My highlight for November has to have been the night of the Bord Gais Energy Irish Book Awards. I always love it – because it’s bliss having so many wonderful authors and book people in one room, but this year was extra special because of the quality of the Newcomers shortlisted for the award.
All were brilliant. All different. And, of course, I’d interviewed then all for my column, BEGINNER’S PLUCK – published each week in The Irish Examiner. There was just one problem. I wanted them all to win!
Many congratulations to Donal Ryan who did win, with his wonderful literary debut, The Spinning Heart. (Which went on to win the overall title as Irish Book of the Year.)
But also well done for producing such amazing work, to Selina Guinness, Rosemary McLaughlin, Maeve Higgins, Kathleen McMahon, and last, but in no way least, the wonderful short story writer Mary Costello. It’s been wonderful meeting them all, and I guarantee we will be hearing more from all of them.
There was a moving tribute to Maeve Binchy, whose posthumous novel scooped the best commercial fiction award. And, for the icing on the cake – there were also wins for Eoin Colfer – who made the wittiest speech of the night, and John Banville, who has, indeed, written the best Irish novel of the year.
Wicklow did well too! My close neighbour, Catherine Fulvio won the cookery book category, and Hilary Hamilton, proprietor of the wonderful Bridge Street Books in Wicklow Town, was voted the Best Bookshop in Ireland.
And finally, the most wonderful writer of all, Jennifer Johnston, was the deserving winner of the Lifetime Achievement Award. What a night!