Lost in a dream of literature: authors
Interleaved with reflections on anatomy and medical imaging, the extraordinary Sight by Jessie Greengrass (John Murray, €20.99) was an early standout, balancing forensic and visceral insights as its unnamed narrator contemplates the deep bodily transformations wrought by her mother’s recent death and her own pregnancy.
It was followed by Amy Sackville’s Painter to the King (Granta, €21), which observes the rise of Velazquez at the court of Philip IV, conjuring both his masterpieces and their subjects in meticulous and suitably ravishing prose.
Unless we’re going to leave it vacant, now that we have run out of male octogenarians, the office of greatest living American novelist ought surely to be assumed by Elizabeth Strout. A sequel of sorts to the quietly magnificent My Name is Lucy Barton (Penguin, €12.60), Anything is Possible (Penguin, €12.60) manages to surpass it and makes her claim uncontestable.
A particular highlight was Melissa Harrison’s All Among the Barley (Bloomsbury, €18.20), a beautiful eulogy to a lost England that subverts its own seductiveness to warn of the dark potency of an illusory past in times of turmoil.
Paraic O’donnell is the author of
The Book of Love (Harpercollins, €16.99) by Irish author Fionnuala Kearney is my ‘must read’ of 2018. Perfect for fans of Jojo Moyes, this is a beautifully written story charting more than 20 years of the relationship between Dom and Erin. Kearney writes the intricacies of a long-term relationship with such warmth and honesty that this is a truly unforgettable read.
I also loved The Lion Tamer Who Lost (Orenda Books, €10.15) by UK writer Louise Beech. Again it’s a love story, this time between two men whose relationship is lifechanging and life-affirming. This book really got under my skin as a beautiful portrait of love, loss and longing.
In a completely different genre, Skin Deep (Penguin, €10.99) by Liz Nugent was the most gripping book I read this year. Main character Delia is a brilliantly written irredeemable character. Deeply disturbing in places, this book was one I absolutely could not put down.
It has been a year of rich pickings for both fiction and creative non-fiction. Seven Irish authors at the top of their game nominate their outstanding reads of the last 12 months, resulting in a long list that’s sure to satisfy the book lover in your life, writes Claire Coughlan
Claire Allan is the author of ‘
Crudo by Olivia Laing (Picador, €18.20): I enjoyed this playful, evocative, daring work of autofictional writing immensely, the blending of the real and the created in the here-and-now of the newsfeed of the summer of 2017 is terrifically executed.
Notes to Self (Tramp Press, €15) by Emilie Pine is simply essential reading, I read this and re-read it in single sittings, riveted, moved, challenged, enlightened, and, ultimately, uplifted. Break. Up (Tuskar Rock, €14.65) by Joanna Walsh, is the latest from this wonderful and enigmatic writer. It’s an auto-fictional odyssey across Europe, a haunting dissection of a love affair gone wrong.
A Ladder to the Sky (Doubleday, €20.99) by John Boyne is a pure pleasure from start to finish, an often hilarious, frequently startling satire on the literary world, a captivating and chilling blend of Patricia Highsmith and Evelyn Waugh.
Arnold Thomas Fanning is the author of
(Penguin Ireland, €18).
As 2018 wasn’t the most glorious year for us Mayo football fans, I burrowed myself in the hurling instead. Paul Rouse’s The Hurlers (Penguin Ireland, €24.99) was the perfect read for a brilliant hurling year — the history of hurling told as intriguing stories that has stayed with me. The descriptions of Michael Cusack as a Dickens-type character are particularly strong. Joanna Walsh’s Break. Up (Tuskar Rock, €14.65) is an intense, beautifully written book about the end of a mostly online relationship. I parcelled it out to myself in small doses because every sentence was a keeper. It’s one of those fiction/non-fiction hybrids that’s impossible to categorise and equally impossible to forget.
Alicia Kopf ’s Brother In Ice (And Other Stories, €11.30) is another hard-to-label book that I loved. The narrator manages to weave together her obsession with exploratory expeditions to the North and South Poles, the difficulty of getting a diagnosis for her autistic brother, and thoughts about her own creativity.
Caitriona Lally is the author of
(Borough Press, €12.59) which won this year’s Rooney Prize.
Sogni (‘Dreams’) by Vittorio Matteo Corcos (courtesy Galeria Nazionale d’arte Moderna, Rome)