An Irish writers poster: spot the difference

Anne Enright is the perfect writer for our times: she is opinionated, articulate, thoughtful, humorous, questioning, lyrical, literary, stylish and honest. Most of them live inside their heads. But, of course, like all great novels, The Real Charlotte is greater than the sum of its parts. That summer I fell in love with the deep, beautiful humanity of her prose and the incautious honesty of her portrayal of the Irish female experience. Her diaries and letters offer one the best accounts of running a theatre, life during the Troubles and what it was like to lose a son in the first World War. Second, some of her books had been banned, for too open an analysis of sexuality. Herself a mother (her youngest daughter, Caroline, would become the literary editor of this paper), and widowed young, she depicted with immense power the inner lives of women, women who had no reason to be anything other than honest with themselves about the realities of their situations. Certainly she could be impatient with what she saw as Irish obtuseness, but she was no less severe on the vagaries and occasional fecklessness of the English character. Colm Tóibín won the International Impac Dublin Literary Award for The Master and the Costa Award for Brooklyn Maria Edgeworth By Margaret Kelleher In 2010 two of Maria Edgeworth’s novels, Patronage and Helen, came back into print with the cover slogan “Jane Austen’s bestselling rival” and with great introductions by John Mullan. She is an immensely skilful novelist who writes enthralling stories mainly about middle-class Irish women – from the kind of background she came from. Johnston’s finest novels may be The Christmas Tree (1981), in which Constance Keating, waiting for death, calmly revisits her life, The Illusionist (1995) or Two Moons (1998) juxtaposing grandmother, mother and granddaughter. O’Brien is a master of classic realism. Her translations of Irish poems and songs have a tender simplicity and immediacy. She will do us proud as our inaugural Laureate for Fiction. But so symbiotic and consummate, as well as mysterious and inexplicable, was their writing partnership that they’re fully regarded as one. When I was studying English there, in the 1970s, she wasn’t mentioned. Other favourites: Claire Keegan and Eimear McBride. But what ought to be much more spoken of is her genius. Admirers of her work included Austen, Byron, Stendhal, Turgenev, Trollope, Thackeray and, for her enigmatic Irish …

Hamburg’s Elbphilharmonie was ambitious, costly and extraordinary – can we have one too?

The budget more than tripled from €241 million to the final figure of €789 million by the time construction ended last October. “Standing on top of the warehouse on a sunny September afternoon, it’s hard to believe that this roof will soon be home to a couple of auditoriums, a public plaza, a club, a hotel, apartments, restaurants and cafes by 2009. There have been recent requests for more state funding – €20 million has been ringfenced for what will be a Live Nation-operated venue – and there are also believed to be plans for more student accommodation on the site, which may cause more planning hold-ups. Every single show is a must-see as people come to experience this landmark building jutting like a ship into the Elbe. Civic pride is at bursting point. Work was supposed to be underway already on the site of the former Beamish brewery in the city centre with plans for the then €150 million centre to open in 2018. The venue looks even more spectacular and striking than it did on those architectural plans and drawings more than a decade ago and is already a draw for tourists visiting the city.  But the real talking point is at the box office, where they are selling tickets for the two music spaces. There’s a column from September 2006, following a visit to the site of the hall, which talked about plans for the venue. You really have to applaud the chutzpah and ambition of the city’s planners.” So 2009? Only time will tell if this proves to be value for money and if the “chutzpah and ambition of the city’s planners” will be rewarded. Many who went to shows there in the opening months did so to get a good gawk at the venue as much as to take in who was on stage. A few weeks ago the city’s Elbphilharmonie concert hall finally opened its doors. Shows are sold out right through the opening season as Hamburgers take the opportunity to check out the new venue. Spectacular and striking Regardless of these considerations, Hamburg now has a signature destination in its old docklands. Cork Event Centre While the Point was a relatively quick job, it looks like Ireland’s version of the Elbphilharmonie saga may well be happening with the proposed 6,000-capacity Cork Event Centre. Just how long this particular building project has taken can …

Iftas 2017: ‘The Young Offenders’ leads film nominations

Kong Skull Island review: a rip-roaring retro monster-movie romp Fist Fight review: Ice Cube rolls up his sleeves for a lame last day of school ‘I’m trying to make these huge questions more tangible and more personal’ “I think the whole cast and crew can be proud of what we have achieved with this series.” Smyth’s film, made in co-operation with Netflix, concerns the brave defence of a compound in Congo-Léopoldville by Irish UN forces during disturbances in 1961. The biggest haul of the day went, however, to the TG4 western series Klondike. “We are delighted at the news of the five nominations for A Date For Mad Mary,” Andrew Lowe, director of Element Pictures, said. The immense goodwill behind A Date for Mad Mary could still push Kerslake to victory. Despite featuring no huge stars and having no familiar source material, Foott’s film went on to become a box-office sensation. Negga is shortlisted for her turn in the US civil rights drama Loving. “Following the terrific performance of the film at the Irish box office, we are so pleased for Darren and Colin Thornton that their work has been deservedly recognised by their peers.” The 2017 Ifta awards take place on April 9th in The Mansion House in Dublin. Seána Kerslake, who won rave reviews for her turn as an ex-con bouncing around Drogheda in A Date for Mad Mary, will face strong competition from Oscar nominee Ruth Negga in the best actress category. The series, now in its second season, ended up with 10 nominations. Foott, the director and the writer, said he and the team behind the film were “completely over the moon” with their seven nominations. Juanita Wilson’s Tomato Red received four mentions for the company – including one for best picture – along with A Date for Mad Mary’s five. He is competing against Alex Murphy, who, alongside Chris Walley, plays one of two amiable Cork layabouts in The Young Offenders. ADVERTISEMENT Taking about €1.3 million domestically, the project is a significant triumph for local distributors Wildcard. Slightly confusingly, some of the craft awards are open to both films and TV dramas, so Klondike will compete in cinematography and costume design against films such as Nocturnal Animals and Florence Foster Jenkins. Both Richie Smyth’s The Siege of Jadotville and Peter Foott’s The Young Offenders clocked up seven nominations each. “The incredible journey of this film …

Irish writers: spot the difference

After the death of her husband, Bobby Keane, the fun went out of writing, but she came back in 1981 with Good Behaviour, a black comedy adapted for TV by Hugh Leonard. Nobody saw through the ascendancy classes more perceptively or wittily than one of their own. Other favourites: Edna O’Brien and Maria Edgeworth. She is an immensely skilful novelist who writes enthralling stories mainly about middle-class Irish women – from the kind of background she came from. One reason has been that her books are hard to find – a difficulty now overcome for her and myriads of other female writers by downloadable PDFs from free-access sites, such as Internet Archive and Project Gutenberg, and the odd enlightened reprinting. Indifferent to surfaces, Johnston prefers brisk implication. Most of them live inside their heads. For her centenary in 2012, two of her collections, Tales From Bective Bridge (1942) and Happiness (1969), were reissued, but the rest of her work remains out of print, which is a great pity, because her stories are wonderful. But so symbiotic and consummate, as well as mysterious and inexplicable, was their writing partnership that they’re fully regarded as one. But, of course, like all great novels, The Real Charlotte is greater than the sum of its parts. She had an eye as sharp as Henry James’s, a wonderfully shrewd yet accommodating sensibility, and a sublime literary style. Normal. Her prose is so subtle and allusive that it would be a disservice to quote from her, but read almost any descriptive passage in The Last September and you will understand her greatness. But she brings to her poetry a wider sense of an Ireland with its intersections of past and present. Everything is normal in Ranelagh – apart from that woman hanging on to the railings on Eglinton Road because her son has deserted her for the priesthood. Normal. To the colonised Irish its hauteur was resented, its eccentricity derided. Then, when her play Spring Morning (1938) became a West End hit, the secret of her identity was out. That, more than 50 years after The Country Girls ’ cataclysmic publication, O’Brien is still writing fiercely about subjects that shock and torment our society, is proof of how deserving she is of the position she now holds at the forefront of our literature. She threw a lot of literary parties in her mews off Baggot Street, …

Africa Day 2017 short story and poetry competition seeks to discover new talent

Joe McHugh, Minister of State for the Diaspora and International Development, announced today that Irish Aid has again teamed up with The Irish Times on an African-themed short story and poetry competition for writers of all ages. This is the third year that the competition has taken place. The competition has proved to be extremely popular in previous years and I look forward to seeing the entries this year. Entries are invited in three categories: Primary School, Secondary School and Adult. Celebrating Africa’s culture in this way helps to shine a light on the growing connections between Ireland and Africa.’’ Martin Doyle, Books Editor of The Irish Times, said: “The Irish Times is delighted to team up with Irish Aid again to provide a platform for a new generation of storytellers and poets. This free family-focused event will feature the sights and sounds of Africa, through performances by well-known African and Irish musicians; children’s entertainment; traditional African drumming and dance workshops; and much more. The Africa Day short story and poetry competition presents an ideal opportunity to showcase African culture and to explore being African in Ireland or Africa itself.” The closing date for submissions is Wednesday, May 3rd, and the winners will be chosen by Irish Aid and The Irish Times. ADVERTISEMENT Irish Aid will host its flagship Africa Day event, on Sunday, May 21st, in the grounds of Farmleigh Estate in the Phoenix Park, Dublin 15. The winning entries will be published on www.IrishTimes.com on Sunday, 21st May, the same day as the flagship Africa Day event in Dublin, and winners will receive a selection of books to the value of €50 each. The competition marks Africa Day 2017 and is designed to showcase emerging talent, as well as established writers. Writers are invited to submit a short story or poem with an African theme, set in either Ireland or Africa. There will also be a photographic presentation at The Irish Times. The word count for entries from adults is 2,000 words. Further information is available on www.africaday.ie. Primary-school children can submit a piece of up to 250 words and secondary school students of up to 1,000 words. The Minister said: “Irish Aid is delighted to partner with The Irish Times once again for the Africa Day 2017 short story and poetry competition, and to showcase the creative writing of Irish and African writers who are telling stories …

Daniel and Majella ‘test the bed’: this is erotica Irish-style

It’s good to be home, and, in a moment of modern madness, squeezing each other’s arses Since the last series, Daniel and Majella have been off foreign, where they’ve undoubtedly caught notions. The duo tour the country sampling B&Bs and giving country music fans the vapours, all the time soundtracked by a pedal steel guitar of the kind our forefathers twanged at the British. Let’s find out. Each to their own, I say. What will Daniel do next? Erotica Later Daniel and Majella “test the bed”, which basically involves them lying down side by side and having a chat. Soon they’re lying in an open air hot tub, their faces covered in honey-extract, while a crowd of singing locals advance on them from the trees. And not before time. This is what passes for erotica for a lot of people, and who am I to judge them? “Good on you, Nancy,” says Daniel, while Majella no doubt checks that the phone lines, and indeed, the brakes on her car, haven’t been cut. They go to a local dance, where Daniel sings a few tunes, and then they all do a dance called the “slosh” that everyone outside the D4 Dublin media apparently knows all about. “Daniel is a funny man to feed,” says Nancy, which arouses my curiosity. Daniel singing with The Real Deal at the Stretford Inn Causeway This is nearly too much for us. They not only have an ancient standing stone in the garden but, more impressively still, a fancy banister that once belonged to Annie Lennox. ADVERTISEMENT Daniel’s people (the Tuatha de Danann, probably) rarely touch modern technology or iron or the ground, so while Majella drives, he contents himself with reading files on the B&B owners aloud in his sweet, ironic drawl. Watching Daniel O’Donnell in a sort of wetsuit, helplessly flailing around a plastic bubble is probably also what passes for erotica for a lot of people The fun doesn’t stop there. The B&Bs that feature on this programme are generally so charming, I assume they’re decommissioned fairy forts built on ley lines, and Lorna and Noel’s place is no exception. Daniel with a hawk on his arm. When Majella worries about getting points for speeding, Daniel references the points he got on Strictly Come Dancing. Then Lorna and Noel dress them up in beekeeper outfits and make them fetch honey from a hive, …

10 great books by Irish women

Themes of loss and neglect are central to this story, with the temporary family set-up helping each member to discover new versions of themselves. Egocentric Charles meets his first love Hartley in the nearby village and is convinced he can revive his idealised memory of their relationship. Relating the trials of the O’Driscoll siblings as they battle poverty and hunger in nineteenth century rural Ireland, the book continues to be a bestseller almost twenty-five years after publication. Her novel Scarlett Feather was a favourite among readers, winning the WH Smith Book Award for Fiction. An unreliable narrator, Veronica struggles to remember their close relationship as children and the secrets of their shared past that haunted them as adults. The Last September, Elizabeth Bowen (1929)  Set against the backdrop of the Irish War of Independence, Elizabeth Bowen’s novel was published less than a decade after the conflict had ended. Set in the 1870s and drawing heavily on the author’s Limerick background, the book was awarded the James Tait Memorial Prize for its powerful portrait of family life and the tensions that exist between duty and self-fulfilment. Scarlet Feather, Maeve Binchy (2000)  With a writer as popular as Binchy, it is hard to choose one particular title. The sea is a welcome and ever-present reality amid all his fancies and fantasies. Foster, Claire Keegan (2010)  Claire Keegan’s long short story was published as a stand-alone book in 2010 and has since made its way onto the curriculum for the Leaving Cert. Class divisions, unhappy relationships and broken families are examined with Binchy’s knowing eye. Dreams and hopes are thwarted as the characters in this Whitbread award-winning novel fall prey to the “old jest … Death that comes to everyone.” Under the Hawthorn Tree, Marita Conlon-McKenna (1990)  One of Ireland’s best loved children’s books, Under the Hawthorne Tree is the first in Conlon-McKenna’s famine trilogy. It is a work of instinct rather than knowledge.” Centred on the lives of the Naylor family, resident in the Cork country mansion Danielstown, the book is big house fiction at its best. ADVERTISEMENT The Old Jest, Jennifer Johnston (1979)  Eighteen-year-old Nancy’s untroubled existence is set to change as she becomes an adult in 1920s Ireland. Without my Cloak, Kate O’Brien (1931)  A Victorian family saga, O’Brien’s debut novel tells the story of an upper class Irish Catholic household from the fictional town of Mellick. The Sea, The Sea, Iris Murdoch (1978)  Winner of the Booker prize, the Dublin born author’s novel is steeped in a …

Womansplaining: books that every man should read

And burps. It opens: When he says to you: You look so beautiful you smell so nice – how I’ve missed you – and did you come yet? Her insights into US comedy writing are revealing, too. First and foremost because it’s one of the funniest books I’ve read in a long time (West is a comedy writer). Dorrie is married to Max who regards her as “malingering round the house”. Nuala O’Connor’s latest novel is Miss Emily Martina Evans Telling, New and Selected Stories by Evelyn Conlon When I was young, I loved Tess of the D’Urbervilles and I do still in a way. Except they can talk. There is no possibility of rescue for the astronauts so Hollis, Stimson, Lespere and the others fall like “lost children on a cold night” through “the long endless dropping and whirling of silence”. “Yep, read Rabbit,” he says. I cannot say that reading the book has spared me entirely from the tyrannies of the beauty myth, but it certainly helped me to understand myself, to be more forgiving about my own looks and others’, and it weaned me off any devotion I had to glossy magazines. Not always but often with arrogance, especially if the woman in question is unhappy and physically attractive. I look up at Updike’s leaning tower – the novels I adore that so many women despise. Steinem’s feminism has informed her whole life, and she is known in the US and internationally as a dedicated organiser and agitator for equality. It was a favourite of a beloved friend of mine and I read it so many times sitting with him when he was dying far too young. Her next novel, One Bad Turn, will be out in June I take great pleasure in matching books with individuals but splits along gender lines make me uneasy. I was reading Susie Orbach at the same time, but I found the message of Klein’s book easier to absorb: that women are fed an unattainable notion of what physical beauty is and they are then castigated for not looking that way. What are you waiting for? one book that is every man’s friend is a dictionary. Sittenfeld charts her protagonist’s unease and sexual awakening with blackly comic precision. Books like Simone de Beauvoir’s The Second Sex, Betty Friedan’s Feminine Mystique, Marilyn French’s The Women’s Room, Edna O’Brien’s Girl with Green Eyes …

Musical taste: There’s no accounting for it, especially new stuff

  mdervan@irishtimes.com And many of the major institutions of the classical establishment still fight shy of aspects of minimalism. 2016’s Composing the Island, a mammoth survey of the last century of Irish music, generated its share of controversy and negative criticism. This year’s programme also made the best use of so far of the two RTÉ orchestras. The big Barry event was the Irish concert premiere of his latest opera, Alice’s Adventures Under Ground, a wacky, obsessive sprint through Lewis Carroll that has the effect of concentrating the surreal sharpness of the original. The New Music Dublin Festival may have reached a significant turning point this year: This was the first of these festivals in which the whole seemed more than the sum of its parts. The 50-minute opera is a reduction in more ways than one. The repetitions of rapid scales and arpeggios, effects that could easily become wearisome, serve to make the everyday strange, just as you can make any part of your own anatomy seem odd or even alien if you look at it long enough. O’Rourke delivered it to perfection. But the festival had a unifying effect, and created a sense of sharing and community that has hitherto eluded New Music Dublin. Yet I remember hearing numerous discussions in which the choice of one of the leading candidates, Philip Glass, was treated as a kind of selling out.    Tribal tensions The New Music Dublin Festival, an Arts Council initiative that began in 2013 but for no good reason did not take place last year, has had mixed success in handling the tribal tensions of the new music scene. It seemed like madness when this strand of free and family-friendly events was dropped in 2015. Adès’s own large-scale orchestral Totentanz (Dance of Death) was inspired by a now destroyed,30m-long painted cloth from the Marienkirche in Lübeck. The 21-year-old Benjamin Britten described Vaughan Williams’s Benedicite as “music which repulses me as does most of Brahms (solid, dull)”. And not just the music of today, but the music of yesteryear when it, too, was new. The European avant-garde of the 1950s stimulated as much antagonism as enthusiasm. There are people who just hate the piano but love opera, and vice versa. The performance, with Adès conducting the RTÉ Concert Orchestra, communicated with what seemed like the ultimate of gusto.    Vocal acrobatics Andrew Hamilton doesn’t deny the influence …

Girl Power: the best female leads in children’s and young adult novels

For younger picture book readers, Yasmeen Ismail is a must-buy author. Finally, Meg Cabot’s The Princess Diaries series has recently been reissued by Macmillan, in which humour and social satire play as much a part as romance. For anyone fascinated with spies, Ally Carter’s Gallagher Girls series (Orchard Books) takes place at a secret boarding school for spies-in-training and is suitable for young teens; her most recent novel, Take The Key And Lock Her Up (Orchard, £6.99) concludes a trilogy for slightly older readers featuring international intrigue and a mysterious scarred man who may or may not have something to do with the untimely death of the protagonist’s mother. Claire Hennessy is a writer, editor, and creative writing facilitator Her bright, bold illustrations and sense of fun and rebellion come through in all of her work. Happy International Women’s Day (and to answer your question about ‘well why don’t we have a.. Anecdotal evidence suggests that today’s boys are less blinkered than we might imagine, but the ongoing fretting over boys ‘not reading enough’ still contributes to a sense that in order to appeal to as wide an audience as possible, the hero must be male. We can all learn a lot from this reluctant royal. Closer to home, ER Murray’s Ebony Smart (The Nine Lives trilogy, Mercier) and Deirdre Sullivan’s Primrose Leary (Prim trilogy, Little Island) are compelling heroines for pre- and young teens and particularly appealing to readers seeking Irish characters they can relate to. Sally Nicholls is another empathetic and skilled author to watch out for in this age category, with her An Island Of Our Own (Scholastic, £6.99) updating the classic adventure story and featuring a resourceful heroine at its centre. ADVERTISEMENT Alternating between historical and modern settings, Jacqueline Wilson’s novels (published by Corgi) typically have a determined, resilient girl at their heart – try out any of the Tracy Beaker books; Katy, her retelling of What Katy Did; Opal Plumstead; the Hetty Feather series; The Suitcase Kid; The Lottie Project. Robin Stevens’s Cream Buns and Crime (Puffin, £6.99) is a collection of short stories and other titbits from her Murder Most Unladylike series, in which amateur sleuths Daisy and Hazel so often find themselves near dead bodies. Nevertheless, there are plenty of books out there which feature inspiring female leads and might even – gasp – be enjoyed by boys too! A more modern take …

When by Alice Kinsella: a poem for International Women’s Day

When you can say the words that are not listened to But keep on saying them because you know they’re true; When you can trust each other when all men doubt you And from support of other women make old words new; When you can wait, and know you’ll keep on waiting That you’ll be lied to, but not sink to telling lies; When you know you may hate, but not be consumed by hating And know that beauty doesn’t contradict the wise; When you can dream – and know you have no master; When you can think – let those thoughts drive your aim; When you receive desire and abuse from some Bastard And treat both manipulations just the same; When you hear every trembling word you’ve spoken Retold as lies, from a dishonest heart; When you have had your life, your body, broken But stop, breathe, and rebuild yourself right from the start; It is inspired by Kipling’s If–, but written for women. When you can move on but not forget your beginnings And do what’s right no matter what the cost; Lose all you’ve worked for, forget the aim of winning And learn to find the victory in your loss; When you can see every woman struggle – to create a legacy, for after they are gone And work with them, when nothing else connects you Except the fight in you which says: ‘Hold on!’ When you can feel the weight of life within you But know that you alone are just enough; When you know not to judge on some myth of virtue To be discerning, but not too tough; When you know that you have to fight for every daughter Even though you are all equal to any son; When you know this, but still fill your days with laughter You’ll have the earth, because you are a woman! This poem and film have been produced to mark International Women’s Day. It features 16 women poets, including Kerrie O’Brien, Alvy Carragher, Jessica Traynor, Rosita Sweetman and Clare Rose Thornton among others ADVERTISEMENT Alice Kinsella is assistant editor of Looking at the Stars, an anthology of Irish writing published last November in aid of the Simon Community. When by Alice Kinsella

How do you promote niche music in a market dominated by major promoters?

Presented jointly by the Improvised Music Company, Note Productions and Homebeat, this three-day micro-festival – subtitled “creative music for curious ears” – will refract a daring and diverse programme of music through the jazz prism, ranging from UK free improv giant Evan Parker and senior New Yorkers Dave Binney and Tom Rainey, to Norwegian punk-jazz guitarist Hedvig Mollestad and Dublin electronica producer Kobina. And the other makes music. Izumi Kimura & Barry Guy, Sunday 12pm, Hugh Lane Gallery Free improv piano and bass duo from two world-class performers with strong Irish connections. It makes more sense to cluster events or create micro-festivals like SPECTRUM.” Homebeat, the third corner of the SPECTRUM prism, is the new kid on the outsider promotion block, and for its founder, Emmet Condon, context is all important. Brilliant Corners, Belfast, March 7th-11th Sirene 1109, Tuesday, 8pm, Sonic Arts Research Centre Playful free ensemble of distinguished international musicians led by Korean guitarist Han-earl Park. “We have noticed that people buy into the concept of the festival. “The reality is that it has become increasingly difficult to manage limited resources, trying to sell eight or 10 events across a calendar year. They know branding and marketing have a role to play in art music, but rather than promoting individual artists, whose names and resumés are frequently unknown outside a small circle of fans, these enterprising promoters are creating new contexts and narratives which give curious listeners a way in to the music. What we ‘sell’ is really a more genuine and lasting experience.” In Belfast, Moving on Music has been working the same outsider beat for the past 20 years, presenting new music ranging from jazz and folk to electronica and art rock. While commercial promoters can rely on large venues and festival audiences, promoters of what might be termed “creative” or “outsider” music (think jazz, contemporary, avant-garde, improv, electronica and dozens of other compound micro-genres) might have to dig deep just to find a hundred listeners for music they think is just as worthy of attention. We place a huge emphasis on atmosphere and in building real relationships with the acts. Paul G Smyth and Evan Parker, Sunday 7.30pm, Opium Rooms Irish pianist squares up to the man many regard as the greatest free saxophonist alive. In that way, audiences get something they know, along with something new. That’s why we have to be as innovative in …

Eimear McBride on Baileys Women’s Prize for Fiction longlist

Confident performance Heather O’Neill from Canada, has already impressed with her first two novels. Epic narrative That said, Canada’s Madeleine Thien cannot be ruled out, with her powerful third novel Do Not Say We Have Nothing, which was on last year’s Man Booker shortlist. This year’s shortlist will be announced on April 3rd and the winner of the £30,000 (€34,600) prize will be made known on June 7th. Her third, The Lonely Hearts Hotel, is a characteristically confident, if slick, performance, while readers will be expecting British writer Gwendoline Riley’s sixth novel, First Love, to make the shortlist. Also sharing a horse theme, if very different, is the third longlisted American, CE Morgan, with The Sport of Kings, her second novel, which is set in the world of racing and was nominated for the National Book Award. Among the 16 contenders, three of whom are debut novelists, are two of the most formidable literary minds at work anywhere: Canadian Margaret Atwood and the Pulitzer Prize- winning US writer Annie Proulx. Both will have to contend with one of the finest British novels of recent years: Rose Tremain’s The Gustav Sonata. The debut writers are South African Fiona Melrose with Midwinter; Nigerian Ayobami Adebayo’s lively Stay With Me; and from Britain, Emma Flint for her dark and scary thriller Little Deaths. The second of three US writers is Mary Gaitskill with The Mare. She won the prize in 2000 for When I Lived in Modern Times. A practising architect, she is the author of Bom Boy (2011), and her second novel, The Woman Next Door, follows two neighbours, one black, one white, and how an incident causes them to cease hostilities and possibly become friends. Probably the one to put your money on, but then you don’t gamble – pity that. Proulx looks to the destruction of the world’s forests in Barkskins, an ambitious, sprawling and frequently heavy-handed family saga, her eighth and longest novel, spanning more than 700 pages. A previous winner, Irish writer Eimear McBride, who won in 2014, is this time represented by her second novel The Lesser Bohemians. On what is a strong shortlist, in this the all-female prize’s 22nd year, this melancholic and beautiful work would seem a possible, and most deserving, winner. Nothing is easy about her third novel, The Mare, a story populated by damaged people and traumatised horses. Naomi Alderman, another Briton, features …