The longlist for the Dublin Literary Awards is littered with a number of books I’ve heard a lot about. The hype for some books was from nominations for various other prizes and awards, such as the manbooker while others have been gathering steam with reams of positive reviews!
I’ve siphoned off the books from the longlist that I’ve seen around the place and was excited to read, some I have read, most I own already and the rest are on various wishlists of mine!
Let me know if you’ve read any of these books, what you thought of them, and if you think any of these picks will be in the shortlist.
The Power has been shortlisted and won the Baileys Womens Prize for Fiction in 2017, and has been praised by Margaret Atwood amongst others so you know it’s got to be a good read! The novel explores a world where women become the dominant gender due to their ability to release jolts of electricity from their fingers! It’s already got a tv series in the works -by the same people who produce Broadchurch- excited doesn’t even cover the feelings generated by this book!
Moonglow is part memoir, part creative fiction of the authors grandfathers life. His grandfather was a soldier in the second world war, and goes on to become an engineer and to marry a French Jewish survivor, and this novel takes us through the challenges that they faced in postwar America. It’s supposed to be a bittersweet tale, moving from moments of great sadness to great beauty in a fascinating story.
The Mothers was a New York Time Bestseller, and is being hinted at a movie adaption with Warner Bros, not bad for Brit Bennetts debut novel! It centres around decisions made by 17 year olds one summer, and features the voices of the mothers acting as the “they” to whom we must all answer. It’s a wonderfully written book, a story with hard truths and bitter moments, delivered in utterly compelling prose.
The Museum of You is a tale of a bereaved father and daughter, both searching for ways to make sense of their grief. The daughter is determined to figure out what kind of woman her mother was, by piecing together what she can from the belongings left behind. This is a surprisingly funny and altogether touching account of grief, life and all that lies between.
The Wonder is a psychological thriller based off historical cases of “fasting girls”, young girls between the 16th and 20th centuries who seemingly survived on nothing but spiritual nourishment. It’s based in the Irish midlands in the 1850s, where the nurse investigating the case meets a journalist hungry for a scoop, are they unearthing a fraud, a spiritual being, or bearing witness to a sinister and horrifically slow child murder?
In What Belongs To You in Bulgaria an American teacher from the deep south, solicits sex from a young man, to whom he becomes entangled romantically. Having to deal with his past where being ‘different’ was to court pariahism and invite judgement. He soon discovers his journey closely mirrors that of his host country in this deeply intimate tale.
Homegoing is a magnificent narration of eight generations, following the diverging paths of two Ghanaian sisters, one who became a wife to a wealthy Englishman the other who becomes a slave. Their stories and those of their descendants span the plantations in Mississippi, the American Civil War, the Jazz Age and showcases how the shackles of slavery have affected generations upon generations of the American people.
This House Is Mine focuses on what family means to each one of us and how its absence and creation can make or break our spirits. The story alternates non-linearly between the aunt whose house it is, and the niece who suddenly shows up on her doorstep with a child. Two hard headed and stubborn women share the house and maybe they will find what they’ve always been searching for,
The Dry centres around the apparent murder suicide of a farmer and his family during one of the worst droughts in Australian history. It’s a small town, and rumours spread fast that all is not as it seems. His old school friend, a detective, returns home for the funerals and is pulled into the investigation, facing the community and the secrets he left behind over twenty years earlier.
The Nix explores how a woman can be seen in many different lights, depending on who’s observing her. Her son remembers the woman who walked out on their family as an ordinary woman, who married her high school sweetheart, and now has suddenly reappeared in his life…but the international media portrays her as a radical hippie after committing a politically divisive crime. What is the truth? Do we ever know someone else, or even ourselves?
Human Acts is based in the brutally suppressed South Korean Gwangju uprising of 1980. A boy searches for his friends corpse, a soul searches for its corporal form and mirrored in those searches is that of the country seeking its own voice. The traumatic events are wholly heartbreaking in their quiet narrative, characteristic of Kangs writing (she won the Man Booker in 2016 for The Vegetarian).
The Good People is based in rural Ireland, a grandmother left to look after her grandson, who in modern days would be described as disabled, but when this novel is set, he is seen as a bad omen, a changeling, a forsaken creature destined to bring misfortune upon the house and all those there. The grandmother, her servant girl and the local healer set out to help the young boy, in the only ways they know how. Exploring historical attitudes to disability and the cures that were carried out through love, this is an incredibly moving novel examining love and grief for what cannot be saved.
Dear Mr M follows a narrator who has a keen interest in Mr M, a famous writer. He seems to know a lot about every aspect of Mr M’s life, a bit too much perhaps. Mr M’s most popular novel might have been a bit too close to the bone for someones liking…
Shtum brings us into the world of Jonah, a ten year old who has never spoken, yet he communicates better than the adults in his life. Throughout this novel three generations of a family learn how to live together and how to function as a unit, especially when strict daily routines help Jonah exist in this strange scary world. At times funny, but also breathtakingly sad, this is about familial struggles and muddling your way through life together.
Miss Jane was a woman in rural Mississippi in the early twentieth century, a birth defect renders her “useless” as a wife, but her life is anything but barren. Exploring the duality of nature, the beauty and cruelty of the natural world her great-nephew writes about Jane and the trials and tribulations of an highly spirited and gregarious lady.
The Gentleman in Moscow is the story of an aristocrat in Moscow, condemned indefinitely to house arrest in an attic room of Russias finest hotel with a window the size of a chess board. His life has shrunk considerably, but his understanding of joy and purpose will bloom with the help of a glamorous actress, a cranky chef and a very serious child… as the rest of Stalinist Russia collapses, unseen, around them. This promises to be an endearing, charming, and imaginative read.
The Gustav Sonata charts the intensity of childhood friendship, and the devastation it’s loss can wreak. Gustav, Swiss and Anton, Jewish strike up a friendship during the horrors of the second world war, their friendship is quickly pulled apart, only to be rekindled years later. Both their lives are changed through their friendships existence and we trace this through the careers and lives of both men.
The Underground Railroad re-imagines the escape routes for black slaves from the brutal Southern regime as a physical train snaking its way across America. Cora, a young girl escapes her slavery and joins the locomotive as it puffs its way through pre-civil war America, chased by the indomitable slavecatcher sent after her. A harrowing flight across American history, starting with the brutal ripping of Africans from their homes to the unfulfilled promises and racial divides of the present day, this is a powerful reflection on the history of slavery and those who endured it.
Moonstone the Boy Who Never Was takes place in Iceland in 1918, In his dreams a boy called Mani mixes his life with movies and exists on the edges of both society and reality. A volcano is erupting, causing a shortage of fuel and the rest of the world is in the midst of a great and terrifying war, when the Spanish flu strikes killing hundreds and leaving thousands incredibly ill. Reality and imagination jostle for control in a world increasing falling out of control around Mani. Written by the author of The Blue Fox, his characteristic sparse style, that somehow manages to convey more than it seems possible, is evident in this masterful novel.
A Death in Sunset Grove retirement home sparks the interest of two best friends, Irma and Siiri. They start their own private detective agency the Lavender Ladies and begin the investigation into the mysterious death. A retirement home may seem calm but there’s a lot more going on than meets the eye and pretty soon Siiri and Irma find out they’ve gotten more than they bargained for…
Solar Bones won the Goldsmith Prize and the Bord Gais Irish Book Award. It’s an ambitious novel, written in the form of one long stream of consciousness, as you are a spirit come back on All Souls Day to check on your family and ruminate on life and the struggles of love and loss. Bringing new dimensions to minor decisions, and forcing us to see how decisions we make cause ripples throughout not only our lives but those of our loved ones too. A Really beautiful and haunting book, it’s almost an elegy for not only the dead but the living too.
The Lesser Bohemians brings together a young Irish girl, studying drama in London and an older actor, haunted by his demons. Their relationship is intense, and fully engulfs them, but will it ultimately lead to both of their undoings? Exploring how sex, love and violence can be so closely interlaced in passionate and untamed relationships, the characteristic broken sentences of McBride really bring you into the immediate intimacy of this turmulent pairing.
Five Rivers Met On A Wooded Plain examines the collision of five lives, in a serious car crash. Five seemingly unconnected people all facing their own personal battles have their stories shared as we find out that one of these lives hangs in the balance. As we ultimately find out through love, tragedy and webs of deceit how interwoven all our lives truly are with those around us.
Commonwealth is a family drama set across five decades. Six sibling, four parents and the dogged loyalty and vicious competition that springs up between family members creating strange dynamics and power plays throughout their lives are examined from various points of view. The sudden realisation as adults of situations that were misunderstood as children and the separation between adult and child are examined and brought from the mundane to the intriguing by Patchetts deft hand.
The Essex Serpent is a mythical creature said to roam the marshes of Essex, stealing people away. A newcomer to the coastal village of Aldwinter, Cora a freshly widowed mother is a keen naturalist and suspects the mythical beast to be an as yet undiscovered species. The local vicar Will believes the serpent is a distraction from devotion and faith and tries to calm the villagers. Cora and Will disagree on absolutely everything and argue strongly with one another, creating an intensity of feeling that’s electrifying.
The Museum of Modern Love follows a man, Arky, seperated from his wife who fulfills his promise to attend The Artist is Present. An art project where sitter after sitter gazes across a table at an artist. The performace piece lasts seventy five days and as it unfolds, so too does Arky. He slowly begins to comprehend what is missing from his life, while exploring the nature of art, life and love.
Fish Have No Feet takes place in a stark and brutal landscape of Keflavik in Iceland, a village surrounded by black lava fields and a sea that may not be fished. Three generations of the same family come and go yet are always drawn homewards to their particular style of isolation, surrounded by the depths of the sea and the utter separation from the rest of the world.
The Muse starts with a Trinidadian woman finding her place in London, under the tutelage of a London Gallery buyer. A lost masterpiece is delivered to the gallery and the past suddenly rears its head in the present; the ambitious daughter of a Spanish art dealer, a revolutionary artist and his enigmatic half sister and their designs upon the art dealers family have far reaching consequences. Suspenseful, stimulating and exciting this story will rope you in from the beginning.
It’s Mothering Sunday 1924, how will Jane, an orphan and housemaid occupy her day with no mother to visit? A clandestine meeting of lovers changes lives forever, as the narrative moves back and forth in time you go on a journey of self discovery with Jane all centering around the events of this fateful day.
My Name is Lucy Barton begins with the reintroduction of an estranged mother. Lucy finds herself talking to her mother, they share memories and stories and through this visit begin to explore how we share love, how it can only be a reflection of ourselves as imperfect beings. A story of what it means to love and find love once more.
All We Shall Know follows a woman, Melody, trapped in an unhappy marriage, until she falls pregnant to the 17 year old itinerant she’s been tutoring, a boy half her age. Ostracised by the community she becomes unconventional friends with an itinerant woman who seems to know more about Melody than she knows about herself. We follow Melodys internal thoughts, where she seems to seek forgiveness for some past actions and comes to terms with the life growing inside her.
Swing Time is the story of two mixed race childhood friends, one with talent, one with life skills, and the varioius paths their lives follow. Dance and fame intersects with race, class, gender and culture in this captivating story with larger than life characters throughout.
Do Not Say We Have Nothing is a look at recent Chinese history, with a Canadian mother and daughter taking in a girl fleeing the Tienanmen Square protests. A musician persecuted for the music she loved, she brings tales of the cultural revolution, of chairman Mao and the silencing of dissenters. A haunting look at recent history, through several generations and broader questions of the price of freedom, cultural identity and art.
The Girls is a coming of age tale with a difference. Evie is desperate to become accepted by the group of girls she is obsessed with, they live with a soon-to-be infamous leader in an exciting commune where she begins to spend more and more of her time… Little does she know what desperately violent acts her life is spiraling towards.
All That Man Is, one hotel, nine men, all in various stages of life; young, old, healthy, vital, pitiful and dying. This novel looks at the contemporary man in nine versions of himself, striving at all times to understand what it means to be alive in present day Europe.
Lilac Girls sees three women brought together in the most unthinkable of circumstances. One a young German doctor, sent to a Nazi concentration camp for women. Another a young Polish girl acting as a courier for the underground resistance movement, and the third a newly appointed French consulate and New York socialite. This is a novel based on actual true events and real people, which brings this book to a whole other level of war time story telling.
Creative commons photo credit: Verena Yunita Yapi