DONAL Ryan’s literary career has taken off like a rocket over the past two years, ever since his first published novel The Spinning Heart took the book world by storm.
And it is a book that continues to bring acclaim to this Tipperary born author who has made Limerick his home for the past 20 years. The book won the Bord Gáis Energy Book of the Year in 2012, was short-listed for the Booker prize, long-listed for the Impac award and last month won the Guardian First Book Award, which carries a prize of £10,000.
The judges described it as an audacious debut and their chairperson, Guardian Review editor Lisa Allardice, said: “It may be slim in size, but it is hugely ambitious in structure and devastating in its emotional impact”.
Too often contemporary fiction is criticised for not engaging enough with contemporary issues, she added, but Donal’s book was a “breathtakingly empathetic account of a community crumbling under the pressures of the recession”.
Previous winners of the Guardian prize include Zadie Smith, Yiyun Li and Kevin Powers.
Now, Donal’s second novel, The thing About December, which was actually written prior to The Spinning Heart, is winning him more critical plaudits - and, crucially, more readers.
It too is set in small town rural Ireland and features Johnnsy Cunliffe, a clueless 24-year-old who inherits a farm and stands to make a lot of money from the development madness of the Celtic Tiger.
Reviewer John Boland, writing in the Irish Independent, described Donal Ryan as a remarkably good chronicler of contemporary Irish life and said The Thing About December “fully confirms the promise of his earlier novel.”
Last month, Donal was named as Limerick Person of the Month.
He is married to Newcastle West woman Anne-Marie and they have two young children.
West Limerick readers will get a chance to meet him this Thursday evening when he will sign books at the Newcastle West Book Shop at 7pm.