Irish Novels to look out for in 2020: Part 2 #readingirelandmonth20

Welcome to Part Two of my round-up of new books coming out of Ireland this year. There are so many that I’m looking forward to that one post just wasn’t enough!



A Quiet Tide by Marianne Lee

New Island Books, March 2020

 Yesterday I highlighted Adele by Nicola Cassidy which aims to bring Adele Astaire back into the limelight. In A Quiet Tide, Marianne Lee aims to do the same for Ellen Hutchins, an Irish botanist who lived in Bantry, County Cork at the start of the 19th century. Ellen Hutchins specialised in seaweeds, lichens, mosses and liverworts and was known for finding many plants new to science, identifying hundreds of species, and for her botanical illustrations in contemporary publications.

A Quiet Tide aims to capture the essence of this long-forgotten Irishwoman whose potential was curtailed by ill-health, family crises and social convention. Exploring themes of female autonomy and agency, A Quiet Tide is a heart-breaking story of hope and resilience.


The Truth Must Dazzle Gradually by Helen Cullen

Michael Joseph, May 2020

Having been shortlisted for Newcomer Of The Year at the 2018 Irish Book Awards for The Lost Letters Of William Woolf, Cullen’s sophomore outing focuses on the Moone family, who experience tragedy after gathering on an island off the west of Ireland. As the Moone kids wrestle with who their mother and father truly are, we revisit their parents’ past – which holds the key to a future none of the family could have predicted.


As You Were by Elaine Feeney

Harvill Secker, March 2020

Elaine Feeney was recently included in The Guardian’s 10 Best Debut Novelists in 2020 list and buzz for her first novel As You Were is growing, having already been praised by Marian Keyes and Lisa McInerney.

As You Were follows Sinead Hynes, a driven young property developer and a mother, who has a difficult past and a terrifying secret – something she has confessed only to Google and a shiny magpie.  She is in bed in a failing hospital, reliant on the kindness of strangers, particularly two older women, Margaret Rose and Jane, to help her.

Exploring themes of mental health, women’s voices and historical systemic abuse of women in Ireland, Feeney says that ‘As You Were’ is a book born out of the trust and the chats women have in the most peculiar of spaces, their eagerness to open up and understand each other, and it critiques the patriarchal system within Irish institutions that has silenced their voices, through fear, for many decades.’


Tennis Lessons by Susannah Dickey

Doubleday, June 2020

 You know you’re strange and wrong. You’ve known it from the beginning.

 Susannah Dickey is a Belfast based poet and winner of the inaugural Verve Poetry Festival competition. Her debut novel Tennis Lessons will be achingly and painfully familiar to anyone who has struggled through a fraught adolescence – and let’s face it, who hasn’t? Told in the second person, Tennis Lessons is the unflinchingly honest story of one misfit and her uncertain journey to something like happiness. Stopping by each year along the way, she navigates disastrous dates, dead pets, crashed cars, best friends and lost loves. This is a striking portrait of a young woman, and the book’s strength lies in its vivid voice and strong characterisation. There is nothing in these fragmentary vignettes that suggests an extraordinary life, but by creating so recognisable a girl, Susannah Dickey reminds us that we’re all a bit different and that even when we feel most lost, probably everyone else is feeling the same way too.


The Wild Laughter by Caoilinn Hughes

Oneworld, May 2020

‘What a profound, much needed, urgent novel. It’s dark and beautiful and touches the heart of what deep suffering our political systems have brought upon the world, but seen in that clearest way – intimately, microscopically, through family. The myriad ways they can love, hurt and betray one another.’ Fatima Bhutto

If you have already read Caoilinn Hughes debut novel ‘Orchid & the Wasp’ you’ll understand why there is so much anticipation for her follow up ‘The Wild Laughter’. And, by the way, if you haven’t read Orchid & the Wasp, you need to rectify that straight away!

The Wild Laughter is set in 2008, in the aftermath of the Celtic Tiger and focuses on two bankrupt brothers Hart and Cormac Doherty, who think that life can’t get much worse. They are about to be proved wrong and when their father falls ill, they realise that they have an even bigger decision to make about their future and the future of their family.


You Have to Make Your Own Fun Around Here by Frances Macken

Oneworld, April 2020

The debut is “a colourful and vivid tale about the complexities of female friendship, the corrosive power of jealousy and guilt”, as well as exploring how “life can quietly erode our dreams”, Oneworld said. The publisher called Dublin-based writer Macken “a major voice in contemporary fiction”.

Set in the small Irish town of Glenbruff, the story centres on the friendship between narrator Katie and the domineering, sometimes spiteful Evelyn. The synopsis reads: “Convinced that the girls will be friends forever, Katie willingly follows Evelyn’s lead as they explore their strange hometown together. Trailing at their heels is the gormless Maeve, Evelyn’s adopted cousin who was abandoned by her mother. Into this close-knit if disparate group of friends arrives Pamela Cooney. Fresh from Dublin, she’s talented and beautiful, and she changes Glenbruff forever.”

So there we have it, another six great books to look forward to in the coming year. Check back later in the month when I’ll round up my most anticipated short story collections and non-fiction books!

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Ireland Month Irish Literature

Cathy746books View All →

I am a 40 something book buying addict trying to reduce the backlog one book at a time!

23 Comments Leave a comment

  1. I’ve read and enjoyed the Macken, set in familiar territory for anyone who – like me – grew up in the sticks and couldn’t wait to leave. Tennis Lessons has been popping up in my Twitter timeline frequently and I’d wondered if it was being hyped but you’ve reassured me. Another great Irish fiction preview, Cathy!


  2. im so excited to read As You Were! Sinéad Gleeson, who wrote Constellations, one of my fav books of last year, recommended it on her twitter and i really trust her opinion so i cant wait to see what the book is all about ☺


  3. I love both these posts, you’ve highlighted so many authors and books I’d never heard of. I’m not going to officially #ReadIreland this month as I’m snowed under with the Women’s Prize and the Not the Wellcome Prize, but at least there are two Irish authors on the Women’s Prize longlist!


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