A DEBUT novel about simmering tensions in a small Irish town in the midst of the recession has won a Limerick based author the Bord Gais Energy Book of the Year award.
Donal Ryan, from Burgess in north Tipperary, scooped the award after his novel competed with works by literary heavyweights, including John Banville, Edna O’Brien, and the late Maeve Binchy. His novel, The Spinning Heart, took the top honour, partly due to the weight of the public vote in his favour. “As a newcomer, I am shocked but thrilled to win this award. With such a high calibre of authors in this category, I am truly honoured to be amongst them. A sincere thank you to all who voted,” he said.
Bert Wright, administrator of the awards, said this novel “must hearten all who care about the Irish literary tradition. To discover a writer of such skill and assurance in a first book is truly extraordinary.”
Mr Wright revealed that the acclaimed Jennifer Johnston, who won their lifetime achievement award, marvelled at his “ability to transmute the grief and pain in the book through the sheer quality of his writing.”
John Boyne, author of The Boy in the Striped Pyjamas, praised it as “original, perceptive and outstanding.”
The first work by the 36 year-old deals with the social impact of Ireland’s latest recession in a fictional small town, though a number of north Tipperary placenames are featured. The story centres on the kidnapping of a child and a man’s murder. The author explained that it’s written as 21 linked first-person narratives, with the plotlines continued throughout, and set in the summer of 2010.
He said the publication was a long-held dream, as he shares his father’s passion for writing. In his 20s he said he started to write a number of novels, but never finished any of them. “Eventually my wife Anne Marie told me to go write a book or else just forget about it.”
It is published by Lilliput and Double-day. Donal works for the Department of Jobs, Enterprise & Innovation in Limerick, and lives in Castletroy with his wife and two children.