Dónal Ryan’s brilliant debut novel The Spinning Heart has been voted the Bord Gáis Energy Book of the Year from a shortlist comprising the winners of the individual generic categories announced at the Irish Book Awards gala dinner on November 22nd.
Despite stiff competition from major writers such as John Banville, Edna O’Brien and the highly-acclaimed Atlas of the Great Irish Famine, Ryan’s expansive and ambitious novel emerged as the overall winner in what was commonly regarded as a wonderful year for Irish writing.
An Irish Book Awards spokesman said: “The Spinning Heart is the sort of debut that 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.
“Our lifetime achievement winner Jennifer Johnston marvelled at Dónal Ryan’s ability to transmute the grief and pain in the book through the sheer quality of his writing and to this - and the general acclaim of reviewers and his fellow writers - we are delighted now to recognise The Spinning Heart as the Bord Gáis Energy Irish Book Awards Book of the Year.”
Dónal Ryan took his place amongst the stars of the literary scene at the Bord Gáis Energy Irish Book Awards on November 22nd - Dónal Ryan won the Sunday Independent Newcomer of the Year award for his debut novel The Spinning Heart.
Speaking at the ceremony in the RDS Jennifer Johnston, the Bob Hughes Lifetime Achievement Award winner, described Dónal Ryan’s The Spinning Heart as “the best first novel I’ve read for years”.
“He’s going to be really great one day. He just has this love affair with words, it’s marvellous,” Jennifer Johnston said.
Dónal Ryan, born near Nenagh but now based in Limerick, has been described by Antony Farrell of Lilliput Press as “the most interesting new author that I have read in some time”.
Doubleday Ireland published Dónal Ryan’s debut novel The Spinning Heart. The book, written in 2010, has been described as “an original, poignant and timely debut and one of the first literary novels to deal with the catastrophic social and human effects of Ireland’s financial collapse”.
The Spinning Heart was released in the Republic of Ireland in October and will be published in the UK in January 2013. Dónal Ryan’s second novel, The Thing About December, will be published in autumn 2013.
The Spinning Heart revolves around dangerous tensions which surface in an Irish town in the aftermath of Ireland’s financial collapse. The direct consequences of greed begin to affect good and bad alike while a kidnapping and murder envelopes the entire community. Then, and through a unique chorus of voices, each struggling character endeavours to tell their own story. The Spinning Heart reflects contemporary Ireland - it is all too human and captures the language and spirit of a rural community. The book is technically daring (structured upon a series of twenty linked monologues) while also witty, dark and sweetly poignant. Indeed, Dónal Ryan’s exciting book marks the debut of a stunning new literary voice.
Dónal Ryan told writing.ie: “I always thought of myself as a writer and during my twenties I started a number of novels, but lost heart at various points in each one. Eventually my wife, Anne-Marie, told me to either go upstairs and write a book or forget about it. I wrote the first draft of The Spinning Heart during the spring and summer evenings of 2010 and can hardly believe that it will be on bookshelves this October. It’s nerve-wracking, but I’m incredibly proud of the book and delighted it will be published by Doubleday Ireland and The Lilliput Press.”
Dónal Ryan is a former student of Nenagh CBS and graduated with honours from the University of Limerick where he studied law. Dónal Ryan currently works full-time for the Irish government.