It's no mistake that my two favourite authors -- John McGahern and Jennifer Johnston -- are Irish: I'm a sucker for an Irish novel.
While I've already got dozens of Irish novels in my reading queue, I can never resist the allure of another, yet-to-be-purchased title to add to the collection.
Here's a selection of forthcoming titles, due for publication this year, which have attracted my interest. It's a good mix of literary fiction and crime fiction, and includes one short story collection. The books have been arranged in alphabetical order by author's surname.
Please note that the release dates quoted are for the UK and are subject to change.
Jonathan Cape, paperback, 288 pages (7 April)
Synopsis: "Forty years in the future. The once-great city of Bohane on the west coast of Ireland is on its knees, infested by vice and split along tribal lines. There are the posh parts of town, but it is in the slums and backstreets of Smoketown, the tower blocks of the Northside Rises and on the eerie bogs of Big Nothin’ that Bohane really lives.
"For years, the city has been in the cool grip of Logan Hartnett, the dapper godfather of the Hartnett Fancy gang. But there’s trouble in the air. They say his old nemesis is back in town; his trusted henchman is getting ambitious; and his missus wants him to give it all up and go straight...and then there's his mother.
"City of Bohane is a unique and visionary novel that blends influence from film and the graphic novel, from Trojan beats and calypso rhythms, from Celtic myth and legend, from fado and the sagas, and from all the great inheritance of Irish literature. A work of mesmerising imagination and vaulting linguistic invention, it is a taste of the startlingly new."
Faber and Faber, hardcover, 304 pages (4 August)
Synopsis: "Narrated by Lilly Bere, On Canaan’s Side opens as she mourns the loss of her grandson, Bill. The story then goes back to the moment she was forced to flee Sligo, at the end of the First World War, and follows her life through into the new world of America, a world filled with both hope and danger.
"At once epic and intimate, Lilly’s narrative unfurls as she tries to make sense of the sorrows and troubles of her life and of the people whose lives she has touched.
"Spanning nearly seven decades, it is a novel of memory, war, family-ties and love, which once again displays Sebastian Barry’s exquisite prose and gift for storytelling."
Mantle, hardcover, number of pages not known (11 July)
Synopsis: "When newspaper magnate Richard Jewell is found dead at his country estate, clutching a shotgun in his lifeless hands, few see his demise as cause for sorrow. But before long Doctor Quirke and Inspector Hackett realise that, rather than the suspected suicide, ‘Diamond Dick’ has in fact been murdered.
"Jewell had made many enemies over the years and suspicion soon falls on one of his biggest rivals. But as Quirke and his assistant Sinclair get to know Jewell's beautiful, enigmatic wife Françoise d’Aubigny, and his fragile sister Dannie, as well as those who work for the family, it gradually becomes clear that all is not as it seems.
"As Quirke’s investigations return him to the notorious orphanage of St Christopher’s, where he once resided, events begin to take a much darker turn. Quirke finds himself reunited with an old enemy and Sinclair receives sinister threats. But what have the shadowy benefactors of St Christopher’s to do with it all?
"Against the backdrop of 1950's Dublin, Benjamin Black conjures another atmospheric, beguiling mystery."
Random House, hardcover, 416 pages (8 February)
Synopsis: " 'And there’s a legend—she had only vague details—that all couples who are meant to marry are connected by an invisible silver cord which is wrapped around their ankles at birth, and in time the matchmaking gods pull those cords tighter and tighter and draw the couple slowly toward one another until they meet.' So says Miss Kate Begley, Matchmaker of Kenmare, the enigmatic woman Ben MacCarthy meets in the summer of 1943.
"As World War II rages on, Ben remains haunted by the mysterious disappearance of his wife, the actress Venetia Kelly. Searching for purpose by collecting stories for the Irish Folklore Commission, he travels to a remote seaside cottage to profile the aforementioned Matchmaker of Kenmare. Ben is immediately captivated by the forthright Miss Begley, who is remarkably self-assured in her instincts but provincial in her experience. Miss Begley is determined to see that Ben moves through his grief—and a powerful friendship is forged along the way.
"But when Charles Miller, a striking American military intelligence officer, arrives on the scene, Miss Begley develops an intense infatuation and looks to make a match for herself. Miller needs a favor, but it will be dangerous. Under the cover of their neutrality as Irish citizens, Miss Begley and Ben travel to London and effectively operate as spies. As they are drawn more deeply and painfully into the conflict, both discover the perils of neutrality—in both love and war.
"Steeped in colorful history, The Matchmaker of Kenmare is a stirring story of friendship and sacrifice. Frank Delaney has written a lush and surprising novel, rich as myth, tense as a thriller, and like all grand tales—harrowing, sometimes hilarious, and heartbreaking."
Jonathan Cape, hardcover, 288 pages (28 April)
Synopsis: "In Terenure, a pleasant suburb of Dublin, in the winter of 2009, it has snowed. Gina Moynihan, girl about town, recalls the trail of lust and happenstance that brought her to fall for 'the love of her life'. As the city outside comes to a halt, Gina remembers the days of their affair in one hotel room or another: long afternoons made blank by bliss and denial. Now, as the silent streets and the stillness and vertigo of the falling snow make the day luminous and full of possibility, Gina waits the arrival on her doorstep of her lover's fragile, twelve-year-old daughter, Evie - the complication, and gravity, of this second life.
"In this extraordinary novel, this opening book of secrets, Anne Enright speaks directly to the readers she won with the success of The Gathering. Here, again, is the sudden, momentous drama of everyday life, the volatile connections between people; that fresh eye for each flinch and gesture; the wry, accurate take on families, marriage, brittle middle age. The same verve and humour and breathtaking control are evident; the ability to merge the ordinary and the beautiful.
"With The Forgotten Waltz Enright turns her attention fully to love as she follows another flawed and unforgettable heroine on a journey of the heart. This is Anne Enright's tour de force, a novel of intelligence, passion and real distinction."
New Island, paperback, number of pages not known (April 22)
Synopsis: "On a wet November morning in 1940 Harry Gleeson, a farm manager in his early forties, discovered the body of Moll McCarthy (also in her forties) in a field, near Marlhill, a couple of miles from the village of New Inn, Co. Tipperary. Moll McCarthy had been shot twice with a shotgun, once in the face.
"The local Guards decided immediately that there was only one suspect: the man who discovered the body, Harry Gleeson. Moll, they said, had seven children by seven different men one of whom, they alleged was Gleeson. His motive for killing Moll McCarthy they said was that she was blackmailing him and threatening to expose him.
"Within days of reporting the body, Harry Gleeson was arrested and, early in 1941, he was convicted of Moll McCarthy's murder. It seemed like justice had been done except that, as everyone in New Inn knew, Gleeson had never had a relationship with Moll McCarthy, had never had a child with Moll McCarthy and, if that wasn't enough, he also had a cast iron alibi. Her killer, as was also widely known, was more than likely the father of her seventh child.
"Carlo Gébler's novel is an attempt to explain, using the known facts, augmented with invented or speculative material, the motives of the man and his accomplices who killed Moll McCarthy, how the crime was committed, how the local police fabricated their case and fitted up Harry Gleeson, and why an entire community looked away as the Irish judicial system prosecuted, convicted and condemned to death an innocent man. Albert Pierrepoint (the hangman) executed Harry Gleeson in Mountjoy in April 1941."
Faber and Faber, paperback, 368 pages (3 March 2011)
Synopsis: "A stunning international thriller and a wild, compulsive ride into the greedy vortex of modern life.
"Imagine a drug that made your brain function to its full potential. A drug that allowed you to pick up a foreign language in a single day. A drug that helped you process information so fast you could see patterns in the stock market.
"Just as his life is fading into mediocrity, Eddie Spinola comes across such a pill: MDT-48 - a sort of Viagra for the brain. But while its benefits materialise quickly, so do certain unwelcome side-effects. And when Eddie decides to track down other users, he soon discovers that they’re all dying, or already dead..."
Harvill Secker, paperback, 304 pages (2 June)
Synopsis: "Vincent Naylor is a professional thief, as confident as he is reckless. Just ten days out of jail, and he’s preparing his next robbery. Already, his plan is unravelling.
"While investigating the murder of a crooked banker, Detective Sergeant Bob Tidey gets a call from an old acquaintance, Maura Coady. The retired nun believes there’s something suspicious happening in the Dublin backstreet where she lives alone.
"Maura’s call inadvertently unleashes a storm of violence that will engulf Vincent Naylor and force Tidey to make a deadly choice.
"The Rage is a masterpiece of suspense, told against the background of a country’s shameful past and its troubled present."
Pan MacMillan, paperback, 208 pages (4 March)
Synopsis: "Battered and broken by three years of fighting, Stephen Ryan returns to Ireland – to the woman he loves, and in the hope of a return to his old life. But, instead, he finds the seeds of a new conflict are being sown in Dublin. Sinn Fein is resurgent, and more determined than ever to gain independence for Ireland. Stephen’s own brother is among those who are prepared to fight for their cause, and there is growing civil unrest at the shocking losses of the First World War and the threat of conscription looming over Ireland. With the mood of the whole country changing, Stephen must ask himself if he has chosen the right side.
"All he knows is that he cannot stay at home. Despite his wounds, and his growing addiction to the morphine he needs to ease his pain, Stephen feels compelled to return to the front, where he has some hope of laying his ghosts to rest and where at least he knows where his loyalties lie.
"But war is deceitful – whether at home or abroad – and Stephen eventually finds himself dragged into a complex web of deceit and violence. He must think fast, as everything that he holds dear is threatened – this new Ireland has new, unpredictable rules."
Faber and Faber, paperback, 224 pages (17 February)
Synopsis: "A woman walks the streets of Manhattan and contemplates with exquisite longing the precarious affair she has embarked on, amidst the grandeur and cacophony of the cityscape; a young Irish girl and her mother are thrilled to be invited to visit the glamorous Coughlan's but find - for all the promise of their green gorgette, silver shoes and fancy dinner parties - they leave disappointed; an Irishman in north London retraces his life as a young lad with his mates digging the streets and dreaming of the apocryphal gold, an outside both in Ireland and England, yet he carries the lodestar of his native land.
"This is a collection characterised by all of Edna O'Brien's trademark lyricism, powerful evocations of place and a glorious and an often heart-breaking grasp of people and their desires and contradictions."
Are there any yet-to-be-released Irish books I have left out? Or are there any on this list that have piqued your interest? Which Irish novel are you most looking forward to reading in 2011?