Tag Archives: newly published book

‘White Feathers’ is Launched!

Some events are just designed to be enjoyed. Weddings, Christenings, birthday parties – and book launches. I’ve been lucky enough to have attended a wedding and a Christening this year already (and hopefully a birthday party or two before the year is out), but yesterday evening I had the happy chance to attend a book launch, held in the lovely surrounds of Dubray Books on Grafton Street, in Dublin city. Book launches are huge fun – even, as often happened when I worked as a bookseller, you’re on the throwing end as opposed to the ‘standing around with a glass of wine’ end – and yesterday’s was no exception.

We were there to celebrate the book birthday of Susan Lanigan’s début novel, White Feathers

Ta-daaaa!

Ta-daaaa!

…which is, I’m sure you’ll agree, a gloriously beautiful thing.

(Clearly I haven’t read the book yet, as I only bought my copy yesterday, so I can’t expound about its brilliance at the moment. However, I’m sure it’s going to be wonderful).

The book was launched by Michael O’Brien, the publisher at O’Brien Press and its imprint Brandon Books, and the fearsomely accomplished crime writer Arlene Hunt, both of whom gave lovely speeches which introduced the book and Susan herself with warmth and welcome. Arlene was one of the judges of the Irish Writers’ Centre Novel Fair when Susan put her book forward for consideration, and it was she who found she couldn’t forget it once she’d read the extract. She recounted how, late one night after finishing her initial read-through of Susan’s entry for the competition, which was the proto-version of what would become White Feathers, she realised she had to learn more about Eva Downey (the story’s protagonist) and find out how her tale ended. It’s every writer’s dream, of course, to have that sort of effect on any reader, particularly a reader with the power to pull your story out of a slush-pile full of other talented writers and declare that it’s a winner.

Susan herself, despite declaring she was rattling with nerves, gave a most impressive reading from her novel, doing the shrill, harridan voice of one of her characters with aplomb (and giving her audience huge enjoyment), and giving no indication that she was feeling anything less than at her total ease. She was full of praise for her publishers, her agent Svetlana Pironko, and the team at O’Brien Press who worked hard on the book, including its beautiful cover art, and her passion was clear from every word she spoke. She talked about violence, and how it can take shapes and forms we do not expect, and how any human life, crushed in any way, is an example of violence. She spoke of how the very act of presenting men with a white feather during the Great War – which is one of the primary themes of her novel – was in itself an act of violence, and she spoke movingly of her desire never to see a return to the dark days of war.

There was a lot of applause and mutterings of ‘hear, hear’ from those around her.

Susan, in mid-speech, a proud Arlene Hunt watching on.

Susan, in mid-speech, a proud Arlene Hunt watching on. Image: F. O’Hart

After the speeches, Susan began to sign copies of her book – I, of course, skidded right into the top of the queue. Turnout for the launch was huge, and it was brilliant to be part of such an enthusiastic, happy group of people, all of whom were there to support someone whose hard work and talent had led them to a place of success, and I wasn’t leaving without a personalised memento of my evening. Susan – whom I’ve ‘known’ for a while from Twitter and blogging, but whom I’d never met in person before yesterday evening – was kind enough to put a lovely message on my copy of her book, which reads:

To Sinéad: In writing fellowship. Where I am now, you will be soon, very soon.

I think that tells you all you need to know about the kind of person, and the kind of writer, Susan Lanigan is. I’m looking forward to reading her book (I’m fairly sure there’ll be a review of it knocking about these parts in a few weeks), and I wish her huge success both now and in the future.

Susan busily signing copies of her book. Image: F. O'Hart

Susan busily signing copies of her book. Image: F. O’Hart

And now – to read!

If you’re interested in learning more about Susan’s book, and how to purchase it, you can visit the O’Brien Press website here.

 

Long Time Coming

I dithered over buying a Sunday newspaper yesterday. Those Sundays when I do buy one, it normally lies, unread, until at least Thursday; the more papers we get, the longer the period of unread-ness lasts. This isn’t because the papers aren’t good, or worth reading – but, for whatever reason, there’s always something better to do than get stuck in. However, yesterday I wandered into our local shop and saw some copies of the Sunday Times lying piled on the floor. I flipped to the Culture magazine (as I am wont), and saw a face with which I was familiar, and a name which piqued my interest, and news that I had, somehow, managed to miss until that point; and so, I bought the paper.

This was the face:

Image: telegraph.co.uk

Image: telegraph.co.uk

And this was the name:

Donna Tartt

And this was the news:

Donna Tartt has written a new novel, which will be published in English on October 22nd, and it will be called ‘The Goldfinch.’

I devoured the article when I got home, quivering with annoyance at myself that such a huge event (for me) could be taking place, and that this was the first I’d heard of it. A new novel from Donna Tartt is massive news, for those who, very patiently, follow her work. She, for me, is one of those life-changing authors who demonstrates not only how good fiction writing can be, but also how an author can – with enough talent, and enough luck – have the life of an artist. For Donna Tartt is not only an author – she is that rarest of rare things, an author whose output is tectonic-slow, but who has a readership devoted to her every syllable, and whose work is treated like precious printed jewels. I imagine her life as being a long, gentle fluttering from one day to the next, golden and perfect phrases dripping from her pen, her mind ever set on higher things… Of course, I’m sure this is entirely wrong, but I like my little dream, all the same.

She reminds me of a Tamara de Lempicka painting, somehow. Image: theculturetrip.com Painting: 'Saint-Moritz', 1929

She reminds me of a Tamara de Lempicka painting, somehow.
Image: theculturetrip.com
Painting: ‘Saint-Moritz’, 1929

I am a fan not only of Tartt’s writing, but also of her approach to her writing and the skill with which she has constructed her life. Donna Tartt had a childhood comparable with any novelistic heroine, which is to say it sounds like it would make a far better plot for a novel than an actual life for a young child to live through. In the Sunday Times interview she talks about her isolation and her separation from her parents and her interest in the dark flipside of life from an early age; she discusses her familiarity with death as a result of being raised, in the main, by eccentric and elderly aunts, and the freedom that came from their ‘light touch’ guardianship. It seems no wonder that she writes so well about the fractures in the human psyche and the shadowed underbelly of the consciousness, and that isolation – that of her protagonists, but also, at a fundamental level, that of all human beings from one another – are such strong themes in her books.

Her first novel, ‘The Secret History,’ captivated me when I first read it about twelve or thirteen years ago. Even then, it was an ‘old’ book; first published in 1992, it has been a bestseller ever since. I had just finished my degree at the time I read the book, and – as it takes place in a university – I read it with a sense of recognition and familiarity. I’ve only learned recently that Tartt began the novel while a student herself, which is unsurprising on one level and also, frankly, terrifying on another; I am amazed that a 19-year-old woman could have an idea so riveting, and then go on to write a book so good, as ‘The Secret History.’ It captured my mind completely at the time, as the first book I’d read ‘for pleasure’ in many years. I didn’t have long to wait for her next book, ‘The Little Friend,’ because it was published shortly after I first became aware of her work, and so the wait for this third novel has been interminable. I wondered for a long time if she was ever going to write another novel – in some ways, Tartt reminds me of that other great literary magician, Harper Lee, whose sole novel remains an unassailable masterpiece.

Perhaps it’s a mindset common to those in the southern states of America – don’t write too many books, but make them all works of genius.

In any case, I’m looking forward to, eventually, getting my hands on ‘The Goldfinch.’ It’s good to know that there are some constants in this world – death, taxes and the inevitable brilliance of Donna Tartt.

It’s also nice to have an author to whose lifestyle one can aspire; sadly, her ability far outstrips my own, but a gal can dream!