2023 Irish & International Books Preview: Nicole Flattery, Paul Murray, Zadie Smith & More

Fresh off a light Christmas reading: Nikolai Gogol’s Dead souls in the original Russian – Paul Nolan examines the anticipated Irish and international literary highlights of 2023.

THE TIME OF THE OLD GOD
Sebastian Barry (Faber)
The two-time Costa Book of the Year winner and author of The Secret Scripture — adapted by Jim Sheridan into a film starring Rooney Mara — returns with Old God’s Time, centering on retired cop Tom Kettle. After moving into the grounds of a Victorian castle overlooking the Irish Sea, all hopes of enjoying Jamie Carragher and Gary Neville on Monday Night Football quickly vanish, when two of Tom’s former colleagues arrive with questions about an obscure case from decades ago. . (March)

NOTHING SPECIAL
Nicole Flattery (Bloomsbury)
Mullingar Flattery author has garnered numerous awards for her debut story collection, Show Them A Good Time. Her hugely ambitious and highly anticipated new novel, Nothing Special, is set in mid-1960s New York City, as 17-year-old Mae escapes her troubled home life and finds work as a typist in Andy Warhol’s Factory. This is the cue for a fascinating, and often turbulent, odyssey through a bohemian landscape that she defines as the era. (March)

THE HAPPY COUPLE
Naoise Dolan (Weidenfeld & Nicolson)
After the rapturous Exciting Times, Naoise Dolan’s The Happy Couple is one of the most anticipated novels of the year. It traces the buildup to couple Luke and Celine’s wedding, while also focusing on best man Archie (who is trying to climb the corporate ladder and move on from his love for Luke); and Celine’s sister, sardonic bridesmaid Phoebe, who is distracted by Luke’s unexplained disappearances. Expect plenty of insight and trademark Dolan wit. (May)

THE BLOCK
John Banville (Faber)
A busy first half of the year for Banville also sees the arrival of Marlowe, Neil Jordan’s adaptation of his novel The Black-Eyed Blonde (written under Banville’s former alias Benjamin Black). Also released in April was The Lock-Up, in which pathologist Dr Quirke and Detective Inspector Strafford suspect foul play when the body of a young woman is discovered in a Dublin garage. The path eventually leads to a wealthy German family in Wicklow and a mystery dating back to WWII. (April)

CLOSE TO HOME
Michael Magee (Hamish Hamilton)
Selected as one of The Observer’s top 10 debut novelists for 2023, Michael Magee is set to cause quite a stir with his forthcoming Close To Home. It is narrated by Belfast native Sean, the first of his family to attend university, who tries to make his way through a wasteland after financial collapse, filled with social upheaval and personal turmoil. It’s a compelling effort that seems well positioned to turn Magee into a literary star. (April)

DON’T LOOK BACK
Jo Spain (Quercus)
Fresh off a TV success with last year’s Dublin-set series Harry Wild, starring Jane Seymour as the eponymous detective, Spain is back with its latest crime novel, Don’t Look Back. Luke and Rose Miller’s Caribbean honeymoon is thrown into turmoil when Rose confesses that before leaving the house, she killed an abusive man from her past who showed up unexpectedly. Then the stage is set for another rousing thriller from one of Ireland’s leading crime writers. (May)

THE BEE STING
Paul Murray (Hamish Hamilton)
Dublin author Murray first shot to stardom with 2010’s Skippy Dies, a Pynchon/Foster Wallace-influenced boarding school tragedy whose decidedly eclectic fan base included everyone from Bret Easton Ellis to (reportedly ) former Tory Prime Minister David Cameron. Her first novel in eight years, The Bee Sting, centers on the disintegration of the Barnes family – cash-strapped parents Dickie and Imelda, and their two tearjerking sons – who struggle to keep things together as the world around them them takes on an increasingly apocalyptic tinge. (June)

THIS PLAGUE OF SOULS
Mike McCormack (Tramp Press)
Having already amassed numerous literary awards, Mayo’s author went full Messi with 2016’s epic Solar Bones, which won the world’s biggest literary prize, the Dublin Literary Prize, and has also been adapted into a acclaimed Abbey comedy for good measure. Described as a “part metaphysical thriller”, his highly anticipated new novel, This Plague Of Souls, focuses on a man who returns to his empty family home after attending a mysterious trial. (October)

AGE OF VICE
Deepti Kapoor (Fleet)
This novel has been described as India’s answer to The Godfather and The Sopranos, which was more than enough to get us excited. An epic tale of corruption centered around a wealthy family, it looks to be one of the crime sagas of the year. (January)

THE NEW LIFE
Tom Crewe (Chatto & Windus)
Earning comparisons to Colm Toibin, this hot-shot debut work focuses on a group of radical thinkers in Victorian England. Inspired by the author’s discovery of the poet John Addington Symonds – which he had read about in a biography of Oscar Wilde – The New Life is described as a “visceral novel about love, sex and the fight for a better world”, in which “two men collaborate on a book in defense of homosexuality, then a crime – risking their old lives in the process”. Early notices are extremely enthusiastic, with Anne Enright describing the novel as “electrifying”. (January)

THE BRACELETS
Bret Easton Ellis (Swift Press)
Deep in the lockdown, cult American author Bret Easton Ellis shocked his podcast listeners when he decided to broadcast a seemingly autobiographical story of sex and murder at the Los Angeles private school he attended in his youth. Several months after what turned out to be a year-long audiobook experiment – distributed in fortnightly installments of 40-50 minutes – it emerged that The Shards was in fact a mesmerizing exercise in auto-fiction.

In the fall of 1981, young Ellis is unnerved by the arrival of a menacing new student named Robert Mallory, while the town is haunted by a serial killer known as the Trawler. Soundtracked by new wave artists like Prince, Blondie, Devo and Ultravox, the early ’80s LA LA is gloriously – well, menacingly – brought back to life in what is Ellis’ third true classic after Less Than Zero and American Psycho. (January)

A SPELL OF GOOD THINGS
Ayòbámi Adébáyò (Penguin)
Having garnered literary awards and critical acclaim for her debut novel Stay With Me, Adébáyò’s A Spell Of Good Things is a sweeping exploration of poverty, politics and class in modern Nigeria. The central duo is Eniola, who runs errands for her local tailor, collects newspapers and begs when she must, after her father loses his job; and Wuraola, the scion of a wealthy family and now an exhausted young doctor, beloved by the mercurial son of a rising politician. A shocking act of violence causes the lives of Eniola and Wuraola to intertwine in this brilliantly crafted epic. (February)

THE GUEST
Emma Cline (Penguin)
After causing a stir with her Manson family exploration The Girls, Emma Cline looks set to deliver another hugely atmospheric sequel with The Guest. At the center of the (in)action is Alex, who spends the end of summer drifting destructively through a Long Island landscape of “covered lanes, gated driveways and sunburned dunes of a rarefied world.” If Lana Del Ray ever wrote a novel, this would be it. (May)

WHERE WE COME FROM
Aniefiok Ekpoudom (Faber)
Faber’s consistently excellent musical output continues with Where We Come From, a non-fiction chronicle of the developing UK grime and rap scene.

SONICA LIFE: A MEMORY
Thurston Moore (Faber)
Kim Gordon’s Girl In A Band was one of the best musical memoirs of the past 10 years, and now her former bandmate and life partner, Thurston Moore, gives his take on what life was like in New York’s pioneering noiseniks. York Sonic Youth. (September)

THE FRAUD
Zadie Smith (Hamish Hamilton)
One of the major stars of contemporary British literature returns this autumn, with a novel inspired by true events in Victorian London and Jamaica. (September)

Hot Press special issue ‘Hot For 2023’ is now available:

Add a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *