Fiction: Midwinter Break, Bernard MacLaverty, Jonathan Cape, pbk, 256 pages, €16.49 Booker-nominated Belfast-born author Bernard MacLaverty returns after a 16-year hiatus with a subtle novel about an older couple trying to deal with a marital crisis. Bernard MacLaverty is not a prolific novelist. Fourteen years elapsed between Cal in 1983 and Grace Notes in 1997 […]

A tale of two tribes

by John Boland

Fiction: Modern Gods, Nick Laird, HarperCollins, pbk, 320 pages, €13 Northern Irish writer Nick Laird’s third novel draws parallels between a post-Troubles North and life on a remote island in the Pacific. Nick Laird’s third novel is his most serious to date, relating how an atrocity from the past affects a Northern Irish Protestant family […]

Fiction: House of Names, Colm Tóibín, Viking, hbk, 272 pages, €16.99   For his new novel, the Wexford author has abandoned his roots in favour of the blood-soaked drama of the Greek myths. The book’s mastery of pacing and tone affirm the writer as one of our finest at work today. Get out your classical […]

Irish saga full of fury

by John Boland

John Boyne returns with another swipe at the clergy in a far-fetched story packed with comedy and tragedy, and told with his trademark panache The furies of the book’s title may be invisible, but from the outset of this mammoth novel, author John Boyne’s own furies are clearly visible. The depravities and cruelties of the […]

Fiction: 4321, Paul Auster, Faber & Faber, hdbk, 880 pages, €16.99 While Paul Auster’s latest tome is full of his trademark trickery, there’s little to ignite interest in the four versions of the main character. Anyone who’s at all familiar with Paul Auster’s work will know that it’s full of trickery. Ever since The New […]

Devotees of Alice Munro might disagree, but for many readers William Trevor was the greatest short story writer of our time in the English language. Indeed, although he was the author of 17 novels, many of them memorable, it was in the short form that he felt most at home, describing himself as “a short […]

Memoir: Time Pieces: A Dublin Memoir, John Banville, Photos: Paul Joyce, Hachette, hdbk, 224 pages €28.99 Don’t let the word “memoir” in the subtitle fool you. There’s no mention here of the author’s two decades in the Irish Press, first as sub-editor and then as chief sub-editor, or of the years he subsequently spent as […]

Fiction: Days Without End, Sebastian Barry. Faber & Faber, hdbk, 272 pages, €23.99 Sebastian Barry’s engrossing American Civil War novel is so well paced that readers may defer any quibbles about the brutality of the violence until the very end. Sebastian Barry, that scrupulous chronicler of lost Irish lives, has now turned his attention to […]

Memoir: Creating Space: The Education of a Broadcaster, Andy O’Mahony, The Liffey Press, pbk, 350 pages, €22.69 At the beginning of his long and distinguished broadcasting career, Andy O’Mahony’s close colleagues included Terry Wogan and Gay Byrne, and in the decades that followed, he was acquainted with almost all those who worked in Montrose, but […]

Fiction: The Lesser Bohemians, Eimear McBride, Faber&Faber, hdbk, 320 pages, €19.99 After the critical success of ‘A Girl is a Half-formed Thing’, Eimear McBride returns with a powerful coming-of-age story. Eimear McBride’s A Girl is a Half-formed Thing created a sensation when it appeared in 2013. Rejected for almost a decade by a succession of […]

Essays: Writing the Sky: Observations and Essays on Dermot Healy, Edited by Neil Murphy and Keith Hopper, Dalkey Archive Press, pbk, 380 pages, €37.99 Dermot Healy, who died in 2014 at the age of 66, had the look of a wild man and the personality to go with it, as anyone who spent a night […]

Memoir: I’ll Drop You a Line: A Life With David Marcus, Ita Daly, Londubh, pbk, 126 pages, €14.99 Ita Daly, widow of ‘New Irish Writing’ founder David Marcus, has written a beautiful account of their time together This affecting memoir by the widow of David Marcus reveals aspects of the man hitherto unknown to anyone […]

Fiction: Solar Bones, Mike McCormack, Tramp Press, pbk, 224 pages, €15 For those of timid reading habits, there’s good news and there’s bad news about Mike McCormack’s arresting new novel. The bad news is that throughout its 217 pages, there isn’t one full stop. The good news is that there are lots of commas and […]

Collection: Granta 135: New Irish Writing, Edited by Sigrid Rausing, Publisher, pbk, 256 pages, €17.99 ‘Granta’ magazine’s New Irish Writing special features a ­stellar cast, but apart from a couple of evocative stories, there’s little here to showcase talent of a nation. So what’s the current state of Irish writing and who are its most […]

Short­stories: Prosperity Drive, Mary Morrissy, Jonathan Cape, hdbk, 288 pages, €26.85 This is the most pleasurable book of stories by an Irish writer that I’ve read for many years – perhaps since the 1970s heyday of William Trevor, with his three great volumes from that decade: The Ballroom Of Romance, Angels At The Ritz and […]

Press here for nostalgia

by John Boland

Media: The Press Gang: Tales From the Glory Days of Irish Newspapers, Ed by David Kenny New Island, tpbk, 382 pages, €16.99 The feeling that’s constantly evoked in these reminiscences by almost 60 former employees of the Irish Press group is one of camaraderie, and the word itself is mentioned by quite a lot of […]

Fiction: The Little Red Chairs, Edna O’Brien, Faber&Faber tpbk, 320 pages, €18.99 International war criminals, London-based refugees and a brutalised Irish woman are at the centre of this ambitious novel, about which Philip Roth has declared: “The great Edna O’Brien has written her masterpiece”. Endorsements don’t come more impressive than that, but then the 82-year-old […]

‘Call me Autolycus”, the narrator declares in the opening sentence of The Blue Guitar, and even those readers who didn’t bother glancing at the front cover will immediately surmise that they’re reading a John Banville novel – not least because, within three words, they’re already reaching for a reference book. The book’s second sentence is […]

Belinda McKeon’s absorbing second novel set in late-1990s Dublin is immensely likeable True to its title, Belinda McKeon’s second novel is a tender account of a girl’s coming of age in the Dublin of the late 1990s, of her bitterly-won discovery that friendship can be irreconcilable with sexual passion, and of how love can become […]

Dermot Bolger’s first full-length novel in a decade is an absorbing account of the last whimpers of the Celtic Tiger Dermot Bolger’s last work of fiction was the 2012 novella The Fall of Ireland, which was set in a country whose economy had just collapsed and whose government ministers were destined for political oblivion with […]