Authors Paul Lynch and Patricia Gibney joined Ryan Tubridy in studio this morning to share their summer reading recommendations and to discuss their latest novels, which Ryan has chosen as two of his favourite books of the year.
Paul’s novel, Grace, features a teenage protagonist.
“Grace is a 14-year-old girl who wakes up one morning to find herself being dragged out of bed by her mother. She has ideas about what’s going on but it turns out her mother is going to cut her hair off.”
The year is 1845 and the onset of The Famine causes Grace’s mother to alternative sources of income. Deciding that the best course of action is to send Grace out looking for work, her short hair allowing her to pass as a boy, an “epic road journey” begins. This journey turns “Dantean” at times, Paul explained.
Ryan said he was “sucked into the abyss” when reading the book and praised Paul for “confronting the spectre” of crimes and atrocities committed during The Famine. Paul says that there is still a lot of “silence” when it comes to talking about The Famine.
“Criminality went through the roof…people would do whatever it took to survive…The fact is that, in times like these, survivors are rarely heroes.”
Patricia started writing 7 years ago following the tragic death of her husband. She told Ryan that writing acted as a form of therapy for her.
“It took nearly a year or two afterwards to actually hit home, to process that they key wasn‘t going to turn in the door and he wasn’t going to come home anymore.”
The character Lottie Parker emerged from her writing. Patricia calls her “mad”, while Ryan prefers “intriguing”. Lottie is a detective and like Patricia, also lost her husband.
“I think a lot of what I was going through at the time came out in Lottie Parker…People say to me like that she’s a very real character and I suppose that’s because there was a lot of reality that went into the making of that character.”
Stolen Girls addresses issues like immigration, direct provision, exploitation and law enforcement. “Big themes”, as Ryan put it. And it’s a continuing theme for Patricia. Her late husband’s experience as a peace-keeping soldier in Bosnia opened her eyes to the “real people” affected by war and its aftermath and will likely form the basis for a future book.
Both Paul and Patricia had recommendations of their own for listeners who are looking to add to their bookshelves. Paul is a fan of Mia Gallagher’s debut short story collection, Shift. Set in 80’s and 90’s Dublin, Paul called the stories “edgy and fierce and a little bit fearless”.
“They’re getting into the minds quite beautifully of characters who are falling prey to their own subconscious desires... It’s very vivid and it’s very beautifully done.”
Patricia recommends Thirteen by Steve Cavanagh. A lawyer himself, Cavanagh has created a thriller featuring a trial where the killer is not on the stand but on the jury instead.
“It’s absolutely brilliant. It’s fast-paced and he has a brilliant lead character in Eddie Flynn.”
Paul also had special mention for Warlight by “magisterial” Canadian writer, Michael Ondaatje. Set in a post-World War II London, it shadows a young boy whose mother might work for MI5.
“There’s that kind of boyish wonder going through it…it’s a wonderful read.”
Finally, Patricia made a case for bringing Stoner by John Williams back to public attention, following its publication in 1965.
“The New York Times described it as ‘the best book you’ve never read’…It’s written in a style of book that I’ve never read before…but I couldn’t put it down.“
Listen back to the whole discussion on The Ryan Tubridy Show here.
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