IF you're heading off on your holidays and have yet to pack your poolside reading here are nine Irish books that will make the perfect accompaniment to your trip.
From thrillers, to award-winners and an intriguing would-be sports autobiography, there's something for everyone in our round up of the best books with Irish authors or subjects on offer this summer…
The Countenance Divine, Michael Hughes, published by John Murray
Set in four interweaving time periods, The Countenance Divine has been described as "genre-blending". In 1999, a programmer is trying to fix the Millennium Bug, but "can't shake the sense he's been chosen for something"; in 1888, five women are brutally murdered in the East End by a troubled young man in thrall to a mysterious master; in 1777, an apprentice engraver called William Blake has a defining spiritual experience; and in 1666, poet and revolutionary John Milton completes his epic. But where does the feeling come from that the world is about to end?" Author Michael Hughes, who was born and raised in Keady, Co. Armagh and now lives in London, read English at Corpus Christi College, Oxford, trained in theatre at the Jacques Lecoq School in Paris, and worked for many years as an actor, before turning his hand to writing. The Countenance Divine is his first novel.
The Glorious Heresies, Lisa McInerney, published by John Murray
Winner of both the Baileys' Women's Prize for Fiction and the Desmond Elliot Prize in 2016, The Glorious Heresies is clearly one of the stand out books of the year - based on five misfits who live on the fringes of Ireland’s post economic crash society. Galway-born author Lisa McInerney takes the reader on a moving and dark but comic journey, where one messy murder affects the lives of each of her five protagonists – which includes Ryan, a fifteen-year-old drug dealer desperate not to turn out like his alcoholic father, Tony, whose obsession with his unhinged next-door neighbour threatens to ruin him and his family, and Georgie, a prostitute whose willingness to feign a religious conversion has dangerous repercussions. Described as ‘biting, moving and darkly funny’, The Glorious Heresies explores salvation, shame and the legacy of Ireland's twentieth-century attitudes to sex and family.
Himself, Jess Kidd, published by Canongate
A dark new voice in Irish fiction tells a haunting story of an abandoned son in search of his mother, set in a small Irish town full of secrets and lies. When a nun from his orphanage dies, 26-year-old Mahony is given an envelope. Inside is a photograph of his mother with a note suggesting she was taken from him. So he returns to the town of his birth in the West of Ireland to find out what happened, and why. When he arrives in the village from which no one ever leaves, his familiar looks and outsider ways cause a stir amongst the locals, who receive him with a mixture of awe and suspicion. Jess Kidd draws on her Irish heritage to create a page-turner that will you have you gripped from start to end. Brought up in London as part of a large family from Mayo, the author plans to settle somewhere along the west coast of Ireland in the next few years.
Red Dirt, E. M. Reapy, published by Head of Zeus
Co. Mayo-based author Elizabeth Reapy claims her time spent travelling in Australia provided much of the inspiration for her first book. Red Dirt is described as a ‘gripping tale of loss and hope, of self-destruction and self-acceptance’ and focuses on three young Irish people who have gone down under to escape the economic ruins of their home country and their own unhappy lives. However, in this promised land, where they find themselves stunned by the heat and the vast arid space of its interior, they are surrounded by new friends who are even more damaged and dangerous than they are themselves. Set in a chaotic world of backpacker hostels, huge fruit farms and squalid factories, where endless supplies of cheap drink and drugs loosen what little sense of responsibility they have, each emigrant unravels in a spiral of self-destructive behaviour which forces them to face up to the reality of their lives.
Solar Bones, Mike McCormack, published by Tramp Press
Once a year, on All Souls’ Day, it is said in Ireland that the dead may return. Solar Bones, by Mike McCormack is the story of one such visit, where Marcus Conway, a middle-aged engineer, turns up one afternoon at his kitchen table and considers the events that took him away and then brought him home again. Funny and strange, McCormack’s ambitious and other-worldly novel plays with form and defies convention, creating, at once, a beautiful and haunting elegy, which captures themes of order and chaos and love and loss. It is the third novel by the award-wining novelist and short story writer from Mayo, whose previous work includes Notes from a Coma (2005), and Forensic Songs (2012). His latest offering, his first in ten years, is ultimately a ghost story set during Ireland’s recession. It is published by the independent Tramp Press, who describe it as ‘Proust but with tractors’.
The Green Road, Anne Enright, published by Jonathan Cape
Anne Enright is another award winning Irish author whose latest tome is making waves across the literary world this year. The Green Road is a story of fracture and family, selfishness and compassion – a book about the gaps in the human heart and how we learn to fill them. In it, the Dublin author has created a piece of fiction that is centred on the children of Rosaleen Madigan, who leave the west of Ireland for lives they never could have imagined in Dublin, New York and various third-world towns. But when their mother announces that she’s decided to sell the house and divide the proceeds her adult children back from their respective corners of the world for one last Christmas in the family home, with eventful results. Enright, who is married to the actor Martin Murphy and lives in Dublin, won the 2007 Man Booker Prize for Fiction for The Gathering. The Green Road was shortlisted for the Bailey's Women's Prize for Fiction 2016.
Lying in Wait, Liz Nugent, published by Penguin Ireland
Lydia Fitzsimons lives in the perfect house with her adoring husband and beloved son. There is just one thing Lydia yearns for to make her perfect life complete, though the last thing she expects is that pursuing it will lead to murder. However, needs must - because nothing can stop this mother from getting what she wants. Dublin-based author Liz Nugent has worked in Irish film, theatre and television for most of her adult life and her first novel, the No 1 bestselling Unravelling Oliver, won the Crime Fiction award in the 2014 Irish Book Awards. Her latest tale is a dark, twisty and utterly gripping domestic noir that will keep you hooked from start to finish. Described by some as Ireland’s answer to gone girl, lying in wait provides twists, turns and utterly despicable characters that will make it a compulsive reading triumph.
Martin John, Anakana Schofield, published by And Other Stories
Martin John must put a stop to it. They have an agreement, he and Mam. Get out to Aunty Noanie on Wednesday. Stop talking rubbish. Don’t go near the buses and don’t go down on the Tube. Keep yourself on the outside. Get a job at night. Get a job at night or else I’ll come for ya. But Martin John can’t stop. Meddlers are interrupting him and Martin John doesn’t like Meddlers. If he’s interrupted he can’t complete his circuits; if he can’t complete his circuits, bad things may happen. That’s a fact. Written with all the electrifying humour of her award-winning debut Malarky, exhibiting a startling grasp of the loops and obsessions of a molester’s mind, Martin John is a testament to Canadian Irish author’s Anakana Schofield’s skill and audacity—and stands as a brilliant, Beckettian exploration of a man’s long slide into deviancy.
Forever Young – The Story of Adrian Doherty, Football’s Lost Genius, Oliver Kay, published by Quercus
The tale of Adrian Doherty, Irish soccer’s lost genius, is not your average hard-luck story. As a youth, Doherty had more talent than David Beckham – by all accounts – and there’s a strong case to suggest he could have been better than Ryan Giggs too, but his life took a very different path to those Old Trafford legends. On the brink of making his Old Trafford debut at the age of 17, Doherty suffered an anterior cruciate ligament tear in his right knee playing for the club’s ‘A’ team. Eventually he was released by the club and later quit soccer for good. His adventurous spirit eventually attracted him to the Netherlands, but within a week of moving there he tragically passed away a day before his 27th birthday. Although ultimately a sad tale of wasted talent and tragedy, the fascinating story of Adrian Doherty is a must-read, well told by author Oliver Kay.