From A Low And Quiet Sea


Donal Ryan

First Sentence:     Let me tell you something about trees.

Back of the book:

Farouk’s country has been torn apart by war.

Lampy’s heart has been laid waste by Chloe.

John’s past torments him as he nears his end.

The refugee. The dreamer. The penitent. From war-torn Syria to small-town Ireland, three men, scarred by all they have loved and lost, are searching for some version of home. Each is drawn towards a powerful reckoning, one that will bring them together in the most unexpected of ways.

Quote from the book:

[…] if you say something enough times, the repetition of it makes it true. Any notion you like, no matter how mad it seems, can be a fact’s chrysalis. Once you say it loud enough and often enough it becomes debatable. Debates change minds. Debate is the larval stage of truth. Constant, unflagging, loud repetition completes your notion’s metamorphosis into fact. The fact takes wing and flutters from place to place and mind to mind and makes a living, permanent thing of itself.

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The Earlie King and the Kid in Yellow


Danny Denton

First Sentence:     Are you recording now?

Back of the book:

Ireland is flooded, derelict. It never stops raining. The Kid in Yellow has stolen the babba from the Earlie King. Why? Something to do with the King’s daughter, and a talking statue, something godawful. And from every wall the King’s Eye watches. And yet the city is full of hearts-defiant-sprayed in yellow, the mark of the Kid. It cannot end well. Can it? Follow the Kid, hear the tale. Roll up! Roll up!

Quotes from the book:

[…]and in those moments—after he closed the door behind him and placed his hat upon his head and pulled the trenchcoat around him—he would think that really none of it mattered a single bit, that these were all just passing beads of water, lost in the rain, and that his whole life could be reduced to a moment’s downpour, noticed by no one, and reduced entirely then, disappeared into nothing in one maddening view of the sea[…]

“Gossip was like that: a puff of smoke to the story’s fire.”


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Midwinter Break


Bernard MacLaverty

First Sentence:     In the bathroom Stella was getting ready for bed.

Back of the book:

Sixteen years on from his last novel, Bernard MacLaverty reminds us why he is regarded as one of the greatest living Irish writers. A retired couple, Gerry and Stella Gilmore, fly from their home in Scotland to Amsterdam for a long weekend. A holiday to refresh the senses, to do some sightseeing and generally to take stock of what remains of their lives. Their relationship seems safe, easy, familiar – but over the course of the four days we discover the deep uncertainties which exist between them.

Gerry, once an architect, is forgetful and set in his ways. Stella is tired of his lifestyle, worried about their marriage and angry at his constant undermining of her religious faith. Things are not helped by memories which have begun to resurface of a troubled time in their native Ireland. As their midwinter break comes to an end, we understand how far apart they are – and can only watch as they struggle to save themselves.

Bernard MacLaverty is a master storyteller, and Midwinter Break is the essential MacLaverty novel: accurate, compassionate observation, effortlessly elegant writing and a tender, intimate, heart-rending story – but it is also a profound examination of human love and how we live together, a chamber piece of real resonance and power. Forty years on from his first book, Bernard MacLaverty has written his masterpiece.

Quotes from the book:

“The first drink brings a little distancing—a concentration on another world—an ironing around shirt buttons, a smoothing of wrinkles.”

What Stella was missing was the rearing, the day-to-day grind of the rituals of love, the babysitting, the bathing, the book reading, the arms around, the cheek to cheek, the sheer physicality of it all. The first words. The first steps.

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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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