it's a collection of fairy tales, re-worked from a feminist perspective. Sound dull? I suppose it's not everyone's cup of tea, but I really, really love this book. Actually, this is a perfect 'Re Act, Re Think' book too because each story completely re-imagines a well known fairy tale; Sleeping Beauty, The Little Mermaid, Cinderella etc. Emma retells each story in her elegant, exact, poetic prose, but this time we go beyond the archetypes of the stories to the reality of their situations, for example, in this version the Little Mermaid ends up, not as foam on the waves, but as a 'ruined woman' when her prince rejects her love for a more suitable match. Each linked story has a 'pivotal moment', usually when the heroine rejects the advice of her older and wiser sister - now, if she'd only listened to that witch... We are all doomed to ignore the witch though - until we become her!That's all folks! Well, you didn't really expect me to choose just one book, did you?Now...what would you choose?