Sally J Morgan wins Portico Award; Stephen Rea reads Butcher’s Dozen; new book deals


In tomorrow’s Irish Times, Gary Shteyngart talks to John Self about his brilliantly funny new novel tackling Covid and other calamities plaguing the United States. Raven Leilani talks to Róisín Ingle about her brilliant debut novel, Luster, as it comes out in paperback. Edel Coffey writes about her first novel, Breaking Point, and argues that, for many of us, Breaking Point is now the default basis from which we live our daily lives.

Reviewers are Ronan McGreevy on Ireland 1922: Independence, Partition, Civil War, edited by Darragh Gannon and Fearghal McGarry; Katie Lewin on The Love Songs of WEB Du Bois by Honoree Fanonne Jeffers; Tony White on The Anomaly by Hervé Le Tellier; Martina Evans on Best New Poetry; Helen Cullen on Free Love by Tessa Hadley; Jan Carson on What I Wish People Knew About Dementia by Wendy Mitchell; Eoin Ó Broin on A Short History of Dublin’s Future by Frank McDonald; and Sarah Gilmartin on I Love You But I Chose Darkness by Claire Vaye Watkins.

This weekend’s Irish Times Eason book deal is Acts of Despair, Megan Nolan’s acclaimed debut novel, which you can pick up for £4.99, a saving of £6.


Sally J Morgan won the Portico Prize for Literature for her debut novel Toto Among the Murderers. Set primarily in Leeds and Sheffield in 1973, Toto Among Murderers (JM Originals) follows the story of Toto and his friends as they begin life after college, a time when women’s lives were overshadowed by the constant threat of sexual violence. The book is based on the author’s own experience of being offered a lift by infamous murderers Fred and Rosemary West.

Morgan, who grew up in Yorkshire and now lives and works in Wellington, New Zealand, will receive £10,000 for winning the Portico Prize, Britain’s only prize for outstanding writing best evoking “the spirit of the north from England”.

Judges’ chairman Gary Younge, the award-winning author, broadcaster and professor of sociology at the University of Manchester, said: “Finding a winner from this year’s shortlist was not easy, but ultimately, while all were serious suitors, we were broadly an agreement. Sally J Morgan’s Toto Among the Murderers vividly evokes a time in recent history with themes that have clear, if painful, echoes right through to the present day – a time when women in the North, in particular, lived in deadly fear of sexual violence made explicit by daily headlines about mass murderers targeting vulnerable women. But what stands out is the determination of Toto, the main character, to refuse to let fears define her as she lives a life of reckless adventure, desire and love.


Actor Stephen Rea is due to read Butcher’s Dozen by recently deceased poet Thomas Kinsella ahead of the 50th anniversary of Bloody Sunday as part of Saoícht: A Night of Poetry and Music in TradFest Temple Bar 2022 at 6.30pm, Friday January 28, in Pepper Canister Church, Dublin. as part of a night of poetry and music with Natalya O’Flaherty, Sasha Terfous, Louise & Michelle Mulcahy & Neill Martin. Tickets are on sale now at


Vermillion will publish Irish broadcaster and podcaster Angela Scanlon’s debut book, Joyrider, on May 12. Part memoir, part empowerment guide, she details her lifelong relationship with control and how she eventually learned to let go, opening up about her own struggles, and is extremely honest about the vulnerability she felt becoming a mother.

Seán Hayes of Gill Books will publish John Connell’s river memoirs in his first acquisition

In his first acquisition as editor of Gill Books, Seán Hayes will publish John Connell’s lockdown memoir The Stream of Everything in May.

Described by Donal Ryan as an “uplifting and nourishing book for the soul” and by Michael Harding as “full of imaginative wonder and absorbing philosophical reflections”, Connell’s third non-fiction book turns its attention to the River Camlin, as he and a close friend decide to canoe down his course – a two-day journey along a river teeming with life, against a backdrop of a dwindling world. As they meander downriver, John reflects on his own life: his travels, his relationships and his struggle with depression, as well as Irish folklore, climate change, geopolitics, social injustice and philosophy.

On June 16, to mark Bloomsday, Sagging Meniscus Press will publish David Collard’s Multiple Joyce: 100 Short Essays on James Joyce’s Cultural Legacy, with a foreword by Rónán Hession and eulogies by Eimear McBride.

Holding up a funhouse mirror to our times, Collard finds a bevy of Joyces, in often ridiculous disguises, everywhere he looks – whether at Ally Sloper, Borsalino hats, Anthony Burgess, Cher, First Editions, Flann O’Brien, Guinness , Hattie Jacques, John Cage, Kim Kardashian, Lego, Moby-Dick, numismatics, perfumes, pianos, Princess Grace, puns, The Ramones, Sally Rooney, Stanley Unwin, Star Wars, waxworks or Zylo shows.

Jonathan Cape will publish Ian McEwan’s new novel Lessons on September 13, described as a powerful meditation on history and humanity told through the lens of one man’s life.

Spanning the past seventy years, from the end of World War II to the Suez and Cuban Missile crises, from the fall of the Berlin Wall to the current pandemic and climate change, McEwan’s protagonist, Roland, follows the course of history, but fights more often against it.

Scholastic will publish a first children’s novel by Irish actress, screenwriter and novelist Amy Huberman in September. The Day I Got Trapped in My Brain is a mid-level story about a Frankie who, when she appears to be in another world, really is. Huberman said, “I’ve wanted to write another book for a long time now, and I’m excited to write children’s fiction this time around. I’m so excited to embark on this journey into a whole new world of imagination.

Huberman is the author of the adult novels Hello, Heartbreak and I Wished for You.

Little, Brown will publish best-selling author Celeste Ng’s new novel, Our Missing Hearts, on October 4. Ng is best known for Little Fires Everywhere, which was adapted into a major TV drama in 2020 starring Reese Witherspoon and Kerry Washington. Her new novel explores themes such as the power and limits of art to bring about change in the world, what it really means to be a good parent, and whether we can maintain our humanity in a fear-dominated society.


To celebrate the centenary of the publication by Sylvia Beach, publisher and bookseller, of James Joyce’s Ulysses, Shakespeare and Company bookshop, Paris, is producing an ensemble recording of the complete text which will be released free of charge as a podcast between the 100th anniversary of publication on February 2 and Bloomsday on June 16.

The project was conceived by its literary director Adam Biles and will include more than a hundred writers, artists, comedians and musicians from around the world.

Readers include Will Self, Jeanette Winterson, Olivia Laing, Ben Okri, Ishion Hutchinson, Paul Murray, Deborah Levy, Caoilinn Hughes, Eddie Izzard, Margaret Atwood, Meena Kandasamy and bookstore owner Sylvia Whitman, with other exciting names yet to appear. The readings will be accompanied by a 10-episode Bloomcast, an entertaining primer for listeners, hosted by Adam Biles, alongside Professor Lex Paulson, and Alice McCrum, program manager at the American Library in Paris. Listen here


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