THE University of Liverpool’s Institute of Irish Studies has announced its three-book shortlist for the second annual John McGahern Book Prize.
Launched last year, the competition comes with a prize of £5,000, for the best debut novel or short story collection by an Irish writer or writer resident in Ireland.
A total of 16 entries were received for 2020 and have now been read and adjudicated upon by the shortlisting committee, which consists of Professor Dame Janet Beer, Vice-Chancellor, University of Liverpool; Professor Frank Shovlin, Professor of Irish Literature, University of Liverpool; and Sarah Gilmartin, fiction reviewer at The Irish Times.
The three shortlisted books are This Happy by Niamh Campbell, The Weight of Love, by Hilary Fannin and Modern Times by Cathy Sweeney.
An overall winner will be chosen this summer by the Chancellor of the University of Liverpool, Colm Tóibín.
Niamh Campbell, This Happy (Weidenfeld & Nicolson)
Niamh Campbell writes with the flair and confidence of an established author. The reader is drawn quickly into the world of her protagonist, Alannah, a woman in her early 30s whose toxic relationship with a university professor makes for a compelling read. This Happy is a layered and vibrant debut, packed with astute observations on human behaviour told in a sardonic voice that always has one eye on the absurd.
Hilary Fannin, The Weight of Love (Doubleday)
Hilary Fannin, already well established as a journalist, memoirist and playwright makes her fictional debut with The Weight of Love, a beautiful novelistic exploration of ordinary lives unravelling in the face of desire. This novel is an intimate and moving account of the intricacies of marriage and the myriad ways in which we can love and be loved.
Cathy Sweeney, Modern Times (Weidenfeld & Nicolson)
Cathy Sweeney’s Modern Times is a compact and compelling short story collection with a series of often eccentric and dissonant vignettes bound together by an overriding preoccupation with sex and its discontents. The result is a compulsively readable debut, equally assertive in both male and female registers, revealing a wonderful, fresh imagination at work.