Limerick author’s ‘beer trip’ tale captures top literary prize

Aine Fitzgerald


Aine Fitzgerald

A LIMERICK author has captured the world’s most valuable short story prize, the Sunday Times EFG Private Bank Short Story Award, worth £30,000 (€36,000).

A LIMERICK author has captured the world’s most valuable short story prize, the Sunday Times EFG Private Bank Short Story Award, worth £30,000 (€36,000).

Kevin Barry, a native of Ballinacurra Gardens was presented with the prestigious award at the Oxford Literary Festival which he attended with his wife Olivia.

His entry, Beer Trip to Llandudno, triumphed over stories by authors including Room novelist Emma Donoghue to win the award.

“I have been on a few shortlists in the past and I haven’t always won so, yes, it’s a nice moment especially because it’s a very prestigious award,” Kevin told the Limerick Leader this week.

“It just seemed to have resonated with the judges – it’s fantastic,” he added.

As the story follows a group of men on a train journey from Liverpool to Llandudno, Kevin writes “with a sensitivity that never transgresses into sentimentality”, said judge Hanif Kureishi, producing “a beautifully constructed piece of writing that says something fresh about how men find comfort, support and humour in each other’s company. This is an astonishing story that is both daringly original and full of heart.”

The 42-year-old who is a former student of CBS Sexton Street in the city and now lives in Ballinafad in County Sligo has enjoyed possibly the most fruitful few days of his literary life – he has just launched a new book entitled ‘Dark Lies the Island’ and he has featured on the cover of the New York Times book review section.

“The novel ‘City of Bohane’ got a brilliant review. In a way that was almost bigger news. It was a good weekend,” he said.

While he hasn’t lived in Limerick since his early 20s Kevin does get home as much as he can. “All the family are there so I hover around,” he said.

Kevin has one brother and three sisters – his sister Joan Barry still lives in Ballinacurra Gardens in the family home, Eugene lives in Adare while Mary Kelly lives in O’Curry Place in the city.

His sister Majella Sheehan who lives in Meelick said she “jumped for joy” when she got news of her brother’s win.

“It’s such a fabulous achievement, we are just so proud of him. He has been compared to very, very, very good writers and he is getting fabulous reviews. He has a kind of a dry sense of humour,” she said.

Majella retired from teaching in February after 34 years at Bruff national school, Scoil Dean Cussen.

“All their eyes in Bruff glaze over when I would say ‘have I mentioned my brother, the author,” she laughed.

According to Majella, Kevin’s “great ability” is his use of descriptive language.

“You think you are actually there, it is just untouchable – that’s what is winning him the plaudits. He can just put you in the scene with a phrase or a few words. You can imagine it, you can see yourself there.”

“When Kevin was 10 years old our mother died, he was the baby in the house. That is such a huge thing to happen to a 10-year-old, to any child really. It made us more protective of him growing up. He grew up to be a wonderful man, you couldn’t but be proud of him,” she added.

And what did Kevin do to celebrate his remarkable few days?

“We didn’t go mad really because I am very busy with the new book coming out but I’m sure we will quietly celebrate,” he smiled.

“With writers you tend to have good years and average years so it just buys you time really to keep going and work on other stuff.”

Kevin’s new book ‘Dark Lies the Island’ is available in Limerick bookshops.