Irish fiction

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When Light is Like Water by Molly McCloskey: Love in all its complexity

I have a weakness for Irish fiction. It’s often characterised by a restrained clarity – beautiful, elegant prose with a yearning quality about it – or at least the work of authors I favour fits that description. Colm Tóibín, John McGahern, William Trevor, Ann Enright, Deirdre Madden all come to mind and after reading When …

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All We Shall Know by Donal Ryan: Redemption in spades

I ended my review of Donal Ryan’s last novel, The Thing About December, by quoting Litlove’s idea that the higher your expectations for a book, the greater your disappointment when they’re not met. Both Ryan’s novels had been praised to the skies and although there was much to admire in his second, those raised expectations …

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Spill Simmer Falter Wither by Sara Baume: Spring summer autumn winter

The trouble with marketing is its constant use of superlatives – too much hype. We’re all over familiar with ‘dazzling debuts’, ‘stunning achievements’ and the like so that when a book comes along that is truly original, absolutely dazzling, those descriptions ring hollow. Sara Baume’s Spill Simmer Falter Wither comes into that category for me. …

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Thirteen Ways of Looking by Colum McCann: A novella and three stories

I’ve been a fan of Colum McCann’s novels since way back in the late ‘90s when I read This Side of Brightness. His fiction ranges far and wide – from Dancer’s Rudolf Nureyev to the Roma of Zoli – and his writing is often strikingly poetic. Unsurprisingly, then, I’ve been looking forward to his new …

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The Last Four Days of Paddy Buckley: A nice slice of Irish black comedy

This one’s a little outside my usual literary purview. It’s a smart little black comedy all wrapped up in a thriller with a bit of a love story thrown in. The title puts you in the picture: Paddy Buckley is an undertaker who has landed himself in deep trouble with Dublin’s chief gangster and is …

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The Lives of Women by Christine Dwyer Hickey: An old, old story, and a sad one

Christine Dwyer Hickey is the kind of author about whom there’s not a great deal of brouhaha – no fanfare of Twitter trumpets heralding her next novel or drip feed of showy publicity – which in some ways is a relief and in others a shame. I’m not sure how many readers are acquainted with …

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Academy Street by Mary Costello: ‘A life fitting on one page’

Irish – and Irish-American – writers seem to specialise in a particular style of pared-back, elegant prose from which shines out the occasional lyrical gem: William Trevor, John McGahern, Colm Tóibin, Sebastian Barry, Jennifer Johnston, Elizabeth Bowen, Deirdre Madden, Alice McDermott… I could go on. Mary Costello joins that (very long) list with her debut …

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