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These are the Irish novels to look out for in early 2020

It’s going to be a jam-packed year.

2019 WAS A bumper year for Irish writing – and it looks like we have even more fantastic books to look forward to in 2020.

Here are our picks, with the caveat that there are even more great Irish books to come in the next 12 months. 

Threshold by Rob Doyle

Published: January (Bloomsbury)

The author of Here Are the Young Men’s second novel focuses on a narrator who is “on a lurid pilgrimage for cheap thrills and universal truth”, and brings us from Paris to Berlin to “metaphysical awakenings in Asia”. 

Grown Ups by Marian Keyes

Published: February (Michael Joseph)

The queen of Irish commercial fiction, Marian Keyes continues to write the kind of successful novels that other writers dream of. For her latest book, she brings us the Casey family, who start to unravel after one of the members gets a concussion and can’t keep her thoughts to herself…

A Thousand Moons by Sebastian Barry

Published: March (Penguin)

The two-time Booker Prize finalist returns with a novel set in Tennessee following the Civil War. It centres on Winona Cole, an orphaned child of the Lakota tribe, who is brought up by adoptive parents John Cole and Thomas McNulty (who we last met in Barry’s previous novel Days Without End).

Strange Hotel by Eimear McBride

Published: February (Faber & Faber)

In this slim novel, a nameless woman enters a nondescript hotel room she’s been in once before, many years ago. She goes on to occupy a series of hotel rooms around the world and the reader begins to piece together the details of what transpires in these rooms. 

Apeirogon: A Novel by Colum McCann

Published: February (Random House)

The best-selling author focuses on the Israel-Palestine conflict for his latest novel, centring on two men: Palestinian Bassam Aramin and Israeli Rami Elhanan. When their children meet untimely deaths, the pair connect.

Terry Brankin Has A Gun by Malachi O’Doherty

Published: February (Merrion Press)

Journalist and writer O’Doherty, who is currently writer in residence at Queen’s University, Belfast, has set his debut novel during the post-Troubles-era Northern Ireland. The story is about a man called Terry Brankin, who is being investigated over an IRA bombing that killed a young girl. It’s said to explore the legacy issues of the conflict in the north.

Big Girl Small Town by Michelle Gallen

Published: February (John Murray)

Set in 2004 in a small town in Northern Ireland, Big Girl Small Town is about Majella, a woman who lives a quiet life where she keeps herself to herself. Others consider her odd, but she just likes a routine. When her grandmother is murdered, she is unwillingly thrust into the spotlight.

Our Little Cruelties – Liz Nugent 

Published: March (Penguin)

Former stage manager and Fair City writer Liz Nugent is onto her fourth novel and she has quite the fandom supporting her globally. Her latest novel is about three brothers, Will, Brian and Luke, who “each betray each other, over and over, until one of them is dead. But which brother killed him?” We’re biting our nails already.

Laura Cassidy’s Walk of Fame by Alan MacMonagle

Published: March (Picador)

MacMonagle gained attention with his debut novel Ithaca. With this book he is writing about a young woman called Laura Cassidy, who’s always had her heart set on getting to Hollywood, but life has continued to throw curveballs her way.

Actress by Anne Enright 

Published: March (Vintage) 

The former Irish Laureate for Fiction returns with a stunning novel about a woman examining her relationship with her mother, who was a famous actress. But it’s about more than that, too – it’s about power, gender, sexuality and Irish society.

As You Were – Elaine Feeney

Published: April (Harvill Secker)

Galwegian poet and author Elaine Feeney’s debut has been lauded by Lisa McInerney, Mike McCormack and Sinéad Gleeson, so you know it’ll be much anticipated. It’s about a young property developer “with a terrifying secret” who is stuck in a failing hospital. The novel is said to explore “the darkly present past of modern Ireland”.

Exciting Times by Naoise Dolan 

Published: April (W&N)

Dolan’s debut novel is set in Hong Kong, and is described as a “slyly humorous and scorchingly smart modern love story about three cynics”.  

A Ghost in the Throat by Doireann Ní Ghríofa 

Published: April (Tramp Press)

Ní Ghríofa is more commonly known as a bilingual poet, whose work is truly unique and captivating. Her prose debut with Tramp Press brings us the stories of two women – one an Irish noblewoman in the 1700s and the other a young mother in the contemporary world. 

Oona by Alice Lyons

Published: March (Lilliput Press)

Intriguingly, Lyons’ debut was written entirely without the letter ‘o’ – now there’s a challenge. It’s a coming of age novel about an artist-in-the-making called Oona who lives in New Jersey and is about to take steps into a fraught adulthood. 

What Irish books are you looking forward to next year? Tell us in the comments.

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