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Derek Flynn’s On My Bookshelf: Helen Cullen

Writing.ie | Resources | Developing Your Craft

Derek Flynn

On My Bookshelf is a feature where I ask authors what are the best books they’re reading at the moment. This week, it’s the turn of author, Helen Cullen.


Laura Cassidy’s Walk of Fame by Alan McMonagle. Alan McMonagle’s brilliant second novel was published in March just as the world was descending into lockdown and so I worry that it hasn’t received the attention it deserves. Already established as one of our finest writers with his critically lauded debut, Ithaca, Alan has created another truly remarkable book and unforgettable character with Laura Cassidy. Stylish, provocative, charming, profound – this novel is something special, just like Laura.

Negative Capability by Michèle Roberts. Michèle Roberts is my writing mentor, friend and one of my literary heroines who is beloved for her exquisite prose in twelve astounding novels and her searingly honest, compelling and provocative memoirs. Negative Capability is a sensitive and beautifully drawn account of the year in her life after her latest novel was rejected by her then publisher and how she found a way to move forward. Written in Michèle’s inimitable natural tone, it is a manifesto for the perseverance of the human spirit and a poignant insight into the writerly life.

The Hiding Game by Naomi Wood. This novel was first published in July 2019 with the paperback due in 2021. Even though it is over a year since I read it, I still think about it often as it is one of the most brilliant works of historical fiction that I’ve read in recent times. Wood dissects the intense relationships, petty and agonising betrayals, and fates of a talented, charismatic and obsessive friendship group who enter the Bauhaus art school in 1922.For anyone with even a passing interest in Weimar art, the iconic Bauhaus cultural production, or what it means to be human in a world that seems determined to learn little from history, you will love this book.


Laura Cassidy’s Walk of Fame by Alan McMonagle

Laura Cassidy is going all the way. Hollywood. Starry lights. The Walk of Fame. It’s her destiny. At least, that’s what her movie-obsessed father used to tell her. That was always the plan.

Sure, it’s been a bit slow-going, but the stars have finally aligned. The long-awaited new theatre is about to open, and their first production calls for a particularly fiery female lead. This part has Laura’s name on it.

There’s her meddlesome older sister to get past – freshly returned from saving the world. Her occasional lover and stand-in leading man seems to think it’s all a waste of time. And probably best not to mention the audition to her mother, especially after what happened last time . . . Laura just has to stay one step ahead of them all.

Channelling the era of Hollywood’s silver screen and told in a voice that blends devil humour, quiet mayhem, and a singled-minded optimism that might just lead to disaster, Laura Cassidy’s Walk of Fame tells the story of a troubled soul desperate to find her place in life.

Order your copy online here.


Negative Capability by Michèle Roberts

 Yesterday ended in disaster. Very late at night, I decided to write down everything that had happened; the only way I could think of coping.

So here goes.

So begins Michele Roberts’s intimate and honest account of the year after her latest novel has been rejected by her then publisher. Written with warmth and sensitivity, she navigates the difficult road from depression and anxiety to acceptance and understanding of the value of the friendships which nurture her and make life worth living – whatever happens.

Order your copy online here.


The Hiding Game by Naomi Wood

In 1922, Paul Beckermann arrives at the Bauhaus art school and is immediately seduced by both the charismatic teaching and his fellow students. Eccentric and alluring, the more time Paul spends with his new friends the closer they become, and the deeper he falls in love with the mesmerising Charlotte. But Paul is not the only one vying for her affections, and soon an insidious rivalry takes root.

As political tensions escalate in Germany, the Bauhaus finds itself under threat, and the group begins to disintegrate under the pressure of its own betrayals and love affairs. Decades later, in the wake of an unthinkable tragedy, Paul is haunted by a secret. When an old friend from the Bauhaus resurfaces, he must finally break his silence.

From the author of the award-winning Mrs Hemingway, Naomi Wood’s The Hiding Game is a beautifully written, powerful and suspenseful novel about the dangerously fine line between love and obsession, set against the most turbulent era of our recent past.

Order your copy online here.


Helen Cullen’s debut novel, The Lost Letters of William Woolf was published in 2018 by Penguin Random House in Ireland and the UK and published in the USA by Harper Collins in 2019 and in translation to numerous foreign markets. Described as “Enchanting, intriguing, deeply moving” by the Irish Times, the novel garnered Helen a Best Newcomer nomination at the 2018 Irish Book Awards.

Helen’s second novel, The Truth Must Dazzle Gradually, will be published in the UK, Ireland and America in August 2020. Graham Norton described the new book as “a beautiful bittersweet story of love, loss and families all set in the most irresistible of locations. Tears were shed!” You can find Helen on Twitter as @wordsofhelen and at www.helencullen.ie

About The Truth Must Dazzle Gradually by Helen Cullen

On an island off the west coast of Ireland, the Moone family are shattered by tragedy.

Murtagh Moone is a potter and devoted husband to Maeve, an actor struggling with her most challenging role yet – being a mother to their four children. Now Murtagh must hold his family close as we bear witness to their story before that tragic night.

We return to the day Maeve and Murtagh meet, outside Trinity College in Dublin, and watch how one love story gives rise to another. And as the Moone children learn who their parents truly are, we journey onwards with them to a future that none of the Moones could predict . . .

Except perhaps Maeve herself.

The Truth Must Dazzle Gradually is a celebration of the complex, flawed and stubbornly optimistic human heart.

Order your copy online here.

About the author

Derek Flynn runs Writing.ie’s SongBook blog, and is an Irish writer and musician. He has a Masters in Creative Writing from Trinity College, Dublin. He’s been published in a number of publications, including The Irish Times, and his fiction was featured in ‘Surge’, an anthology of new Irish writing published by O’ Brien Press with the aim of showcasing “the very best of the next generation of Irish authors”. Online he can be found at his writing/music blog – ‘Rant, with Occasional Music’ – and on Twitter as @derekf03

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