In this difficult time for authors, awards shortlists are more important than ever for raising awareness of their work. Here are the books to read this summer

The most lucrative awards in the Irish literary calendar, Dalkey Literary Awards, offers prizes worth €30,000, with winners to be announced on 20 June.   

This year’s Dalkey Book Festival is to be replaced by the inaugural Dalkey Literary Awards, in conjunction with Zurich Insurance. The Dalkey Book Festival was originally due to take place next month but this summer will instead feature a digital awards ceremony, ensuring that the festival’s organisers and sponsors can still give back to artists during a difficult year. Here are the shortlists:

Novel of the Year  

  1. The Narrow Land, Christine Dwyer Hickey – Two boys spending the summer in Cape Cod in 1950, meet a couple living nearby, the artists Jo and Edward Hopper. An unlikely friendship is forged, and the boys get a glimpse at a couple battling depression, jealousy and regret.
  2. Girl, Edna O’Brien – The narrator of this story has been abducted and married into Boko Harram, witnessing the horrors of the community of men governed by violence. She is offered an unlikely escape, to an unforgiving place, and her trauma is met with judgement from a society in denial. Can she, barely more than a girl, learn forgiveness?
  3. The Fire Starters, Jan Carson – Two fathers worry that violence lurks in their children. The city is in flames and the authorities are losing control, and the lines between fantasy and reality, right and wrong blur. Who will they choose to protect?
  4. Shadowplay, Joseph O’Connor – This exceptional novel set in Dublin explores the complexities of love that stands dangerously outside social convention, the restlessness of creativity, and the experiences that led to Dracula, the most iconic supernatural tale of all time.
  5. Night Boat to Tangier, Kevin Barry –  It’s late one night at the Spanish port of Algeciras and two fading Irish gangsters are waiting on the boat from Tangier. A lover has been lost, a daughter has gone missing, their world has come asunder – can it be put together again?
  6. The River Capture, Mary Costello – A man who has left Dublin for the quiet life on his family’s land turns to books for solace. A young woman arrives at his door, presenting his family with an impossible dilemma.

 Emerging Writer  

  1. Loves Notes from A German Building Site, Adrian Duncan – A young Irish engineer follows his girlfriend to Berlin and begins work renovating a building in Alexanderplatz. With the pressure of th ebuild and an unravelling relationship in this unfamiliar environment, he becomes untethered.
  2. The Life & Loves of E. Nesbit, Eleanor Fitzsimons – Edith Nesbit is considered the inventor of the children’s adventure story. This biography looks at her own unhappy childhood, the love triangle she found herself in in adult life, and her prolific activism.
  3. Paris Syndrome, Lucy Sweeney Byrne – Eleven stories look at the experience of travelling the world alone as a young woman, with all its pleasures and dangers. A drifting writer house sits in Donegal, former lovers try to salvage their friendship in a Texas dive bar, and a frustrated artist navigates the alluring city of Mexico.
  4. Show Them A Good Time, Nicole Flattery – Short stories about characters that are haunted as much by the future as they are by their past. They include a young, broke Irish woman narrating her relationship with a successful comedian in New York, and a school teacher who makes her way through a series of dead-end dates, gamely searching for love or distraction as the world teeters towards ruin.
  5. Leonard and Hungry Paul, Rónán Hession – A story of two friends who would normally remain uncelebrated, who approach the world differently. The book is about the idea of learning from people we would tend to overlook in life.
  6. Constellations, Sinéad Gleeson – A collection of essays that will stop you in your tracks. Sinéad tells the story of her life in her body, through sickness, grief, motherhood and love. This personal and yet universal writing delves deeply into the joy and pain of being alive.

Main image: Tembela Bohle from Pexels