By Emma Hannigan
Poolbeg Press Ltd.
Emma Hannigan's newest novel (she wrote the bestselling Designer Genes, inspired by her own experiences with cancer) is the tale of three very different women at three very different stages in their lives, but ultimately hurtling towards the same outcome.
Angie Breen is single and loathing it, and if it isn't bad enough that she's being absolutely deafened by the ticking of her body clock, there isn't an eligible man anywhere near the horizon.
Meanwhile, Serena Doyle would appear to have it all: glamour, sophistication, and a husband who thinks the world of her.
But when Serena decides that a baby is the one thing to make her life complete, there are enough obstacles in her way to make things seem hopeless. Ruby White isn't even 16 and she has fallen for the wrong man entirely.
When she ends up pregnant, her parents are appalled but determined to find the best solution for everybody. When Angie's work takes her from Cork to Dublin for a year, and Ruby's parents decide to cover up their daughter's pregnancy and adopt her baby, the two cross paths.
Meanwhile, as Serena's long held secret is exposed, will she ever manage to get what she really wants?
Again, Hannigan has written a pacy, enjoyable tale, with lively and sympathetic characters, and a storyline that will resonate with many. This is likely to be on quite a few holiday reading lists this summer.
By Joseph O'Connor
Joseph O'Connor remembers passing the house where John Millington Synge lived his last few years and wondering about the stories it had seen.
This childhood fascination, encouraged by O'Connor's parents and their love of books and literature, has resulted in a beautiful, ethereal tale of thwarted love and eternal regrets.
The book flits between a Dublin love affair in 1907 and the sad end of one of the protagonists in 1950s London.
Molly Allgood is from the inner city but when stage success beckons she dreams of stardom in America.
Her admiration for an older playwright at the theatre where she works soon turns to passion, and the two begin stepping out. He, of course, is JM Synge and she is otherwise known as Maire O'Neill, actress of stage and screen.
They were secretly engaged before Synge died at 38. O'Connor has taken the basis of a real-life relationship – staunchly opposed by friends and family of the unfortunate pair - and woven an amazing love story that spans nearly five decades.
It is fiction, he stresses, but it's still thrilling to read a novel in which WB Yeats and Lady Gregory pop up from time to time.
Each part of the novel – the affair and the aftermath – is equally poignant, and the eventual tragic decline of a woman who was once so well-regarded is heartbreaking. O'Connor's career trajectory, beginning with his angry young activist confessionals, and moving through some excellent observational humour, has culminated in his best work to date with a rich trilogy of historical fiction: starting with Star of the Sea and ending with this most wonderful novel.
The Hand that First Held Mine
By Maggie O'Farrell
When Lexie Sinclair runs away from home and into the arms of Innes Kent, she knows she has found her soul mate.
In 1950s Soho, at the heart of the burgeoning art scene, she creates a life she loves. Meanwhile, shooting ahead to the present, Elina and Ted are struggling to recover from the traumatic birth of their first child.
Ted is overwhelmed at Elina's near death, and she is suffering from a frightening short-term memory loss.
While Elina slowly regains her vitality and her memory, Ted is haunted by a series of near-memories, and the growing sensation that his own childhood was not all it seemed.
The two strands of the story wind together slowly as the novel unfolds, and the link between Lexie, Innes, Ted and Elina soon becomes apparent. It is a beautifully crafted book, at times heartbreaking in its intensity of emotions, but also a very honest look at the changes wrought by parenthood.