In 2013, it was Donal Ryan‘s brilliant debut novel The Spinning Heart. In 2014, it was the stunning A Girl is a Half-formed Thing by Eimear McBride, and Colin Barrett‘s luminous short story collection called Young Skins. This year it’s Sara Baume‘s Spill Simmer Falter Wither, which has just been nominated for the Guardian First Book Award. What do these authors have in common? They’re all young, gifted and Irish.
Baume’s novel – narrated by Ray, a lonely 57-year-old Irishman who tells his story to a one-eyed dog – was originally published by a small independent press: Tramp. It was then picked up by William Heinemann, one of the biggies, after garnering dazzling reviews.
Joseph O’Connor, writing in the Irish Times, said, “What elevates the book … is the author’s astonishing power with language. This is a novel bursting with brio, braggadocio and bite.” The novelist Lucy Popescu, in The Independent, describes the book as “a heart-breaking read, [that] heralds Baume as a major new talent.”
Irish literature has been disproportionately strong for well over a century: a nation of 4.6 million people has somehow given us Shaw, Yeats, Wilde, Joyce, Beckett and the world’s greatest short story writer who isn’t called Alice Munro: William Trevor. It seems the nation is on a roll again – for which all readers who love original, devastating, funny-tragic stories should be grateful.