EMERGING writer Dónal Ryan took his place amongst the stars of the literary scene at the Bord Gáis Energy Irish Book Awards on Thursday night.
At a gala ceremony in the RDS which honoured writers like Jennifer Johnston, Edna O’Brien, John Banville and Maeve Binchy Nenagh’s Dónal Ryan won the Sunday Independent Newcomer of the Year award for his debut novel The Spinning Heart.
On the night novelist and playwright Jennifer Johnston was presented with the Bob Hughes Lifetime Achievement Award for her contribution to Irish literature while other winners included John Banville’s Ancient Light (best novel), Tana French’s Broken Harbour (crime award) and Catherine Fulvio’s Eat Like an Italian won in the cookbook category. Boxer Katie Taylor won the sports award for My Olympic Dream and saw off Lar Corbett’s All In My Head in the process.
Speaking at the ceremony in the RDS Jennifer Johnston 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.
Mary O’Rourke’s Just Mary won the John Murray Show Listeners’ Choice award and Edna O’Brien’s memoir Country Girl won in the non-fiction category.
Oliver Jeffers and Eoin Colfer claimed the junior and senior children’s awards and the late Maeve Binchy’s A Week In Winter won the fiction award. The Bridge Bookshop in Wicklow was named bookshop of the year.
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 in employment law compliance.