2021 is shaping up to be another great year for Irish literature. With so many Irish books making their way on to longlist and shortlists across the UK and Ireland, it will be interesting to see what makes a splash in the coming months. Some big names have books scheduled for release in 2021. Lisa McInerney returns with The Rules of Revelation, the third in her Glorious Heresies trilogy while Colm Toibin will publish The Magician later in the year and there will, as always, be a new John Banville. Most anticipated will undoubtedly be the new Sally Rooney, Beautiful World, Where Are You which will be published by Faber in September.
There are though, a lot of other really interesting and exciting books coming out of Ireland this year from debut writers and smaller presses that might not get just so much attention, so over the next two days, I’m going to highlight some of the books that will be worth keeping an eye out for.
A Shock by Keith Ridgway
Nearly ten years after the release of his cult hit Hawthorn & Child, comes a long-anticipated new novel from Keith Ridgway. A Shock is his seventh book and features interlocking stories through which a clutch of characters appear, disappear and reappear. Ridway’s characters are all on the fringes of London life, often clinging on by their fingertips.
Keith Ridgway is, to my mind, one of the most intriguing contemporary writers and I enjoy his sense of the absurd and the surreal. I’ve read and loved several of his books including Animals, Horses and The Spectacular. During short story week I’ll be reviewing his collection Standard Time.
Small Things Like These by Claire Keegan
Faber, Autumn 2021
Given how much I adored Foster, it’s no surprise that I am very much lookin forward to Claire Keegan’s new novel Small Things Like These coming later this year.
An exquisite wintery parable, Claire Keegan’s long-awaited return tells the story of a simple act of courage and tenderness, in the face of conformity, fear and judgement. To read it is to be deeply touched by hope and by the sheer storytelling brilliance of one of Ireland’s great writers.Alex Bowler, Faber & Faber
In the weeks leading up to Christmas, Bill Furlong, a family man confronts his past and a discovery which leads him to find and renew the fire and freshness in his heart. Told with restraint and grace, it promises to display Claire Keegan’s phenomenal talent, a writer who has won praise from Hilary Mantel, Anne Enright and Richard Ford.
Nora by Nuala O’Connor
New Island Books, April 2021
Nuala O’Connor is a great friend of 746 Books and a fantastic writer and I can’t wait to read this bold reimagining of the life of James Joyce’s wife, muse, and the model for Molly Bloom in Ulysses.
Dublin, 1904. Nora Joseph Barnacle is a twenty-year-old from Galway working as a maid at Finn’s Hotel. She enjoys the liveliness of her adopted city and on June 16—Bloomsday—her life is changed when she meets Dubliner James Joyce, a fateful encounter that turns into a lifelong love. Nora follows Joyce in pursuit of a life beyond Ireland, and they surround themselves with a buoyant group of friends that grows to include Samuel Beckett, Peggy Guggenheim, and Sylvia Beach.But as their life unfolds, Nora finds herself in conflict between their intense desire for each other and the constant anxiety of living in poverty throughout Europe. So even when Jim writes, drinks, and gambles his way to literary acclaim, Nora provides unflinching support and inspiration, but at a cost to her own happiness and that of their children.
Seed by Joanna Walsh
No Alibis Press, June 2021
Seed’s narrator is on the threshold of adulthood, living in an English valley in the late 1980s when life is overshadowed by fears of nuclear contagion, AIDS and CJD. Composed in narrative threads of poetic prose, Seed explores universal themes of restriction and desire, delving deep into the narrator’s subjective consciousness and demonstrating the polyphonic discourse – fashion magazines, art, public health advice – and relationships that shape her becoming.
Joanna Walsh created the unique artwork for Seed by coding a piece of generative digital art, Thicket, which grows and spreads to give a unique visual result each time the program is run. This promises to be a brilliant read and a gorgeous object!
Check Out 19 by Claire-Louise Bennett
Penguin, August 2021
Claire-Louise Bennett’s debut short story collection Pond was published in 2015 by Fitzcarraldo Editions. She follows it with a new novel billed as a “deeply felt, original and devastatingly moving”.
Checkout 19 follows a young woman who finds herself in love, in conflict with life and death, and in a life made of books, where the act of turning the page is a way of carrying on living. Fearlessly inventive in its from, merging linguistic ingenuity and a searing emotional depth, the book explores class, the notion of freedom, adolescence, transcendence, sexual politics and artistic synthesis.
With fierce imagination, a woman revisits the moments that shape her life; from crushes on teachers to navigating relationships in a fast-paced world; from overhearing her grandmothers’ peculiar stories to nurturing her own personal freedom and a boundless love of literature.
Fusing fantasy with lived experience, Checkout 19 promises to be a vivid and mesmerising journey through the small traumas and triumphs that define us – as readers, as writers, as human beings.
Redder Days by Sue Rainsford
Penguin, March 2021
Published next week, Redder Days is Sue Rainsford’s follow-up to her audacious and compelling debut Follow Me To Ground.
Twins Anna and Adam live in an abandoned commune in a volatile landscape where they prepare for the world-ending event they believe is imminent. Adam keeps watch by day, Anna by night. They meet at dawn and dusk.
Their only companion is Koan, the commune’s former leader, who still exerts a malignant control over their daily rituals. But when one of the previous inhabitants returns, everything Anna and Adam thought they knew to be true is thrown into question.
Redder Days sounds just as unsettling and uncompromising as Follow Me To Ground and it will be very interesting to see what Rainsford has done in this second novel.
Does anything here take your fancy? If not, don’t worry! I’ll be back tomorrow with another round-up of fiction books by Irish authors that promise to make a splash in 2021
I am a 40 something book buying addict trying to reduce the backlog one book at a time!