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Irish books to watch out for in 2021

Here are some names to remember for your book shopping next year.

THE IRISH LITERARY scene is nothing if not strong right now, with a heap of talented writers coming up over recent years.

The best thing about 2021? Even more talent to look forward to. Here’s some of what to keep an eye out for.

Pure Gold (short stories) by John Patrick McHugh

Young Irish writer McHugh publishes his first short story collection with New Island Books in February. It already comes with approval from Sally Rooney, who described him as “one of the most exciting writers working in Ireland today”.

Words To Shape My Name by Laura McKenna

Also from New Island Books in January comes this novel from McKenna, which is a re-imagining of the life of escaped slave Tony Small, told through three different strands – the original text from Small, an edited narrative and the words of Tony’s daughter when she receives her father’s papers after his death. 

Bright Burning Things by Lisa Harding 

Lisa Harding’s second novel is about Sonya, mother to Tommy and a woman struggling with life. Her behaviour could cause her to lose her son. Published by Bloomsbury, it comes with a heap of praise from writers including Roddy Doyle, Kevin Barry and Megan Hunter.

Acts of Desperation by Megan Nolan 

You might have already come across Waterford-born Nolan’s work in places like The Guardian, the New York Times or Winter Papers. Her debut novel is about a young woman looking back at her past relationships, including a particularly toxic one. Due out in the spring, published by Jonathan Cape.

Dinner Party by Sarah Gilmartin 

Kate meticulously plans a dinner to mark the anniversary of a death in the
family, from the fancy table setting to the perfect baked alaska waiting in the
freezer. But by the end of the night, things have not gone quite to plan. Set over four periods from the 1990s to the present day, between Carlow and Dublin, the family farmhouse and Trinity College, dark and twisty novel that thrillingly unravels into past family secrets and tragedy.

Snowflake by Louise Nealon 

This highly-anticipated novel is a debut and comes on the heels of Nealon winning the 2018 Séan Ó Faoláin Competition in 2017. It’s about 18-year-old Debbie, who lives on a dairy farm in Kildare with her mother and her uncle Billy who lives in a caravan in the garden. It also takes in the topics of mental illness and the coming of age of a young woman.

Thin Places by Kerri Ní Dochartaigh 

This book is a blend of memoir/history/nature writing book and is Ní Dochartaigh’s debut. It explores her experiences growing up in Derry and the impact the Troubles have on her life, as well as addiction, poverty and the nature of place. 

White City by Kevin Power

Power’s debut novel Bad Day At Blackrock became the film What Richard Did, and told the fictional-but-inspired-by-real-life tale of  the death of a private school boy on a night out. Safe to say that anticipation is high for his follow up, which is about Ben, a privileged young man who goes to rehab and then winds up getting involved in some dodgy dealings. 

A Crooked Tree by Una Mannion

Award-winning short-story writer Una Mannion’s debut is described as “a haunting, suspenseful literary debut that combines a classic coming of age story with a portrait of a fractured American family dealing with the fallout of one summer evening gone terribly wrong”.

Corpsing by Sophie White

The independent publisher Tramp Press has had an incredible run of years, so readers will be particularly excited to see what their 2021 list holds. In Spring, a highlight will be this collection of essays by journalist and writer Sophie White, which is asks “uncomfortable questions about the lived reality of womanhood in the 21st century, and the fear that must be internalised in order to find your path through it”. 

Redder Days by Sue Rainsford

Rainsford’s debut novel, Follow Me To Ground, was one of the most deliciously unusual and evocative Irish novels from the last few years. Her follow-up is about a pair of twins who live in an abandoned commune and await the end of the world.

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