If you need any other proof that new Irish fiction is going through a particularly exciting period, look at the Desmond Elliot Prize shortlist. Gavin McCrea and Lisa McInerney are two of the most exciting debut authors I’ve read in recent years. Since I first read it a year ago, I’ve brought up Mrs Engels many times on this blog and on social media. You know what I’ve said about it so here is what the prize’s Chair of judges Iain Pears says about McCrea’s novel:
“McCrea has cleverly included just enough historical detail to set a very evocative scene, then lets his cast tell the story. The writing always surprises, his characters are compelling without having to be likeable and, as all of we judges noted, Mrs Engels is perhaps the most feminist novel we read for the Prize.”
That’s an interesting final thought considering McCrea was one of only three men out of the ten authors on the Desmond Elliot Prize longlist!
Lisa McInerney's novel is a powerfully-written and sweeping tale of modern day Cork that includes people who aren’t often portrayed in fiction. It’s also recently been shortlisted for this year's Baileys Prize for Fiction.
Pears said: “It is no surprise that not one but two major literary prizes have noticed McInerney’s talent. She gives us strong, complex working-class characters with real emotional hinterlands, and plays with the reader’s emotions in an extraordinarily sophisticated way.”
Also included in this shortlist of three is Julia Rochester’s striking novel about family secrets. It’s a novel that also made the Baileys Prize for Fiction longlist.
Pears said: “Rochester’s writing is quite wonderful – she is particularly strong on her sense of place. She brings the landscape to life just as she does her characters. We all felt we were with them at key points in the book.”
Click on the titles below for my full reviews about each of these novels.
Mrs Engels by Gavin McCrea
The Glorious Heresies by Lisa McInerney
The House at the Edge of the World by Julia Rochester
The winner will be revealed at a ceremony at Fortnum & Mason on 22 June, where he or she will be presented with a cheque for £10,000.