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Book Reviews

Mostly Irish settings for the splendid new work collected here, although Colm Tóibín's protagonist is German and the story is set in Germany.

Granta - New Irish Writing

Granta is the highly-regarded UK-based periodical which highlights vibrant new writing, often under select themes in individual editions. Now comes our turn, with new Irish writing from Kevin Barry, Emma Donoghue, Colm Tóibín, Roddy Doyle.

  • The Italians - a gently acerbic yet affectionate survey by one who has been immersed in matters Italian for 15 years.

    John Hooper - The Italians

    John Hooper's lively 300-page account is the result of 15 years immersion in all things Italian. The veteran journalist goes behind the headline names - Mussolini, Berlusconi, the Amanda Knox trial, with Fellini and football and feminism also surveyed.

  • Deborah Levy does amused sympathy for our human foibles with style and an almost surreal imaginative touch in Hot Milk.

    Deborah Levy - Hot Milk

    A twenty-something girl, of Greek and English parentage, has accompanied her hypochondriac mother to an expensive clinic in the South of Spain. However, she must face healing herself before her life shatters, in this masterful comedy of manners.

  • The new Greek poetry - there are political poems but the anthology draws on diverse cultural sources

    Austerity Measures - The New Greek Poetry

    Yanis Varoufakis urges us all to read this book of contemporary Greek poetry, but it is far from being a series of diatribes against austerity or anything related. Indeed it shows Greece to be a country still assimilating diverse voices and cultures.

  • Lovely hurling: Moving and humorous account of the poet's East Galway formation.

    Patrick Deeley - The Hurley Maker's Son

    Patrick Deeley has penned a masterpiece of memoir-writing in which he recalls his East Galway childhood and the years afterwards with remarkable percipience and sensitivity.

  • Lucy Barton: a troubled family and a life of poverty, exclusion, pain and loneliness.

    Elizabeth Strout - My Name is Lucy Barton

    At times painfully sad, My Name is Lucy Barton is a memorable and tender novella, and the story-telling is rich and affecting.

  • Mothering Sunday: a vivid evocation of one fateful day in  the world of Upstairs Downstairs in March 1924.

    Graham Swift - Mothering Sunday

    Graham Swift's absorbing new novella tracks the details of one fateful day in March 1924, the final fling in a secret relationship.

  • Everything is Happening: Michael Jacobs' swansong explores his fascination with an iconic work of art from 1656.

    Michael Jacobs Everything is Happening

    Art historian Michael Jacobs died aged 61 in 2014 before he could complete his musings on Velázquez's famous painting, Las Meninas. His friend, Observer reporter and author Ed Vulliamy has rounded off Jacobs' essay with a fitting introduction and coda.

  • Bernice Barrington: a strong, confident debut.

    Bernice Barrington Sisters and Lies

    Sisters and Lies is a well written, twisty thriller which runs to 416 pages. The characters are believable, the tension satisfying, the story meaty.

  • Citizens: the idealism of 1916 set against contemporary disillusion.

    Kevin Curran Citizens

    Kevin Curran's novel pivots fluidly between its respective settings in the idealistic early years of the twentieth century - specifically the momentous events of the Easter Rising - and contemporary disillusion.

  • Bunin's Dark Avenues: a perceptive reader of human emotions, with lyrical depictions of the Russian countryside.

    Ivan Bunin - Dark Avenues

    Ivan Bunin (1870-1953) was the first Russian writer to win the Nobel Prize for Literature - in 1933 - and he wrote these luminous stories between 1938 and 1944. Their setting harks back to earlier decades, the Russia of dachas and serfs and icons

  • Seamus Heaney - a rendering beyond an old teacher's wildest imaginings . .

    Seamus Heaney Aeneid Book VI

    Seamus Heaney began a complete "rendering" of Virgil's Aeneid VI in 2007 after he finished poems written on the birth of his first grand-daughter. His version is a powerful piece, cresting the waves between poignancy and grand heroics.

  • Absorbing new study of the verse of the revered Mayo poet, Antoine Ó Raifteirí from another bard, Tadhg Mac Dhonnagáin. The author places the poet in the social and political contexts of his time.

    Tadhg Mac Dhonnagáin Mise Raiftearí

    Mise Raiftearaí, An Fíodóir Focal is an illuminating study of the work of the last of the wandering bards, Antoine Ó Raifteirí (1779-1835). The author, himself a poet and musician, hails from the same Kiltimagh heartland from whence the revered poet came.

  • Ronan Fanning's perceptive biography is a sober look at The Chief with all his flaws and virtues.

    Ronan Fanning Éamon de Valera - A Will to Power

    This incisive and compelling biography from Ronan Fanning has been on the shelves since late last year but interest in the iconic figure that was Eamon de Valera will intensify in coming weeks.

  • Marías seems to almost radiate language, letting his dense narratives spin outward as though the construction of a vast spider's web were somehow happening without any authorial endeavour.

    Javier Marías - Thus Bad Begins

    IMPAC-winning novelist Javier Marías returns with another intriguing story of lust and crime, characteristically narrated against type, almost like an anti-whodunnit.