Lying in Wait chosen by Donal Ryan and Martina Devlin as their top reads of the year.
The Years That Followed, Catherine Dunne (Macmillan). There’s an intensity to this novel that draws in the reader: seduction, betrayal and revenge — themes don’t come much more primal. Inspired by Greek myth, this is a modern retelling of a classic revenge story set against Cyprus, Spain and Ireland. It follows the fortunes of two women escaping from difficult home lives, but vulnerable in their new surroundings. You can smell the Mediterranean as you read.
Any new Jennifer Johnston book is a cause for celebration in my view. Her latest Naming The Stars (Tinder Press) is a novella about festering secrets and keeping up appearances. Two elderly ladies — employer and employee, although their relationship is characterised by long-standing affection — live in an imposing period house which has seen better days and “have a row over their dinner one night,” as Jennifer describes it. That argument ventilates a hurt from the past. The novella is published in conjunction with one of my favourite earlier novels, Two Moons.
I’ve bought half a dozen copies of Lying In Wait, by Liz Nugent because any time someone drops by, takes it off my shelves and reads a few lines, they’re hooked instantly and beg to borrow it. This is a taut, gripping, psychological thriller, with vivid storytelling — no wonder I swallowed it in one gulp. Obsessional mother love is the disturbing motif at its core.
Billy Keane’s columns are the best thing about Mondays and now there’s a book of them it’s like having a bunch of letters from an old friend, full of humour and humanity and joyful, unsneering irreverence, reminding me of what’s really important in this life. Billy lifts people, even in the saddest of times. The Best of Billy Keane (Ballpoint Press Limited) should be in every home in Ireland. A Last Loving: Collected Poems by Maeve Kelly (Syracuse University Press) and Playing The Octopus, (Carcanet Press) Mary O’Malley’s sublime new collection, were two of the poetry events of the year, and are works to be savoured and cherished.
I read some amazing memoirs this year, including poet Patrick Deeley’s achingly beautiful The Hurley Maker’s Son (Doubleday Ireland) and Paul O’Connell’s brilliant, bruising The Battle .
I’ve started to catch up on contemporary crime and thrillers: Liz Nugent’s Lying in Wait is genius; Alex Barclay’s The Drowning Child (Harper Collins) is mesmerising; Tana French continues to wow her huge global audience with The Trespasser (Hodder & Stoughton); and Sam Blake’s debut Little Bones (Twenty7) is a truly engrossing read.
Sebastian Barry’s Days Without End (Faber & Faber) is a magnificent novel, one of the best I’ve ever read. Sam Coll’s towering debut The Abode of Fancy (The Lilliput Press) is a staggering display of linguistic gymnastics and a tall and enthralling tale to boot. Colm O’Regan’s Bolloxology (Transworld Ireland) is a scream, a howl, a pure joy.