The longlist for the 2016 International Dublin Literary Award, the world’s richest literary prize, was unveiled earlier this week. There are 160 titles on the list — from all corners of the world — all of which have been nominated by librarians, making it a proper “readers’ prize”.
I’ve read quite a few on the list, so I thought I would highlight 10 of my favourite ones here.
The books have been arranged in alphabetical order by author surname. Click on each book title to read my review in full.
The Temporary Gentleman by Sebastian Barry
“Written in the form of a memoir, the book details Jack McNulty’s rather colourful life. It covers his time as a doltish student who meets and falls in love with the beautiful Mai Kirwan in the west of Ireland through to their rather tumultuous (and sad) marriage. He also relays his experiences as a ‘temporary gentleman’ in the British Army during the Second World War to his later career as an engineer and UN observer, mainly in Africa.”
Academy Street by Mary Costello
“This debut novel has been written with all the assuredness and maturity of someone who’s been honing their craft for years. It charts the life of Tess Lohan from her girlhood in rural Ireland to her retirement in New York more than half a century later. Told in the third person, it reveals a woman who’s a little afraid of grabbing life by the horns despite the fact she has the courage to emigrate to the US alone with little more than the clothes on her back. Here, in 1950s Manhattan, she has the inner strength and determination to create a new life for herself — she finds an apartment of her own, becomes a nurse and brings up a child — but she remains a quiet and shy person.”
Lost and Found by Brooke Davis
“This is a lovely feel-good novel. It’s quirky and sweet. It’s funny and joyful. It’s tender, poignant and heart-rending. I felt sad when I came to the end of the story, not because the ending was sad (it’s not) but because I had to say goodbye to seven-year-old Millie and her two older chums, octogenarians Agatha Pantha and Karl the Touch Typist.”
The Avenue of the Giants by Marc Dugain (translated by Howard Curtis)
“This book is loosely based on the life story of California ‘Co-ed Killer’ Edmund Kemper, who was active in the 1970s. It is one of the most astonishing novels I’ve ever read, not the least because it’s so gruesome and shocking in places, but also because it has such a strong and powerful narrative voice. The first 100 pages are especially gripping as you are placed firmly in the head of Al Kenner, a depraved yet highly intelligent killer. His first person narrative is immediate and rational, yet coolly detached, making for a rather chilling reading experience.”
Summer House with Swimming Pool by Herman Koch (translated by Sam Garrett)
“Summer House with Swimming Pool is based on a holiday from hell: there are family arguments, forbidden love affairs and a few cross words between friends. But there’s also a dark undercurrent of menace and misogyny that has deep repercussions for everyone in this sorry saga. When the book opens we know that thespian Ralph Meier is dead and that his doctor, Marc Schlosser, who narrates the story has been accused of his murder through negligence. As Marc prepares to face the Board of Medical Examiners, the story rewinds to explain how events have lead to this dire predicament.”
Us Conductors by Sean Michaels
“Sean Michaels’ debut novel, Us Conductors, is a fictionalised account of the life of Russian engineer and physicist Lev Sergeyevich Termen (1896-1993) — later known as Leon Theremin — who invented the electronic musical instrument that takes his name: the theremin. It’s an intriguing read because it’s so ambitious in scope and theme. It’s a story about music, invention, emigration, science, love, espionage, money, fame, crime and punishment. It’s part New York novel, part prison memoir, part espionage tale, part romance. But, most of all, it’s epic, life-affirming — and fun.”
Everything I Never Told You by Celeste Ng
“This novel focuses on what happens to individual members of the Lee family following the death of 16-year-old Lydia, who drowns in the lake behind the family home. Initially, it’s not clear whether her death was an accident, homicide or suicide, but this book is not a crime novel: it’s an exposé on closely-held secrets, family history, parental expectations, sexual equality, identity, racism and grief.”
The Thrill of it All by Joseph O’Connor
“If anything is ripe for satire it is rock journalism and rock biographies. They’re so filled with clichés and stereotypes, how could you not want to send them up? Irish writer Joseph O’Connor does exactly that with this gloriously clever novel, which is the fictionalised memoir of a guitarist from a rock band that made it big in the 1980s. He covers all the clichés — the lousy gigs with just two people in the audience, the struggle to get a record deal, the infighting, the sex, the drugs and so on — but he does it with his tongue planted firmly in his cheek but without ever turning it into farce or mockery. It actually feels like a book with a heart: you care about the people in it.”
Family Life by Akhil Sharma
“In Akhil Sharma’s second novel, Family Life, an immigrant Indian family living in suburban America face a tragic situation: their eldest son Birju, a promising young scholar, survives an accident that leaves him brain damaged, blind and unable to walk or talk. He requires constant care around the clock, but his family never give up hope that he will eventually emerge unscathed from the condition that has so destroyed his life and irrevocably altered theirs. This heartbreaking story is told from the point of view of Birju’s younger brother, Ajay, whose voice is delightfully naive and filled with petty jealousies, hopeless romanticism and a deep and abiding love for the sibling he once admired but now pities and, occasionally, despises. ‘After the accident, I was glad I might become an only child,’ he confesses to God at one point.”
Nora Webster by ColmTóibín
“The book, which is set in Ireland’s County Wexford in the late 1960s and 1970s, is focused on one woman — the Nora Webster of the title — who has recently been widowed. Her husband, a school teacher who played an active role in local politics and was regarded as a pillar of the community, has died of some never-explained-to-the-reader illness and she is left to bring up four children alone: two of them — young adult daughters — no longer live at home, but there are two young boys under the age of 11 whom she treats in a distant but not unkind way.”
The prize shortlist will be published on 12 April 2016, and the winner will be announced on 9 June. To find out more, and to view the longlist in full, please visit the official website.
Have you read any of these books? Or others from the extensive longlist?
19 thoughts on “10 books on the International Dublin Literary Award longlist 2016”
I’ve read 9, but none of the above. There are however a number of titles that I have sitting in the old TBR pile so I should move them up. I’m especially excited about the three South African titles (Coovadia, Langa and Mda), none of which are readily available outside the country. I did bring two back so I hope to get to them soon. There also two books I started but failed to get far in and a couple more that I did read but did not care for. However, this is always an exciting list, especially cool because readers and librarians nominate the books!
It’s a good way to discover new books, isn’t it? And I like that quite a lot (think it’s more than 40) are translated fiction.
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I’m surprised that I have read enough on the longlist that I could probably do a top ten of my favourite. I didn’t think I read so many new books. So many great choices and I think your 10 books are a nice choice, even if I haven’t read them all. Be interesting to see what makes the shortlist.
The beauty of this longlist is that many of the books will have been out for a year or more, giving more of us a chance of at least reading a handful.
I’m delighted to see Nora Webster and Academy Street on this longlist. As you say, the fact that the nominations come from librarians makes it a prize that should resonate with a wide range of readers.
Academy Street was my book of the year last year. Always like seeing what gets nominated. It’s usually such a broad range of literary fiction. And the Irish and Australians always do well, which greatly appeals to me for obvious reasons.
I’ve read 14 of them, not even 10%. Hard to pick a favourite but Nora Webster would be in the running as would Lost and Found. Great to see a few Aussie books on the list. I must get to The Golden Age soon.
That’s still a good few, Sharkell. Think I’ve read 17, and have about that number again in my TBR! I’m looking forward to reading The Golden Age too…heard so many good things about it.
Such a wide ranging list. I’m delighted to see the Costello on it which should have been garlanded with prizes already!
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Yes, Costello should have won lots of prizes. It did win the Irish Novel of the Year last year, which was pleasing.
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From the books you highlight here, I have only read Academy Street. That was a beautiful book, so I’m happy to see it here.
Oh yes, Academy Street is a gem of a book. It was my favourite read of 2014.
I’ve read three on your list – Us Conductors, Academy Street, and Everything I Never Told You – all of which I loved! There are so many great books on this list, many of which have been on my to-read list for a while. I love that they are not just all new ones that I haven’t heard of yet.
A few others on the list that I am so happy to see are Sweetland (one of my favourites from last year), Euphoria, Station Eleven, and All My Puny Sorrows. I’ve also read Elizabeth is Missing and Who By Fire.
I don’t know how they are ever going to choose…
That’s a good reminder for me to read Sweetland. I have a copy here that I found in the communal kitchen at work (the benefit of working for a magazine company that has lots of women’s mags that review books; all the unwanted ARCs are given away and I invariably find great lit fiction the mags aren’t interested in reviewing). I also want to read Station 11, which I bought on Kindle during a promotion (think it cost 99 pence!).
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Of your 10 I have read just the one – Nora Webster – which is phenomenal and I really cant understand why it hasn’t garnered more attention. The longlist has some I’ve read and didn’t rate at all (couldn’t even finish An Unnecessary Woman or In the light of what we know). But then there are masses of titles that I’ve yet to explore. Could get expensive….
Funnily enough, even though I’ve listed Nora Webster here I wasn’t hugely enamoured of it. I think it did get quite a big burst of attention when it was initially released — there was an entire BBC documentary devoted to Colm Toibin on the back of it (Alan Yentob’s “Imagine” series — sadly no longer on iPlayer) — and being long listed here suggests that it’s popular with readers (or librarians, anyway). The long list is very diverse, so there’s bound to be titles on it that are so-so and won’t appeal to everyone. Interesting to hear you couldn’t finish In the Light of What We Know, as it’s a book I constantly pick up in book stores but never buy because I’m not quite sure I could get through it. My penchant is for novels of roughly 250 pages (or fewer) — the story has to be especially gripping for me to devote the time to anything bigger, I think.
I’m happy to say I have 21 books from the long list on the TBR bookshelf beside me! A few I have started but they didn’t “speak to me at the time” I picked them up. Station Eleven is the bookclub choice for December, so, I have to make a start there at least! I am also happy that there are a number in translation too. I like that this is a “readers’ list” and as such is a useful starting point for many book clubs as they compile new lists for 2016. Thanks for highlighting the long list so far ahead and your short list (four of which I have!) for all of us! This is a good lead time to get going before the short list is announced and winner picked!
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Well, there’s a real mixed bag on that list so there’s bound to be a few books on there that won’t appeal to everyone. I’m always puzzled at how they come up with a short list. Surely the judges don’t sit down and read the 100+ titles on the longlist?!