by Fiona Murphy
For any newcomers, First Flush is Books Ireland’s database of new titles released in the forthcoming month. All the books featured here are Irish-written, focused or published, meaning it’s your go-to for all your new Irish reading inspiration.
The database goes back to January 2021, creating a useful resource and fascinating back catalogue of Irish releases.
Recently there’s been controversy surrounding the lack of Irish authors and books in the children’s charts, with Sarah Webb, an award-winning children’s writer, starting the movement #DiscoverIrishKidsBooks, a campaign gaining more traction with every passing day. We’re sure that the absolute bumper haul of children’s books by Irish writers and from Irish publishers in this month’s First Flush will be the perfect way to discover plenty more Irish children’s books this month!
First off, September is coming in strong on the YA front, with YA Irish favourite, Deirdre O’Sullivan’s Wise Creatures (Hot Key Books) landing this month. The author’s love for all things dark and neck-hair-raising has earned her a cult following of teens, and this latest offering will surely satisfy all dark fantasy lovers.
Another exciting new release in the fantasy field is Helen Corcoran’s second novel, the follow up to her first, A Queen of Coins and Whispers (O’Brien Press). Daughter of Winter and Twilight (O’Brien) follows the next generation’s story into the dark and dangerous world Corcoran has created – for ‘in every myth there is a seed of truth’.
Tapping into our native mythology seems to be a popular topic at the moment with Manchán Magan’s Wolf-Men and Water Hounds: The Myths, Monsters and Magic of Ireland (Gill Books) taking a closer look at the most magical places in Ireland, written for teen readers. Appreciation of our own home-grown culture and legends is on the rise, with Ellen Ryan’s Girls Who Slay Monsters (Harper Collins Ireland) winning at the An Post Book Awards last year and more recently at the Children’s Books Ireland Book Awards, which perhaps explains its renewed presence in the Irish writer’s imagination.
And that appreciation doesn’t just extend to our legends – it also sees an increase in the amount of Irish translated texts becoming available. This month alone, we can find Miofaí ar Scoil and Moifaí Cois Farraige (Dalen Eireann) in the September children’s offerings in Irish, alongside the highly anticipated An Mac Tíre Deireanach (Futa Fata) from Ireland’s Laureate na nÓg, Patricia Forde, and Lauren O’Neill. With so many to choose from, discovering Irish kid’s books has never been easier!
Non-fiction is dominated by memoirs and autobiography this month and one wonders whether they’re lockdown writings or perhaps have been in the works all along. Dr Tony Holohan’s was certainly penned post-Covid, as he reflects back on his time served as Chief Medical Officer in Ireland for 14 years and his sudden shove into the limelight of the public eye during the Covid 19 pandemic.
Speaking about the enigmatically titled We Need to Talk (Eiru), Holohan has said that “the responsibility of leading Ireland’s response to the Covid 19 pandemic coincided with the most challenging time of my personal life. Writing this book has given me the time to reflect on this and the many difficult, sometimes painful, personal and professional conversations that I had to have”.
On a totally different track, Jason O’Toole is releasing The Gilligan Tapes: Ireland’s Most Notorious Crime Boss In His Own Words with Merrion Press this month. Journalist Jason O’Toole has distilled hours of sensational no-holds-barred interviews with feared criminal John Gilligan into a jaw-dropping account of the Irish gangland scene. Meanwhile, Blackstaff Press are taking another focus again, with Mary Peters: My Story, chronicling the life of 1972 pentathlon gold-medal winner Mary Peters, in her own words. A beloved figure in her adopted home of Northern Ireland, Mary has spent decades promoting and encouraging its young sportspeople.
On the subject of looking back, history books are a close second to the memoirs taking over the nonfiction entries this month. Fans of The Irish History Podcast will be eager to get their hands on its host’s, Fin Dwyer’s gruesome debut book, A Lethal Legacy: A History of Ireland in 18 Murders, published with Harper North.
Those looking to know more about the rebel county will enjoy The A-Z of Curious County Cork: Strange Stories of Mysteries, Crimes and Eccentrics: An A to Z of quirky facts and stories about Cork county by Kieran McCarthy, out with The History Press this September, while the Kilkenny cats will find an fascinating study of their own ancient city in Magnates and Merchants in early modern Kilkenny, which investigates urban life, the merchants’ wealth, art patronage and historical social networks, published by Four Courts Press.
Gallery Press and Arlen House will keep poetry lovers busy this month with many new offerings for the new season. Ones we’re particularly excited for are of course, Eilean Ni Chuilleanain’s The Map of the World (Gallery Press) which ‘abounds in the tales half-told or hinted at for which Eiléan Ní Chuilleanáin’s poetry is widely admired’.
Woman of Winter from Vona Groarke and Isabel Nolan (Gallery Press) retells the ‘Lament of the Hag of Beare’ from the 9th century Irish and also promises to be a stunning read of how the world is to be experienced through the body and, specifically, through the body of a woman whose social standing has been compromised as she has aged. We have two more Irish offerings from Arlen House, with Micheal O Conghaile’s Lamha Bana agus Danta Eile and Catherine Foley’s Amhran Sraidbhaile: Village Song, showing the scene of Irish and translated poetry is truly alive and well.
We’re also excited to get our hands on (about)ness by Eimear Laffan (McGill-Queen’s University Press), which is ‘set against a break-up with God’. The Coming Thing is a new collection from Martina Evans, winner of the Pigott Poetry Prize 2022, and is out this month with Carcanet Press. ISDAL is acclaimed novelist Susannah Dickey’s much-anticipated debut poetry collection and promises to hone in on our cultural obsession with true crime (Picador).
While there’s a healthy mix of themes in this month’s fiction, we again see the Irish myth and folklore trend coming through with Oein DeBhairduin and Helena Grimes’ Twiggy Woman (Skein Press), a collection of Irish Traveller folklore ghost stories with eerie illustrations throughout.
Tales of the Otherworld: A Frightful Collection of Ireland’s Favourite Ghost Stories (Gill Books) follows suit, releasing this chilling ‘Anne-thology’ just in time for Halloween, with the former news reader, Anne Doyle sharing Ireland’s most spine-tingling tales of the underworld.
Emer Martin’s Thirsty Ghosts (Lilliput Press) might be similarly titled, but veers away from the world of spirits and ghouls and instead focuses on the trauma that haunts this intergenerational saga, announcing the follow up to her 2018 The Cruelty Men.
On a lighter note, Emily Hourican returns with An Invitation to the Kennedys, page-turning historical fiction from the bestselling author of the Guinness Girls series which promises to be a gorgeous read from Hachette Books Ireland.
New Island’s September offering is Two Summers by Glenn Patterson, a pair of novellas, set over two pivotal summers in the lives of two young men from Belfast, recalling the constraints of the place where they were born and the times in which they are living. Capturing the innocence of adolescent boys, their passion, confusion and yearning, Two Summers by Glenn Patterson is for anyone who has ever been young.
With such range and depth to the books collected in this month’s First Flush, there’s a read for everyone to dive into this autumn.