In our fourth and final Author’s Top Five Recommendations, aiming to ensure that everyone gets at least one book this Christmas and every Christmas, we turn our attention to Women’s Fiction and Poetry, with a bonus Top Five from Mary Malone. Michelle Jackson suggests five women’s fiction titles brimming with wit and perfect for curling up with. Poet Sarah Griffin’s top five poetry books comes with a clear message; buy anthologies! Finally, Mary Malone suggests five engaging books to get you through Christmas.
Michelle Jackson’s Top Five Women’s Fiction Books
The Help by Kathryn Stockart
‘The Help’ is a wonderful read and as relevant today as when it was set in the sixties. The prejudices, jealousy and snobbery in the book make it compelling. It would be a great buy for any of your friends who are in a book club – providing they haven’t read it already and a definite must read before you even think about seeing the film.
The Space Between Us by Anna McPartlin
Anna McPartlin is one of the finest authors to come out of Ireland in recent years and she has a sharp wit and truly authentic voice – her new book The Space Between Us is high on my Christmas list.
And By The Way by Denise Deegan
Denise Deegan’s first novel for young adults ‘And By the Way’ came out last year and is a terrific read. It’s clever and very much indicative of modern Dublin and a relevant read for mothers of teenagers also! ‘And For Your Information’ is out now and a great follow up in the series the Butterfly novels. A great buy for a niece who has everything and is difficult to buy a gift for! You can read an interview with Denise Deegan here
If you Only Knew by Claire Allan
Claire Allan’s fifth novel ‘If Only You Knew’ is a beauty. Set in France, it’s perfect to curl up with in front of the fire on these cold winter nights. You could give this to any of your female friends or family members. Claire has contributed several articles to Writing.ie;Where I Write, Still Learning, Finding the Time to Write and How to Choose Your Agent
The Time Travellers Wife by Audrey Niffinegger
One of my favourite books is ‘The Time Travellers wife’ by Audrey Niffinegger. I was inspired to write after reading it and the premise and structure of the story is as fresh today as when it was first written. The cover screamed out at me as I walked through the airport book shop and it was one of the first covers to show just the legs and shoes of the characters which has been copied so many times since.
Sarah Griffin’s Top Five Poetry Books
Buying a book for a loved one at Christmas is a risky measure if you don’t warn them first. Almost like buying them a pair of shoes. What if you get their size wrong? What if they aren’t into the style? What if the gift you thought would surprise and enthral them ends up sitting at the bottom of their wardrobe with all the other shoes and books they’d never touch in a million years? It’s a potential heartbreaker.
Still, don’t let these dangers put you off – especially in the case of books, and double especially in the case of poetry books. While poetry is a hugely personal experience for each reader, and each reader will have a distinct and separate taste, there is an incredibly simple way to gift somebody a poetry book that they will without fail gain something from.
Give anthologies. Consider them the literary equivalent of the selection box. Don’t like Crunchies? Grand, there’s a packet of Buttons. Don’t like Heaney? No problem, Carol Anne Duffey’s on the next page. I’m a huge fan of anthologies because they can be dipped in and out of for months. They’re usually pretty fat things, and there’s nothing like the look of one on a bedside cabinet or coffee table: the convenience of being able to take ten minutes to read a poem out of your day, and knowing that if that one isn’t for you, chances are the one on the next page will be. They’re boxes of variable magic.
So here’s five I’d recommend to pick up as presents. No matter if they don’t dig poetry at first: anthologies are a great place to start people off on their journey with poetry as a literary pleasure.
Any of these books is an incredible gift to give. The works in the collections are from all kinds of poets, all over the world yet have one strong theme in common: the human condition. I was at the launch of the most recent addition to this series, Being Human, at the Cúirt festival this year, and Neil Astley (Bloodaxe’s editor) said of the series that the poetry included is talismanic. The collections deal with the entire spectrum of human moments – all aspects of life. Any reader would undoubtedly find something to connect to from dipping in to one of these books.
Dedalus Press: Bee-Loud Glade
This anthology contains a remarkably varied body of work. I would recommend it specifically for those who don’t read poetry that often, not only because of the accessibility of the work but also because it comes with the most gorgeous CD of Roger Gegg’s jazz ensemble performing the poetry to wonderful jazz sound-scapes. A wonderful and innovative way to consume and enjoy contemporary poetry.
Salmon Poetry: Dogs Singing
The work in this collection is about love and companionship, each piece involving man’s most loyal friend. I’d recommend it for similar reasons to Bee-Loud Glade, in that it is hugely accessible while containing some of the strongest and most innovative contemporary poets. The subject matter makes the poetry instantly relatable to the reader, so a terrific literary gift for any animal-lover.
So there are my top five. These are most definitely safe bets for an incredible present to give to a loved one.
And remember, when buying books for presents, see if you can source them from an independent bookseller this year – supporting independent bookshops plays an important part in providing a varied and colourful literary world. Ask the bookseller for the shop’s card/bookmark when you’re at the till, and make sure you leave it in the book before you put the wrapping paper on. This’ll let the person who gets the book know where it came from, and in future they might visit that shop themselves!
Mary Malone’s Top Five Books for Christmas
Bestselling Cork author has her finger on the pulse writing about climate change and its devastating effect on the shores of Felton Bay. Ordinary people going about their everyday lives cannot possibly predict the onset of Hurricane Kimi or the trail of destruction it leaves in its wake.
With gripping skill, Mary O’Sullivan builds tension in Time and Tide, drawing the reader into her characters’ lives and preparing them for a massive catastrophe. The climax when it does occur raises the stakes and consequences beyond expectation. Felton Bay and its surviving residents will never be the same again. To find out what happens, treat yourself to a copy of Time and Tide by Mary O’Sullivan. I guarantee you will never look into the eye of a storm in the same way again!
Any Dream Will Do By Maria Duffy
Debut author, Maria Duffy, has her finger firmly on the pulse with this story line, using the Social Network Twitter as her basis. Like many (of us), Twitter has become a huge source of information and chat and more importantly a place where reality and true lives are exaggerated.
In the opening pages, main character, Jenny, is quite disgruntled with her life – hates her job and her boss, wishes she had a man in her life and craves a proper relationship with her widowed mother instead of the psychedelic farce currently in existence.
Seeking escapism on Twitter, she bares her soul on postings and direct messages, narrowing her favourite friends to a select few and carelessly suggesting a Tweet-Up after a few glasses of wine one evening. Wouldn’t it be fantastic to meet these people in real life? (You can read our interview with Maria Duffy here)
Violence, sex-trafficking, hard core drugs and violent murders are par for the course in the chapters of Taken. Despite this breath-holding tale being a work of incredible fiction, it comes as no surprise that it is written by true crime editor of the Sunday World, Niamh O’Connor. Her familiarity and expertise adds to the layers of suspense in this cleverly woven plot.
Just as the reader thinks DI Jo has solved the mystery, the story escalates to a whole new level, forcing the investigator to up her game and use every connection she has to outwit hardened criminals. I’ll be waiting patiently to see DI Jo Birmingham appear on our TV screens in the not-too-distant future.
Will You Still Love Me Tomorrow By Claudia Carroll
Sticking with familiar territory, Claudia’s main character, Annie, is a former actress. Unhappy with life in the country with her veterinary husband, Dan, she takes an unexpected opportunity to thread the boards once more. A huge opportunity to spend a year in New York comes her way.
She sees it as an chance to decide if she and Dan are truly compatible. Discussing it with Dan (when he can find time in his busy schedule to listen to what she has to say) they decide to view her period in New York as a gap year, where both of them are free to do exactly as they please. (You can read our interview with Claudia Carroll here)
Cork Author, Mary Malone, launched of her fourth novel, Love Is The Reason, earlier this year. Set in three locations – Crosshaven, Manhattan and Florida – the author tackles the thorny
subjects of a suspicious house fire, lapsed insurance, explosive property deals and dangerous liaisons.
Lucy Leonard’s life is devastated when a house fire destroys a lifetime of memories. The Garda upgrade the case to arson, concentrating their investigation very close to home. They suspect her husband Danny was involved in an insurance scam. Meanwhile, a terrified Lucy is concealing the fact she hadn’t renewed the insurance premium. The investigation into the fire is ongoing but fate is saving its cruellest blows till last . . .
(c) Michelle Jackson, Sarah Griffin and Mary Malone, December 2011.