Amongst Women


John McGahern


First Sentence:     As he we weakened, Moran became afraid of his daughters.

Back of the book:

Moran is an old Republican whose life was forever transformed by his days of glory as a guerilla leader in the War of Independence. Now, in old age, living in the country, Moran is still fighting – with his family, his friends, even himself – in a poignant struggle to come to terms with the past.

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A Line Made By Walking


Sara Baume

First Sentence:     Today, in the newspaper, a photograph of tribesmen in the Amazon rainforest.

Back of the book:

Struggling to cope with urban life – and with life in general – Frankie, a twenty-something artist, retreats to the rural bungalow on ‘turbine hill’ that has been vacant since her grandmother’s death three years earlier. It is in this space, surrounded by nature, that she hopes to regain her footing in art and life. She spends her days pretending to read, half-listening to the radio, failing to muster the energy needed to leave the safety of her haven. Her family come and go, until they don’t and she is left alone to contemplate the path that led her here, and the smell of the carpet that started it all.

Finding little comfort in human interaction, Frankie turns her camera lens on the natural world and its reassuring cycle of life and death. What emerges is a profound meditation on the interconnectedness of wilderness, art and individual experience, and a powerful exploration of human frailty.

Quotes from the book:

“Objects don’t seem incongruous if they’ve been there forever; doings don’t seem ridiculous if they’ve been done that way forever.”

The ability to talk to people: that’s the key to the world. It doesn’t matter whether you are able to articulate your own thoughts and feelings and meanings or not. What matters is being able to make the noises which encourage others to feel comfortable, and the inquiries which present them with the opportunity to articulate their thoughts and feelings and meanings, the particulars of their existences, their passions, preoccupations, beliefs. If you can talk to other people in this way, you can go—you can get—anywhere in this world, in life.

“We used to share the same bathwater, I think, and yet now, somehow, it has become awkward just to say goodbye.”

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All We Shall Know


Donal Ryan

First Sentence:     Martin Toppy is the son of a famous traveller and the father of my unborn child.

Back of the book:

Melody Shee is alone and in trouble. Her husband doesn’t take her news too well. She doesn’t want to tell her father yet because he’s a good man and this could break him. She’s trying to stay in the moment, but the future is looming – larger by the day – while the past won’t let her go. What she did to Breedie Flynn all those years ago still haunts her.
It’s a good thing that she meets Mary Crothery when she does. Mary is a young Traveller woman, and she knows more about Melody than she lets on. She might just save Melody’s life.
Donal Ryan’s new novel is breathtaking, vivid, moving and redemptive.

Quotes from the book:

But still he stayed with me, and I was terrified of losing him, and we insisted on marrying each other, and lowering ourselves onto a bed of terrible, scalding, comfortably familiar pain.

‘The story was there all along, in the wheeling stars, in its entirety , the parts already told and all the parts to come, Brailled in dots of light against the black.’

And I’m frightened now that I was such a show, and I’m frightened about what will be said, and I’m frightened about what will reach my father’s ears, and how his heart will speed and slow in worry and fear, and how he’ll want to help but won’t know how, so will stand at the window, and watch the weather, and wait.


This is my favourite Donal Ryan book so far. There’s a sentence early on in the book (page 18 in the copy I have) that begins  “I could still fly to London and end this […]”. This sentence contains more emotion, is more heartbreaking, and has more substance to it than entire books I have read in the past. It’s too long to reproduce here, but even just for that one sentence this book deserves to be read by anyone who appreciates quality writing. A very fine book indeed.

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The Countenance Divine


Michael Hughes

First Sentence:     One Sunday morning, at the end of the twentieth century, on Brick Lane market in London, a computer programmer called Chris Davison found an odd little thing.

Back of the book: 

In 1999 a programmer is trying to fix the millennium bug, but can’t shake the sense he’s been chosen for something.

In 1888 five women are brutally murdered in the East End by a troubled young man in thrall to a mysterious master.

In 1777 an apprentice engraver called William Blake has a defining spiritual experience; thirteen years later this vision returns.

And in 1666 poet and revolutionary John Milton completes the epic for which he will be remembered centuries later.

But where does the feeling come from that the world is about to end?

Quote from the book:

He knew that any closed system left alone would eventually tend to decay. […] Just to keep things as they are, you have to constantly improve them.

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Kevin Barry

First Sentence:     He set out for the place as an animal might, as though on some fated migration.

Back of the book:

He will spend three days alone on his island. That is all that he asks . . . John is so many miles from love now and home. This is the story of his strangest trip.

John owns a tiny island off the west coast of Ireland. Maybe it is there that he can at last outrun the shadows of his past.

The tale of a wild journey into the world and a wild journey within, Beatlebone is a mystery box of a novel. It’s a portrait of an artist at a time of creative strife. It is most of all a sad and beautiful comedy from one of the most gifted stylists now at work.

Quotes from the book:

Baby spew the sour milk smell the bloody motherhood.

‘Did you know that the groans get passed down to us?’

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