A Book for Every Year…

I got the idea for this post primarily from the brilliant Christa over at A Voluptuous Mind who posed a list earlier in the year of her favourite movies from every year she has been alive.

I got to thinking what my favourite books would be and inspired by the 1951 Club, I thought I would list my choice for the best books of 1971 to 2015! The reason I’m stopping at 2015 is because I didn’t read any notable new releases in 2016 or so far this year given my on-going book ban. Some years were easier than others – 1971 was pretty tough, but I had to debate between several books for 1993! Some were read at the time (although obviously I wasn’t reading John Berger on my first birthday!) and some only recently, but they represent a selection of some of my favourite books!

So, let’s kick off and see if any of your favourites are here too!

1971 – 1980

1971: The Dead Zone by Stephen King

1972: Ways of Seeing by John Berger

1973: Deenie by Judy Blume

1974: Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance by Robert M Pirsig

1975: American Buffalo by David Mamet

1976: Will you Please be Quiet, Please by Raymond Carver

1977: Dispatches by Michael Herr

1978: Tales of the City by Armistead Maupin

1979: The Executioners Song by Norman Mailer

1980: A Confederacy of Dunces by John Kennedy Toole

1981 – 1990

1981: Good Behaviour by Molly Keane

1982: The Secret Diary of Adrian Mole Aged 13 ¾ by Sue Townsend

1983: Fool for Love by Sam Sheperd

1984: Money by Martin Amis

1985: Love in the Time of Cholera by Gabriel Garcia Marquez

1986: Perfume by Patrick Suskind

1987: The New York Trilogy by Paul Auster

1988: Libra by Don DeLillo

1989: A Prayer for Owen Meaney by John Irving

1990: Blonde by Joyce Carol Oates

1991 – 2000

1991: Seeing Things by Seamus Heaney

1992: The Secret History by Donna Tartt

1993: Paddy Clarke Ha Ha Ha! By Roddy Doyle

1994: The Skriker by Caryl Churchill

1995: Behind the Scenes at the Museum by Kate Atkinson

1996: Reading in the Dark by Seamus Deane

1997: The God of Small Things by Arundhati Roy

1998: Birds of America by Lorrie Moore

1999: Plainsong by Kent Haruf

2000: The Blind Assassin by Margaret Atwood

2001 – 2010

2001: Bel Canto by Ann Patchett

2002: Fingersmith by Sarah Waters

2003: We Need to Talk About Kevin by Lionel Shriver

2004: Cloud Atlas by David Mitchell

2005: The Year of Magical Thinking by Joan Didion

2006: The Arrival by Shaun Tan

2007: Remainder by Tom McCarthy

2008: A Fraction of the Whole by Steve Toltz

2009: A Scattering Christopher Reid

2010: A Visit from the Goon Squad – Jennifer Egan

2011 – 2015

2011: Ready Player One by Ernest Cline

2012: Wild by Cheryl Strayed

2013: Tenth of December by George Saunders

2014: A Girl is a Half Formed Thing by Eimear McBride

2015: Tender by Belinda McKeon

Any of these take you back to a specific year? Or is anyone else tempted to make a list of their own? I’d quite like to do the same for music and movies, if I can find the time!

20 Books of Summer 2016 – how did you do?

Well, that’s it – 20 Books of Summer is officially over!

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Did I do it? Just about. I’m two thirds of the way through book 20, so I’m calling this one a win!

It’s been a hectic summer and it has flown by and if the reviews weren’t so plentiful at least the reading was great. I picked 20 really fantastic books this year and that made my challenge much, much easier. I didn’t really read any that I didn’t enjoy and while I had some issues with My Lover’s Lover, Sister and Blue Nights, I’m still glad I read them.

On the plus side, I really loved quite a few of my summer books. Stand outs were MJ Hyland’s mesmerizing This Is How and the heartwarming charm of The Republic of Love by Carol Shields. A quick search has told me that I have a couple more of her novels in the 746, so I can’t wait to read those. Honourable mentions should also go to A Crime in the Neighbourhood, The Keep and The Age of Innocence, all of which were great and I’m glad I made one swap, as Belinda McKeon’s Solace was a quiet gem.

So how did you all do? I know a few people finished all 20 a few weeks ago, which is fantastic, but as long as we all had fun, that’s the main thing.

I’d really like to thank you all – all 82 you! – for taking part and making it a great summer challenge. I was overwhelmed by how many of you got involved. A particular shout out must go to our Australian friends, for taking part in 20 Books of Summer during the midst of their winter – although often their temperatures were better than mine in Northern Ireland!

Every year I say I’m never going to do this challenge again, and then summer rolls around and I go for it. We’ll see how it goes next year, but if I do it again, I will have to do some serious planning!

So, what’s up next for the 746? Well, I have A Room of One’s Own by Virginia Woolf lined up next for Heaven Ali’s Woolfalong and I also hope to take part in Jacqui Wine’s Reading Rhys – a week devoted to the work of Jean Rhys starting next Monday and I have Wide Sargasso Sea lined up for that.

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I also have a bit of a back log of recent Irish books to review which will keep me pretty busy, but there are some gems in this little pile that I’m really looking forward to!

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I’m also tantalizingly close to getting the TBR into the 500s – only 10 to go, so I hope to do that by the end of the year.

But the main thing I hope to do over the coming months is catch up with reading and commenting on all your fabulous blogs. I’ve been so very slack and I am looking forward to reconnecting with you all.

Thanks again for all the support and I hope you all had a great summer.

x

August in Review

August has been a very busy month here at 746 Books.

Well, not so much on the blog at 746 Books, but in the real life of 746 Books!

August was the final full month of 20 Books of Summer and I watched in envy as several participants tweeted details of their 20th review! What I’ve discovered this year about my summer challenge is, that the reading itself is not the problem. 20 books is a totally acceptable amount of books to read within that timescale.

So, it’s not the reading. It’s the reading and reviewing 20 books is the problem for me! Although I am just about to start book number 20 (with 3 days to go!!) my reviewing has stalled at 13. I will round up on the last 6 I have read here, but we are talking 2 or 3 line reviews rather than 2 or 3 paragraphs, which is disappointing to me as there are a few of these books that I would love to have looked at in a more in depth way.

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I think I may have been able to dive in to this challenge better if I hadn’t started a new job in the middle of it. I am loving my new position as Arts Programmer at the new Seamus Heaney HomePlace Arts Centre, it’s challenging and exciting but it has also been all-consuming. The building opens to the public on 29 September and we are all working very hard to get everything ready for that. It has meant that after work, kids, dinner and anything else I have to do, I have had very little energy for posting on my blog. I am hoping that things settle down over the next few months and I will get back to my usual regular posting schedule, I mean it’s not as if I won’t be surrounded every day by amazing literary inspiration!

Quick plug – do check out the website for the HomePlace – if anyone is visiting, please do say hello!

I was also on holiday last week with the family to the beautiful Rathmullan in Donegal. We had a wonderful week, the kids made friends with a neighbouring cat and the weather was kind to us. No mobile coverage also meant it was a very relaxing week and I got a lot of reading done. Some of it outside at the picnic table no less – a phenomenon that is often unheard of in Donegal!

But today has an autumnal feel. The twins went back to school, starting in P2 and yet again there were tears. And yet again, they were mine and there is a distinct chill in the air here in Northern Ireland. I can’t deny that I’m an autumn kinda girl, so I’m looking forward to coats and tights and scarves and all things cosy!

And finally, I have just found out that 746 Books has made the finals of the Littlewoods Irish Blog Awards in the Books and Literature category. I am so delighted to have made the final 7, it’s such an honour and am currently frantically trying to source a babysitter so the hubbie and I can put on our glad rags and head down to Dublin for the ceremony on the 15 September! Thanks to all of you who voted for me, it was much appreciated.

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So, back to books – here is a very quick run down of the last 6 of my 20 Books.

No 616 The Age of Innocence by Edith Wharton

As expected, Wharton didn’t disappoint. I loved The Age of Innocence, not as much as The House of Mirth, but it was still wonderful. I found this one to be more biting and often more funny in its dissection of New York society than the other works have read and it has a final scene that is poignant and perfect. Now to watch the movie!

Read on: Book
Number Read: 131
Number Remaining: 615

No 615 Small Island by Andrea Levy

This was another winner for me, with the multiple viewpoints bringing a depth and insight into the story. Perfectly formed with a range of incredibly authentic voices, I enjoyed it very much.

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Read on: Kindle
Number Read: 132
Number Remaining: 614

No 614 I Am No One You Know by Joyce Carol Oates

I adore Joyce Carol Oates short stories as she usually veers towards the darker side of humanity in her shorter works. This collection is no exception, featuring some stunning stories that explore those moments when we do something impulsive, or make a small decision, with no idea of the often devastating consequences that might follow.

Read on: Book
Number Read: 133
Number Remaining: 613

No 613 Geek Love by Katherine Dunn

‘You must have wished a million times to be normal.’
‘No.’
‘No?’
‘I’ve wished I had two heads. Or that I was invisible. I’ve wished for a fish’s tale instead of legs. I’ve wished to be more special.’
‘Not normal?’
‘Never’

I loved this book, which I have been meaning to read for a long time. Telling the tale of the Binewski family, circus ‘freaks’ featuring the megalomaniac Arturo the Aqua Boy, telekinetic Chick and sometime prostitute Siamese twins, this is a dark, funny tale is narrated by bald, albino hunchback Olympia which explores sibling rivalry, family loyalty and how society judges between the beautiful and the ugly, the weird and the normal. A must read.

Read on Book
Number Read: 134
Number Remaining: 612

No 612 The Republic of Love by Carol Shields

This is the one occasion where I wish I had time to write a full review, as The Republic of Love is my book of the year so far. A smart, sprawling, witty and heartwarming exploration of love in all its forms, the story follows Fay McLeod and Tom Avery as they stumble through failed relationships, muse on the impossibility of finding a partner, meet, fall in love at first sight and try to navigate the pitfalls that great romance can bring. If this makes it sound slight, it’s not at all. It is a wonderful musing on all aspects of love and is one of the most charming, humane and entertaining books Ihave read in a long time.

Read on: Kindle
Number Read: 135
Number Remaining: 611

No 611 Solace by Belinda McKeon

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The eagle-eyed amongst you will notice that Solace was not on my original 20 Books of Summer list. I should have read Moon Tiger, but it was on my iPad, which I hadn’t brought on holiday, so I turned to Solace instead. I’m glad I did. I adored Tender, Belinda McKeon’s second novel, which was my favourite book of the year last year. Solace is like Tender’s quieter little sister – not so showy or attention grabbing, but a book with real depth and beauty. I don’t want to give away any spoilers, but Solace starts slowly, exploring the relationship between Mark and Joanne as they deal with a pregnancy not long after they have started dating. It changes pace halfway through following an unforeseen tragedy and excels in exploring familial bonds and the relationship between fathers and sons against the backdrop of agricultural Ireland before the financial crash.

Read On: Kindle
Number Read: 136
Number Remaining: 610

So there we have it. 19 books of my 20 books of Summer read, with just Bogeywoman by Jaimy Gordon left to read and I am determined to finish it by Monday – although I doubt I will manage a review before then! Plus, I’m a little excited that I am only 10 books away from getting in to the 500s of the 746!

So, how are the rest of you doing with your challenge? Are you looking forward to Autumn or pining for the last few days of summer?

Tender by Belinda McKeon

Tender was my favourite read of 2015 and I’ve been trying to put my finger on what it is about this book that got under my skin. Could it be that it is a university novel set Dublin in the 1990s – a time when I too was at university there? Is it the epigraph, taken from James Salter’s Light Years that rings so true?

You know, you only have one friend like that; there can’t be two.

Or possibly it is the beautifully simple writing, the perfect characterisation and the fact that this story of obsessive love and desire feels so utterly, utterly true that makes Tender an unforgettable read.

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It is 1997 and Catherine Reilly is in her first year studying English and Art History at Trinity College Dublin. She meets James Flynn, a friend of her flatmates and the two could not be more different. Flamboyant, worldly and open, James is antidote to the narrow sheltered life she has led so far in rural Longford. He has travelled and is open about his feelings. She is insular and insecure. James says

the stuff that, Catherine now realised, she had always thought you were meant to keep silent.

The pair become inseparable – the best of friends. James opens Catherine’s mind to new ways of looking at the world and the descriptions of how this new friendship makes Catherine feel resonate with that youthful sense of the whole world opening up before you.

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Trinity College Dublin Library

 

To the rest of their friends they seem like a sweet couple. But they are not a couple and just as Catherine thinks she may have sexual feelings for James, he admits that he is gay. Catherine’s reaction to the news is pitched perfectly for the times and for her lack of experience. She feels a proprietorial novelty that she now has a gay friend, yet knows this reaction is childish and innapropriate. Her sheltered upbringing means that her admiration for James is one of breathless adolescence and soon their friendship becomes all consuming. She begins to think about him all the time, bend her opinions to be in tune with him.

They were so alike, the two of them, so alike in every way — and yet, there were moments when she saw the ways in which they were so different. And she… did not like those moments.

Catherine wants James for herself. She becomes jealous of the time he spends with other friends and eventually her feelings and their relationship shift into dangerous sexual territory which can only lead to disaster.

It was not that she did not want him to be happy; it was that she could not deal with the idea that it was others who could make him happy, as he seemed to be now. She wanted him to be only her friend. She wanted the best of his attention; she wanted the highest pitch of his energy; she wanted to be the reason he was fascinated, delighted, amused.

This is where Tender could have faltered, in what is essentially a love affair between a gay man and his straight female friend, but what elevates it is the intricacy of the characterisation. This is no Will & Grace style comedy, Catherine doesn’t want to just be a best friend, nor is she a ‘fag-hag’. Catherine is a complex character – manipulative, selfish and often petulant, but she is at heart a decent person, torn apart by her love for a man, when that love is predicated on him being something he is not. James too is wholly believable, lively, funny and very real, his predicament as a gay man in Ireland in the 1990s rendered with a knowing sensitivity and clarity. In an argument with Catherine he reminds her that

that every day there was still the fear; not being able to hold his boyfriend’s hand in the street, for instance – did she have any idea what that felt like? . . . Probably not, because she was one of those people, wasn’t she? She was one of those people who begrudged them every precious scrap they had

McKeon captures perfectly James’ sense of isolation and pain at being unable to share life with someone he truly loves, of his inability to be openly gay without fear of recrimination and of his desperate need for love and for human contact which he finds in Catherine.

Lonely: that was the word he had written over and over. Alone: that was another. Never: that had been another.

For her part, Catherine, who is studying the work of Ted Hughes and Sylvia Plath, adopts Hughes’ line ‘What happens in the heart simply happens’, to justify her increasingly desperate attempts to keep James with her. Hints of the Hughes/ Plath relationship float through the book, prefiguring the notion that this will not end well for either of them. As their relationship deepens and becomes both intense and equally more painful, other characters slip away from the narrative until there is just Catherine and James and a claustrophobic sense of suffocation and self-deceit. The book begins to feel like a time bomb, primed for detonation. Catherine and James know that this cannot end well, as do we and it is testament to McKeon’s skill as a writer that no one becomes the villain of the piece but instead we are witness to a relationship based on friendship and co-dependence that is both moving and heart-breaking.

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The rumblings of the Celtic Tiger are there in the background, and the Troubles in Northern Ireland are also woven into the narrative, but there are no gimmicks in Tender. It is essentially a love story, yet McKeon perfectly captures that feverish, frantic need to be loved, that longing to be known entirely by another person. Catherine and James are portrayed with such a depth and unflinching honesty as to be entirely absorbing and the book rings with truth and humanity. McKeon never presents the central relationship as anything other than a genuine love regardless of the sexuality of those involved and the perfect ending takes us right back to that well-chosen epigraph – you only have one friend like that, there can’t be two.

tender epigraph

 

 

 

 

 

Young Skins and New Irish Voices

At the end of last year, the Guardian published an article called A New Irish Literary Boom: the Post Crash Stars of Fiction, which explored the recent flourishing of literary fiction from the island. Focusing on writers like Kevin Barry, Eimear McBride, Paul Murray, Belinda McKeon, Rob Doyle and Sara Baume to name but a few, the article celebrated the new and original work currently being produced by Irish writers and the new found optimism of independent publishers like Tramp Press, Liberties Press and The Stinging Fly. The writer Julian Gough sees the financial crash as being instrumental to this upsurge in new writing;

The crash plunged us back into self-doubt and anger and black humour and negative equity; places in which Irish literature is more comfortable. Irish writers function best when everything is going to hell, whether a psyche or an economy.

However, Kevin Barry has a note of caution, saying

I think it would be smug and premature to herald a golden age but maybe a proper radicalism is at last starting to re-emerge in Irish writing. We should always remember that being innovative and wild and not afraid to go completely fucking nuts on the page is what built its reputation in the first half of the 20th century.

Whatever the underlying causes of this new literary scene, there is no denying a new generation of writers is emerging, gaining national and international attention and winning high profile awards.

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Over the next week for Reading Ireland Month, I will look at the work of some of these new writers, starting today with Young Skins by Colin Barrett.

 My town is nowhere you have been, but you know its ilk

So begins Colin Barrett’s striking debut collection of short stories all set in the fictional County Mayo town of Glanbeigh. These unsentimental, often brutal stories lay bare the lives of the young male in a small rural Irish town and present us with a post-Boom world of alienation and hopelessness.

Barrett’s characters have little ambition. Bouncers, petrol station workers or thuggish small time criminals, they are the ones who stay in the town while the smarter kids head off to University in Dublin or Galway. In The Moon, bouncer Val, well known in the town, becomes involved with his boss’s daughter.

‘you like this place, don’t you Val? You like everything about it’, said Martina

‘that sounds like an accusation’

‘Not at all. Someone has to stay put, hold the fort’

‘You’re not going anywhere that far’

‘Galway’s not that far’, said Martina, ‘but it might as well be the moon for people like you’

Outside of Glanbeigh may well be the Moon for the majority of the characters in Young Skins where random acts of petty violence and passionless relationships are the yardsticks for directionless lives.

William Faulkner described his Yoknapatawpha County as a ‘cosmos of my own’ and Barrett does the same with Glanbeigh and like Faulkner is ‘sublimating the actual into the apocryphal’. The stories all stand alone, connected only by place, apart from one minor character, Nubbin Tansey, the town fighter who bigs himself up in a pool hall before appearing in another story to kick someone’s head in, with disastrous consequences. Later we are told that Tansey has hung himself,

He was one of them couldn’t stand being in his own skin.

Not many of Barrett’s characters can stand being in their own skin. In Diamonds, a recovering alcoholic finds that coming home doesn’t provide him the solace he needs to stay sober and he ends up pretending to be someone else. In Kindly Forget My Existence two old friends cower in the pub rather than go to the funeral of a woman they both loved. This perfectly structured story echoes with references to death, from the title which is taken from Joyce’s The Dead, to the name of the pub they sit in – The Boatman.

In the effective and moving Stand Your Skin, Bat tries to anaesthetise the trauma of a vicious assault through beer and late night motor bike rides, but nothing can stop the headaches or the worry of his mother.

This is what a mother must do: pre-emptively conjure the worst-case scenarios in order to avert them. She never considered or foresaw that little shit Nubbin Tansey and his boot and he happened. She cannot make the same mistake again.

There is a part of her that hates her son, the enormous, fatiguing fragility of him

All Barrett’s young skins are looking for meaning in a world that is scornful of their attempts. In The Clancy Kid, Tug, whose nickname is Manchild, becomes obsessed with a boy who went missing three months previously and conjures up theories to explain the child’s disappearance. In The Bait, Matteen is also obsessed, this time over a girl he was with for two weeks, and has his friend drive him past her house again and again.

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Sex and relationships provide little solace for these men. When Bat sees his friend Tain getting together with a man from the town he notes that,

 there’s something mechanistic and barely controlled in her reciprocation. It looks coercive

There is little romance when it comes to dating or getting together in Glanbeigh

Shifting was a curiously bloodless, routinized ritual, involving lengthy arbitration by the friends of the prospective pairings, who, as in arranged marriages, did not so much as get to say hello until they were shoved into each other’s arms and exhorted to take the dark walk into the maw of the woods.

His characters may be tough, or lost or aimless, but what elevates this collection is the detail with which Barrett conveys the moments of softening and of hope. This is seen most particularly in the centrepiece of the collection – a striking novella called Calm With Horses.

A young drug dealer, Dympna and his right hand man Arm find themselves in a difficult situation when a sexual predator creates problems with their suppliers. Arm has an autistic son, with his estranged partner and it is through this father son relationship that we glimpse the ordinary man, who could lead an ordinary life if only he wasn’t in the profession he was in. Arm tries to do the right thing but comes to realise that things can spin out of control with frightening ease

Arm tried to assess the situation, but what was there to assess? Things had got fucked, precipitously and in multiple ways and for little reason

In the Tarantino-esque scenes that follow, Barrett could easily have made Arm that cliché of the tough guy with the heart of gold, but instead he creates a vivid and complex man, convincing rather than convenient.

Colin Barrett

Nature too is hard in Glanbeigh. The local woods are called Bleak Woods and the River Mule that runs through the town is less an attraction and more a means to get rid of a dead body. Cows in the field are ‘sullen’ and the coastline is a ‘gnarled jawline’.

This may be a post Celtic Tiger Ireland, but the old myths are never far from the surface. A young man is led into the woods by mysterious girls and a strange old man known as Father Time is an unsettling figure. In The Clancy Kid Tug and Jimmy encounter some strange children guarding a bridge, while tree branches brush their faces like ‘witches fingers’

The beams of the crippled bridge warp and sing beneath us all the way over, and when we make it to the far shore and step back on to solid earth, a surge of absurd gratitude flows through me. I reach out and pat Tug on the shoulder and turn to salute the boy king and his giggling girl entourage. But when I look back across the tumbling black turbulence of water I see that the children are gone.

Myths are not just in the past in Young Skins, they are always being created in an endless, resonant process.

In a piece for the Guardian last year, Barrett said

I grew up in a town like this, knew people infused with the same peculiar sensibility as this cast of characters, but do not let me mislead you by implying I have any authoritative judgment to deliver on this world.

Barrett is not delivering judgement, rather he is shining a light on the small lives, the hard and hopeless lives of his young skins and using language to give their desperation a significance. There is a real poetry to Barrett’s writing, despite, or perhaps because of the subject matter. The sophisticated use of language gives the stories a metaphorical significance.

 The railings were eaten through, thinned to crusted spindles of rust at their most exposed points. Beyond them lay the rush-topped hillocks and sandbars, the sand milk-blue in the moonlight. Arm scanned the boiling surf for a long time, watched the way each wave rose, evolved like a fortification, and then collapsed.

These are stories that are beautifully written and open ended enough to invite multiple readings and mark an extraordinary debut from an exciting new writer.

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The Long Gaze Back – A Giveaway!

To celebrate Irish women writers, I am delighted to host a very exciting giveaway on the blog this week.

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I will be giving away a hardback copy of The Long Gaze Back, an anthology of short stories by Irish female writers, edited by Sinéad Gleeson along with a copy of Maeve Brennan’s novella The Visitor, from which The Long Gaze Back takes its name.

The Long Gaze Back was published last year to showcase the many women writers in Ireland whose work has been overlooked in the past. The Oxford Book of Irish Short Stories was published in 1989 and included only 7 women writers out of 39 stories. Worse still, the Field Day Anthology of Irish Writing published in 1984 contained no women writers at all.

In 2001, Evelyn Conlon and Hans Christian Oeser edited a collection which aimed to redress the balance. Cutting the Night in Two featured short stories from 34 Irish female writers which made it clear that these writers had always been out there, they just weren’t being heard.

The Long Gaze Back follows on from this, featuring as it does 34 writers and spanning 218 years. The collection includes stories from Maria Edgeworth, Charlotte Riddell and Norah Hoult and includes 22 living writers, all of whom have included stories never before published.

The Long Gaze Back is a substantial harvest, a seriously comprehensive and celebratory volume.                                                                     The Irish Times

Sinéad Gleeson has described the anthology as a triptych, featuring deceased classic writers; well established writers from the last decade like Anne Enright and the new voices currently emerging from Ireland – Belinda McKeon, Mary Costello and Lisa McInerney. The themes covered in the anthology show the breadth and depth of issues facing women today and throughout history – emigration, pregnancy, loss, capitalism, motherhood, ghosts, art and much more.

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The Long Gaze Back was the winner of the TheJournal.ie Best Irish-Published Book of the Year at the Irish Book Awards 2015

There’s nothing girly about these stories; there are no clichés, no Mr. Rights, no wedding bells, no evenings with Chardonnay. Instead, this collection represents the richness of women’s lives, past and present. The joy, the compassion, the anger, the sadness. It’s all there.                                                                                    Sunday Independent

Maeve Brenan’s novella The Visitor was written in the mid-1940s but was only discovered in a university archive and republished in 2006.

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It tells the haunting story of Anastasia King, who, at the age of 22, following the deaths of her parents, returns to her grandmother’s house in Ireland where she lived as a child.  However, instead of solace, she finds coldness and intransigence from her grandmother and comes to realise that refuge may not lie in the past after all.

The Visitor is the work of a sure hand…and Brennan’s prose is terse and exquisitely precise throughout…Only in the work of Emily Dickinson can the same ferocious vision – of love, pain, transgression and death – and economy of expression be found.                                 The Guardian

 

Maeve-Brennan

Maeve Brennan

 

If you would like to win these two fantastic books, simply comment below telling me either your favourite Irish woman writer or just your favourite woman writer and you will be entered into the draw which will take place on Friday.

Good luck!

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Irish writers make the Baileys Longlist!

 

The Baileys Women’s Prize for Fiction 2016 long list was announced this morning and no better day for it that International Women’s Day!

A massive congratulations to Lisa McInerney and Anne Enright who were included for The Glorious Heresies and The Green Road respectively.

 

I’m currently slap bang in the middle of The Glorious Heresies and will be reviewing it later in the month during my New Voices Week. I had the pleasure of meeting Lisa during the summer at an event promoting The Long Gaze Back anthology where she read her fantastic short story, Berghain from that collection.

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Lisa McInerney

If you would like to read a snippet from The Glorious Heresies, you can do so here

Good luck to Lisa and Anne for the next round!

Have any of your read The Green Road or The Glorious Heresies? Were any of your favourites included in the long list? I did have my fingers crossed for Tender by Belinda McKeon which was my favourite book of last year.