Home News Shortlist for Kerry Group Irish Novel of the Year Award 2023

Shortlist for Kerry Group Irish Novel of the Year Award 2023

Five-strong shortlist for Kerry Group Irish Novel of the Year Award 2023

Five novels selected from over fifty are on the shortlist for this year’s Kerry Group Irish Novel of the year Award, one of several competitions at Listowel Writer’s Week.

Adjudicators Manveen Rana and Patrick Gale touched on some of the themes and stories that stood out to them during the shortlisting process: 

“From an overflowing laundry basket of goodies we hope we’ve settled on a shortlist that represents the vitality and variety of this year’s submissions, from an erotically charged take on the Troubles to an invigoratingly feminist one on witch-hunts. Here, too, are two brilliant portrayals of Ireland through the eyes of rank outsiders and a third which anatomises the conflicts of small town Irish life with an insider’s merciless eye for detail.”

Catherine Moylan, Director at Listowel Writers’ Week revealed the shortlist. 

“Congratulations to the shortlisted authors of 2023 Kerry Group Irish Novel of the Year. We are very grateful to Kerry Group for their support for this award as it helps us promote and celebrate Irish literary talent. Thank you to Manveen and Patrick for compiling a shortlist which showcases a diverse selection of Irish literature. Thanks also to everyone who submitted their novels for this year’s award: it has been clear to all involved that the state of writing in Ireland is as healthy as ever.”

The Shortlist

The Colony by Audrey Magee (Faber)

It is the summer of 1979. An English painter travels to a small island off the west coast of Ireland. Mr. Lloyd takes the last leg by currach, though boats with engines are available and he doesn’t much like the sea. He wants the authentic experience, to be changed by this place, to let its quiet and light fill him, give him room to create. He doesn’t know that a Frenchman follows close behind. Jean-Pierre Masson has visited the island for many years, studying the language of those who make it their home. He is fiercely protective of their isolation, deems it essential to exploring his theories of language preservation and identity.

But the people who live on this rock–three miles long and half a mile wide–have their own views on what is being recorded, what is being taken, and what ought to be given in return. Over the summer, each of them–from great-grandmother Bean Uí Fhloinn to widowed Mairéad to fifteen-year-old James, who is determined to avoid the life of a fisherman–will wrestle with their values and desires. Meanwhile, all over Ireland, violence is erupting. And there is blame enough to go around.

The Geometer Lobachevsky by Adrian Duncan (Lilliput Press)

It is 1950 and Nikolai Lobachevsky, a Glav Torf mathematician and great-grandson of his illustrious namesake, is aiding Bord na Móna by surveying a bog in the Irish Midlands. Far from home, he studies the locals and the land. One afternoon, soon after he arrives, he receives a telegram calling him back to Leningrad for a ‘special appointment’. Lobachevsky may not be a great genius but he is not foolish: he recognises a death sentence when he sees one and leaves to go into hiding on a small island in the Shannon estuary, where the island families harvest seaweed and struggle to split rocks. Here Lobachevsky must think about death, how to avoid it and whether he will ever see his home again.

Trespasses by Louise Kennedy (Bloomsbury)

Amid daily reports of violence, Cushla lives a quiet life with her mother in a small town near Belfast. By day she teaches at a parochial school; at night she fills in at her family’s pub. There she meets Michael Agnew, a barrister who’s made a name for himself defending IRA members. Against her better judgment – Michael is not only Protestant but older, and married – Cushla lets herself get drawn in by him and his sophisticated world, and an affair ignites. Then the father of a student is savagely beaten, setting in motion a chain reaction that will threaten everything, and everyone, Cushla most wants to protect.

The Amusements by Aingeala Flannery (Sandycove)

In the seaside town of Tramore, County Waterford, visitors arrive in waves with the tourist season, reliving the best days of their childhoods in its caravan parks, chippers and amusement arcades. Local teenager Helen Grant is indifferent to the charm of her surroundings; she dreams of escaping to art college with her glamorous classmate Stella Swaine and, from there, taking on the world. But leaving Tramore is easier said than done. Though they don’t yet know it, Helen and Stella’s lives are pulled by tides beyond their control. Following the Grant and Swaine families and their neighbours over three decades, The Amusements is a luminous and unforgettable story about roads taken and not taken – and a brilliantly observed portrait of a small-town community.

The Witches of Vardo by Anya Bergman (Bonnier Books)

A dangerous time to be a woman, when even dancing can lead to accusations of witchcraft. After recently widowed Zigri’s affair with the local merchant is discovered, she is sent to the fortress at Vardo to be tried as a witch. Zigri’s daughter Ingeborg sets off into the wilderness to try to bring her mother back home. Accompanying her on this quest is Maren – herself the daughter of a witch – whose wild nature and unconquerable spirit gives Ingeborg the courage to venture into the unknown, and to risk all she has to save her family. Also captive in the fortress is Anna Rhodius, once the King of Denmark’s mistress, who has been sent in disgrace to the island of Vardo. What will she do – and who will she betray – to return to her privileged life at court? These Witches of Vardo are stronger than even the King. In an age weighted against them, they refuse to be victims. They will have their justice. All they need do is show their power.

The overall winner of the €20,000 prize will be announced on Wednesday 31 May 2023.