Listowel, Blessington and Further field
When I left you last month I was at the opening of Listowel Writers’ Week. I promised to fill you in this month. Well, the Kerry Group Irish Novel of the Year award, with a prize of €15,000 went to Paul Lynch for Grace. Adjudicators Jane Urquhart and Alex Preston chose it from a shortlist of five; Sally Rooney’s Conversations with Friends; Bernard MacLaverty’s Midwinter Break; Lisa Harding’s Harvesting; and Frank McGuinness’s The Woodcutter and His Family.
Charles Shafaieh, reviewing for The Irish Times, called it “haunting and poetic”. Grace, which was published in paperback by Oneworld on June 7th, was also shortlisted for the £25,000 Walter Scott Prize for Historical Fiction and the $5,000 William Saroyan International Prize for Writing. It was June’s Irish Times Book Club selected title. It was selected as the best book of the year 2017 by The Guardian and Esquire. Nobody who has read it would disagree with Emma Donoghue who described it as, “ A shuddering well written, dead-real, hallucinatory trip across Famine Ireland.
The author’s powers of description are evident in every one of the 354 pages. The following is from the first page, ”What comes to meet them is a smacking cold as if it has lurked there just for them, an animal thing eager in the dawn, a morning that sits low and crude and grey. Not yet the true cold of winter though the trees huddle like men striped for punishment and the land is haggard just waiting.”
Paul Lynch is also the author of Red Sky in the Morning and Black Snow. He won France’s Prix Libr’a Nous for best foreign novel and was a finalist for the \Prix du Meilleur Livre Etranger prize. He lives in Dublin with his wife and daughter.
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John B. Keane Lifetime achievement award was presented to Dame Edna O Brien DBE, who once said “The vote means nothing to women. We should be armed.” You could hear a pin drop as the controversial author of more than 20 novels didn’t pull any punches in her acceptance speech. (see pic below courtesy of Jer Holland.)
Poet Gabriel Fitzmaurice launched his 42nd book of poetry, Smitten Soul. Kris Kristofferson had this to say , “Real stories told in real language, the poems of Gabriel Fitzmaurice have the simple reality and powerful magic of the true folk song . . . and the songs are haunting and beautiful.” The collection has 56 poems, mostly of a Spiritual nature and all with food for thought on the meaning of life is a wonderful work by this prolific and humblest of poets. This collection has been collected from a lifetime of writing and witnessing, "Progress from the spiritual poverty through the dark night of the senses to the celebration of a soul that has found rest.”
The cover artwork is from a collection of paintings by his wife Brenda. Smitten Soul is published by Salmon Poetry.