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

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Fresh from some light Christmas reading – Nikolai Gogol’s Dead souls in the original Russian – Paul Nolan looks at the anticipated Irish and international literary highlights of 2023.

OLD GOD’S TIME
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, starring retired police officer Tom Kettle. After moving into the grounds of a Victorian castle overlooking the Irish Sea, all hope of enjoying Jamie Carragher and Gary Neville on Monday Night Football quickly evaporates when two of Tom’s ex-colleagues arrive with questions about a shady affair from decades ago. (March)

NOTHING SPECIAL
Nicole Flattery (Bloomsbury)
Mullingar author Flattery earned many awards for her debut collection of stories, Show Them A Good Time. Her hugely ambitious and highly anticipated new novel, Nothing Outstanding, is set in mid-1960s New York, when 17-year-old Mae escapes her troubled home life and lands a job as a typist at Andy Warhol’s Factory. This is the starting point for a fascinating, and often turbulent, odyssey through a time-defining Bohemian landscape. (March)

THE HAPPY COUPLE
Naoise Dolan (Weidenfeld & Nicolson)
Naoise Dolan’s The Happy Couple, the sequel to the critically acclaimed Exciting Times, is one of the most anticipated novels of the year. It follows the lead up 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 a lot from Dolan’s trademark insight and caustic humour. (Ability)

THE LOCK UP
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 is The Lock-Up, in which pathologist Dr. Quirke and Detective Strafford suspect foul play when the body of a young woman is discovered in a Dublin garage. The trail eventually leads to a wealthy German family in Wicklow and a mystery dating back to World War II. (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 the upcoming Close To Home. It’s narrated by Belfast-born Sean, the first in his family to attend university, who tries to make his way through a post-financial crisis wasteland, rife with social unrest and personal turmoil. It’s a gripping effort that seems well positioned to make Magee a literary star. (April)

DON’T LOOK BACK
Jo Spain (Quercus)
Fresh off a TV hit with Harry Wild, a series set in Dublin last year, starring Jane Seymour as the eponymous detective, Spain returns with her latest crime novel, Don’t Look Back. Luke and Rose Miller’s Caribbean honeymoon is thrown into turmoil when Rose confesses that before she left home, she killed an abusive man from her past who showed up unexpectedly. This sets the stage for yet another suspenseful thriller from one of Ireland’s leading crime writers. (Ability)

THE BEE STIT
Paul Murray (Hamish Hamilton)
Dublin-based author Murray first rose to fame with 2010’s Skippy Dies, a Pynchon/Foster Wallace-influenced boarding-school tragedy whose decidedly eclectic fanbase included everyone from Bret Easton Ellis to (allegedly) ex-Tory Prime Minister David Cameron. His first novel in eight years, The Bee Sting, focuses on the disintegrating Barnes family – financially strapped parents Dickie and Imelda, and their two tearful children – who struggle to keep things together as the world around them becomes increasingly apocalyptic. get tint. (June)

THIS PLAGUE OF SOULS
Mike McCormack (Tramp Press)
Having already garnered multiple literary prizes, Mayo author Messi went all out with 2016’s epic Solar Bones, which scooped the world’s biggest book gong, the Dublin Literary Prize, and was also adapted for good measure into a critically acclaimed play by the Abbey. Described as a “part metaphysical thriller”, his highly anticipated new novel, This Plague Of Souls, focuses on a man who returns to his empty childhood 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, this looks set to be one of the crime sagas of the year. (January)

THE NEW LIFE
Tom Crewe (Chatto & Windus)
Worthy of comparisons to Colm Toibin, this hotly tipped debut focuses on a group of radical thinkers in Victorian England. Inspired by the discovery made by poet author John Addington Symonds – whom he read about in a biography by Oscar Wilde – The New Life is described as a “poignant novel about love, sex and the struggle for a better world”, in which “ two men collaborate on a book in defense of homosexuality, then a crime – risking their old lives.” Early communications were wildly enthusiastic, with Anne Enright describing the novel as “exciting”. (January)

THE SHARDS
Bret Easton Ellis (fast press)
During the lockdown, American cult author Bret Easton Ellis shocked listeners of his podcast when he decided to relay an apparently autobiographical story about sex and murder at the LA private school he attended in his youth. Several months into what turned out to be a year-long audiobook experiment — delivered in biweekly 40-50 minute episodes — The Shards turned out to be, in fact, a hypnotic exercise in autofiction.

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. With soundtracks from new wave artists like Prince, Blondie, Devo and Ultravox, early ’80s LA is gloriously—well, ominously—brought to life in what is Ellis’ third legit classic after Less Than Zero and American Psycho . (January)

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

THE GUEST
Emma Cline (penguin)
After causing a sensation with her Manson Family exploration The Girls, Emma Cline looks set to deliver another extraordinarily atmospheric follow-up with The Guest. At the center of the (in)action is Alex, who drifts the late summer destructively through a Long Island landscape of “hedged lanes, gated driveways and sunlit dunes of a thin world”. If Lana Del Ray ever wrote a novel, it would be this one. (Ability)

WHERE WE COME FROM
Aniefiok Ekpoudom (Faber)
Faber’s consistently excellent music output continues with Where We Come From, a non-fiction account of the development of Britain’s grime and rap scenes.

SONIC LIFE: A MEMOIR
Thurston Moore (Faber)
Kim Gordon’s Girl In A Band was one of the best music memoirs of the past 10 years, and now her ex-bandmate and life partner, Thurston Moore, gives his take on what life was like in seminal NYC noiseniks Sonic Youth. (September)

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

The Hot Press special issue ‘Hot For 2023’ is out now:

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