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 2022. Marian Keyes has returned to an old friend in Rachel, Again; Colm Toibin, freshly crowned as Ireland’s Laureate, returns with a collection of poetry; Adrian McKinty follows up The Chain with a new standalone thriller The Island and Donal Ryan has a new novel, The Queen of Dirt Island slated for August.
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.
Ruth & Pen by Emilie Pine
Emilie Pine takes the compassion that so imbued her essay collection Notes to Self and channels it into her debut novel Ruth & Pen (the cover of which owes a great debt to Deborah Levy’s The Cost of Living). Set in Dublin in 2019, Ruth & Pen follows the lives of two women over one day. Neither knows the other, but both are asking the same questions: how to be with others and how, when the world won’t make space for you, to be with yourself?
The Quiet Whispers Never Stop by Olivia Fitzsimons
A debut novel set in Northern Ireland during the Troubles, Olivia Fitzsimons’ The Quiet Whispers Never Stop has been billed as ‘an uncompromising lyrical tour-de-force’. In 1982, Nuala Malin feels stifled by her husband and her family and starts a relationship with a younger man. The repercussions of her actions affect the life of her daughter Sam, twelve years later.
Spies in Canaan by David Park
I was so impressed with David Park’s last novel Travelling in a Strange Land (the final pages of which still haunt me) so I am very much looking forward to his new novel Spies in Canaan. The Belfast author has steadily built a reputation as one of the finest writers on this island. In his tenth novel, he explores themes of guilt, atonement and redemption through the story of Michael, a Vietnam vet who faces his past on a journey into the desert.
The Amusements by Aingeala Flannery
I have been lucky enough to receive a review copy of Aingeala Flannery’s debut novel The Amusements, set in the seaside resort town of Tramore. Local teenager Helen yearns to escape to art college, but with an alcoholic father and an unsympathetic mother, leaving is easier said than done. Donal Ryan called it ‘note perfect’ which is a pretty impressive endorsement!
Factory Girls by Michelle Gallen
Michelle Gallen follows up her previous hit Big Girl Small Town with another darkly comic coming-of-age tale about a young woman working a summer job in a shirt factory in Northern Ireland, while tensions rise both inside and outside the factory walls. Gallen’s writing has been praised by Roddy Doyle, so this should be a treat.
Trespasses by Louise Kennedy
Probably my most anticipated novel of the year, Trespasses is Louise Kennedy’s first novel, following her critically acclaimed short story collection The End of the World is a Cul-de-Sac. Set in Northern Ireland during the Troubles, Trespasses is a shattering novel about a young woman caught between allegiance to community and a dangerous passion.
Check back in on Wednesday when I’ll be posting Part Two of my most anticipated Irish books of the year! Have any of these titles sparked your interest?
I am a 40 something book buying addict trying to reduce the backlog one book at a time!