Lost in a dream of lit­er­a­ture: au­thors

Sunday Independent (Ireland) - Living - - BOOKS - Paraic O’don­nell Claire Al­lan Arnold Thomas Fan­ning Caitri­ona Lally

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 ‘

(Avon, €11.20).

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)

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