Mayo authors fêted at Irish Book Awards

Staying In

CELEBRATED Author Sally Rooney. Pic: Jonny I Davies

Novels by Sally Rooney and Tadhg Mac Dhonnagáin scoop prestigious prizes

Ciara Moynihan

Sally Rooney’s critically acclaimed third novel, ‘Beautiful World, Where Are You’ was last week named Novel of the Year 2021 at this year’s An Post Irish Book Awards. The title is the Castlebar-born author’s second, repeating the success of one of her previous novels, ‘Normal People’ – the TV adaptation of which got so many people through the first lockdown.
‘Beautiful World, Where Are You’ centres on the lives of two best friends about to enter their 30s. Alice is a successful young writer and Eileen works for a literary magazine. The stories of their separate love lives are interwoven with lengthy emails to one another.
The book, which has been described as ‘deftly spartan’, shot to the top of the bestsellers list when it was first released in September. It also made headlines when Rooney refused to grant an Israeli publishing house the rights to translate the novel into Hebrew due to her stance on the Israel-Palestine conflict.
To win the Novel of the Year prize, Rooney’s novel – which is published by Faber – saw off stiff competition from the likes of the highly praised ‘Small Things Like These’, by Claire Keegan, and Colm Tóibín’s ‘The Magician’.
Another Mayo author also won big at the awards – with Aghamore man Tadhg Mac Dhonnagáin’s book ‘Madame Lazare’ scooping the Irish Language Book Of The Year 2021 title. The award must surely be all the sweeter, given it is the first novel for adults by the multi-talented screenwriter, children’s author and songwriter.  
‘Madame Lazare’ follows the life of the mysterious Hana Lazare, moving back and forward in time between the Irish-speaking west coast of Ireland of the 1930s, a devout Jewish community in 1990s Paris, and present day Brussels. Hana’s granddaughter, Levana, tries to discover who her grandmother really is, while Hana struggles in vain to keep her secret.
The book is published by Barzaz, the new Futa Fata imprint, which publishes contemporary fiction, poetry and translations for adults and was launched just last summer. No doubt the Champagne corks were popping at  Barzaz, as ‘Madam Lazare’ was its very first publication.
The awards, which were held virtually on the RTÉ website in front of a global audience, attracted more than 187,500 votes from the public – up 33 percent on the previous year. The public’s votes were weighted equally with those of an academy of 300 booksellers, librarians, authors, reviewers and journalists.
Accepting her award, Sally Rooney said it was a ‘real honour’, adding that she was ‘touched to think people are enjoying the new book’.
“I’d like to say how grateful I am for the support and kindness I’ve received from readers and from the writing community in Ireland, including some of my fellow nominees this evening,” she said. “Thank you to the readers for taking the time to read the novel and especially those who took the time to vote for it. It really means a lot to me.”
Mac Dhonnagáin said that he was delighted to receive recognition, not just for himself as a writer but also for the ‘meitheal’ who helped him bring it to print: editors Máíre Zepf, Róisín Adams and Róise Nic Dhonnagáin and the Futa Fata/Barzaz core team, Breda Ní Chonghaile and Gemma Breathnach.
Voting is now open for Irish Book of the Year, which will be announced on RTÉ One on December 8.

To vote for your favourite book, visit www.irishbookawards.ie/vote.