Every month here at Eason Book Club, we put together a selection of novels that we believe book clubs around the country will both enjoy and find interesting enough to promote a great discussion. This month’s choices include three superb debuts. We hope you enjoy them.
It’s 1984. Ireland is a divided country, the Parish Priest remains a figure of immense authority and Jim Finnegan is thirteen years old. His world consists of enduring his five sisters, taking break-neck bike-rides with his best friend, and coveting the local girls from afar. After a drunken rendition of ‘The Fields of Athenry’ at a party, Jim captures both the attention of the beautiful Saidhbh Donohue and the unwanted desires of the devious Father Luke O’Culigeen. Between dealing with his growing love for Saidhbh and the abuse he receives at the hands of O’Culigeen, Jim’s life starts to unravel. He and Saidhbh take a ferry trip to London, with dark and difficult repercussions, forcing Jim to look for the solution to all his problems in some very unusual places. The Fields is an unforgettable story of an extraordinary character, and an outstanding debut from Dublin author Kevin Maher.
Staying in the Eighties and this time it’s the spring of 1987 in the small town of Riverside, Nova Scotia. With only three months of high school to go, Stephen Shulevitz has just realised he’s fallen in love – with exactly the wrong person. Welcome to the end of the world. As Stephen struggles to deal with his overly dependent mother, his distant, pot-smoking father, and his dysfunctional best friends, he must decide between love and childhood friendship; between the person he is and the person he can be. Janet E. Cameron’s debut novel is a bittersweet story of growing up and of one young man finding happiness on his own terms.
Three years after her brilliant, Costa Award-winning novel, The Hand That First Held Mine, Maggie O’Farrell is back with the story of an Irish family in crisis during the legendary heat wave of London, 1976. Robert Riordan tells his wife Gretta that he’s going round the corner to buy a newspaper but he never comes back. The search for her husband brings Gretta’s children – two estranged sisters and a brother on the brink of divorce – back home, each with different ideas as to where their father might have gone. None of them suspects that their mother might have an explanation that even now she cannot share. This is another highly accomplished novel from O’Farrell, who knows exactly how to write a complex family drama.
In his beloved town of Holt, Colorado, Dad Lewis is dying. As old friends pass in and out of his front door to say goodbye, Dad’s wife and daughter try to make his final days as comfortable as possible, tainted though they are by the heart-break of an absent son. Next door, a little girl moves in with her grandmother, her innocence and youth providing promise and hope to all those around her. Down town, another new arrival, the Reverend Rob Lyle, attempts to mend strained relationships of his own, as he faces up to his latest congregation. Set in a landscape as vivid and powerful as those of Cormac McCarthy and Annie Proulx, Benediction is a devastating yet affirming read that explores the pain, the compassion and above all the humanity of ordinary people. A stunning novel by Kent Haruf.
The Panama hotel in Seattle has been boarded up for years but when the new owner makes a startling discovery in the basement, an intrigued crowd gathers outside to view the personal belongings, which were stored away by Japanese families sent to internment camps during WWII. In the crowd is Henry Lee who, upon seeing one of the items, is flooded by memories of his childhood. He wonders if, in amongst the boxes of dusty treasures, there lies a link to the Okabe family and the girl he lost his young heart to so many years ago. This captivating debut by Jamie Ford comes highly recommended by Eason Book Club.
Rachel Joyce’s The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry was chosen as an Eason Book Club recommended read for January. Joyce’s enchanting tale of a man on an unusual mission has got book clubs around the world talking, often dividing them in two. It’s certainly a Marmite kind of a book! We asked one of our many in-house book lovers, Ruth, to tell us what it’s all about…
A letter arrives into the clinical and organised home, which the recently retired Harold Fry shares with his wife Maureen, bearing news that will change everything in their world. Queenie, an old colleague, writes to say goodbye and advises that she is dying of cancer. Harold pens a stilted, polite and unemotional response and heads out of his front door to post it. He bids Maureen “cheerio” and sets off to the post box.
His mind wanders as he walks and Harold thinks of ‘all the things in life he’d let go’ and how he has ‘lived out his ordinary life’. He thinks of Queenie, marvelling that she remembered him after such a long time.
A chance encounter with a girl in a garage leads her to share that her aunt has cancer and how important it is to stay positive; how this belief gave her aunt hope when everything else had gone.
Without any conscious deliberation or reasoning, Harold makes the decision to walk to Queenie, from Kingsbridge to Berwick.
Harold quite simply believes that as long as he walks, Queenie will live. It is at that point, with no great fanfare or ceremony, his personal odyssey begins.
Harold’s walk gives him the time and distance to reflect on his broken relationships with both his wife and son, of mistakes made and opportunities missed. He mourns the lack of communication between himself and Maureen. He remembers, with sorrow, refusing to hold his son when he was a baby, not because he didn’t want to, but purely because he was too afraid.
Harold’s emotions are laid bare to the reader and he makes no attempt at apologising, or rationalising the current state of affairs. He touches on memories of his past with his parents and draws parallels and identifies points that differ in his own relationship with both his wife and son.
The novel journeys with Harold as he reaches each town and interacts with people that he meets. The various characters are cleverly portrayed: the people who help him and the people who join him on his pilgrimage.
What really came across throughout the novel is that Harold is an ordinary man with flaws in his character. He is unassuming, quiet and humble. That is what makes him likeable. And that’s what has the reader turning the pages and urging Harold on, every step of the way on his unlikely pilgrimage.
This book is a gentle exposé of human frailties: of the secrets that even the most ordinary people have and the connections that can be strengthened – or broken – by the smallest interaction. It is a book about hope and, quite simply, about the bravery that it sometimes takes to keep putting one foot in front of the other.
Well, love it or hate it? If you think you might love it, the good news is we have 10 copies to give away! To be in with a chance to win, complete the competition form below by February 8th.
Terms and Conditions
I receive a lot of letters and emails from young fans who want to be writers, but a while ago I was sent the following by a somewhat older budding author:
I want to become a writer, but turning 31 in 21 days is freaking me out. I feel like I’m too old. Any advice for someone who’s starting off late in this game?
That email made me smile. I turned 40 this year, yet I’m still one of the younger authors on the circuit of book festivals. It reminded me how we view time differently depending on our age. As a teenager, days often dragged, and it felt like life was interminable. In my thirties I became very aware of time speeding up, and now it seems like I’m hurtling through life far too quickly, days disappearing behind me every time I blink.
In a fast-moving world, our dreams often out-pace us. At 31, if you have not played football in the Premiership, or been in a chart-topping band, your chance has almost surely passed you by. Want a stab at breaking the record for the 100 metre sprint? Too late. Want to become a brain surgeon? Sorry, you should have started 10 years ago.
Writing, thankfully, is a dream you can set out in pursuit of at almost any point in your life. It’s actually a pursuit better suited to the more mature, since it requires a lot of thought, patience and isolation. Writing involves stepping back from life and recording your observations about it, but when you’re young you should be too busy living to take a break from it. In your 20s you should be dashing around the place, having all sorts of wonderful or dreadful experiences, sampling the endless delights that the world has to offer. When you start to slow down in your 30s or 40s (or 50s or 60s or…) you’ll have plenty of time to settle back, put your feet up and ponder.
I’m one of those rare writers who did it the other way. I threw myself into writing at a very young age, and made the breakthrough in my mid-20s. But that’s because I was a shy, lonely young man, who found it easier to write than to live. If I could go back and do things differently, I’d tell my younger self to take a decade off, have fun, travel around the world, be brave and bite into the pie of life, taking the sour along with the sweet. Even if you’re not producing anything, you’re storing up material that will stand you in good stead further down the line.
I think every true writer knows when the time is right to write, because you feel irresistibly drawn to it. You get to a point where it’s not enough to dream idly of being a writer — you feel compelled to actually write. It’s not that it suddenly becomes easy, that you wake up one day eagerly rubbing your hands together and looking forward to cutting yourself off from the world for long stretches and dealing with all the self-doubt that is a writer’s lot. But you accept that writing involves sacrifice, and you reach a stage where you are prepared to make that sacrifice in order to realise your dream.
At 31, you’re not late starting in the game. In fact my advice would be to have a good long think about it, and wonder if you might not rather start at 41, or 61, or 81. Because life can be more fun if you have something to look forward to, and with writing, you can go on looking forward to it indefinitely. When the legs have packed up, and you can only croak when you try to sing, you can still cling to the dream of telling stories, because age is no barrier in the realm of the imagination. If you want to be a writer, you’re never too old to dream.
- Darren Shan
Here at Eason, we love giving you more books for your buck, which is why we’ve extended our 3 for 2 promotion to January 20th. It’s the perfect starting point for treating yourself with those vouchers you got for Christmas. To give you an idea of what’s on offer, I’ve compiled a list of my top 20 choices from this year’s selection:
Whatever you think of him personally, you can’t deny that Russell Brand is an extremely eloquent and knowledgeable character, which makes his first autobiography, My Booky Wook, a very interesting read. Brand speaks frankly about growing up in Essex, battling bulimia and addiction, and his constant battle with the law. Often poignant and at times harrowing, Brand nevertheless manages to inject a healthy dose of comedy throughout. One of my favourite celeb autobiographies of all time.
Dave Grohl? I love him, my mother loves him, he’s a cross-generational rock god! He also happens to be a very nice chap. Former Kerrang! editor Paul Brannigan draws on old interviews and his own friendship with the man himself to produce the most in-depth look at the amazing life of Grohl to date. Buy This is a Call together with Anthony Kiedis’ Scar Tissue and Slash by Slash, for a triple dose of rock goodness!
Mitch Albom’s 1997 classic, Tuesdays With Morrie, is enjoying a bit of a revival here in Ireland thanks to a nationwide theatre tour this year. With the stage version returning to The Gaiety in January, now is the perfect time to read this touching story of Albom’s time with his old tutor, Morrie, in his dying days. It’s a sad read but very rewarding.
Staying with biographies, journalist Caitlin Moran’s account of life as a woman is outrageously entertaining. You will laugh, you will cry, you will cry with laughter! Attention men: How to be a Woman is not just for women!
Something else that’s definitely not just for women is the new baking craze. Get involved! Learn to bake with the Great British Bake Off’s very own Paul Hollywood in How to Bake, the new title from the ‘Silver Fox’ himself. I don’t know about you but I’ll be picturing the ‘death stare’ hovering over me any time I make a mistake with these bakes!
And why stop there? Why not throw together a whole meal with Paul’s co-star Mary Berry’s Complete Cookbook. This definitive full-colour guide has clearly divided sections on topics such as poultry, vegetarian and yeast, with recipes for everything from Boeuf Bourguignon to Jerk Chicken, Nasi Goreng to Pad Thai, Quiche Lorraine to Zabaglione… Yum! Of course, when you’re finished devouring all of those delights, you might be glad you picked up The Dukan Diet… You might also be in need of some physical exercise and if you’re feeling unmotivated, I suggest reading Born to Run. It’s the story of the Tarahumara tribe, the world’s greatest long distance runners, and it’s awe-inspiring to say the least! If it’s more spiritual guidance you’re after, we have Rhonda Byrne’s bestselling The Secret, along with The Power and The Magic all available in our 3 for 2.
There’s plenty of novels to curl up with, including some great new releases like the lovely Amy Huberman’s I Wished for You, Monica McInerney’s latest heartbreaker, The House of Memories, and hilarious short stories from Roddy Doyle in Two Pints. We also have plenty of old favourites in the mix, including the devastatingly romantic Time Traveler’s Wife and the best book ever to be narrated by Death, The Book Thief. If you haven’t yet sunk your teeth into The Sookie Stackhouse series from Charlaine Harris, now is your chance, with the first ten titles all now in our 3 for 2 promotion! Ideal for both fans of the TV show and those just looking for something a bit meatier than Twilight, start with Dead Until Dark.
And finally, why not embrace all things Mammy with Isn’t It Well For Ye by Colm O’Regan, in which the comedian and creator of the Twitter sensation @irishmammies explores the phenomenon of The Irish Mammy. Go’way! Sure isn’t that grand? Just don’t be telling all and sundry about it…
If you want them, turn the page.
If you don’t, put the book back on the shelf, please.”
Imagine browsing the shelves of your local Eason and coming upon a notebook with these very words written in it, wedged between The Catcher in the Rye and Franny & Zooey. This is exactly what happens to Dash (well, except for the Eason part!). He takes Lily up on her dare and what ensues is a treasure hunt of epic proportions. As the notebook makes its way around the city, the pair send snarky notes back and forth to each other and, inevitably, begin to fall in love – but how does real life compare to the relationship they’ve developed on paper?
This is the latest collaboration from Rachel Cohn and David Levithan, the duo behind 2006’s Nick and Norah’s Infinite Playlist, a fine novel and now also a film starring Michael Cera and one of the Two Broke Girls, Kat Dennings. Stateside, both authors are firmly established YA gods but neither have quite managed to grab the attention of the vampire fanatics and dystopian dreamers on this side of the water just yet. But just as John Green’s The Fault in Our Stars catapulted him up the bestseller lists here, so too could Levithan’s star be on the rise, with another fantastic novel due for release next year. Both have that skill for creating unusual characters, witty and affable, with just the right amount of ‘individuality’ for teens to want to identify with. The absence of supernatural themes in their novels can’t hurt either. These are ‘real’ lives, albeit lives set in the trendy suburbs of New York, where kids drink double espressos and stay out all night. If this all sounds a bit daunting to you then Dash & Lily’s Book of Dares is definitely a good starting point. It’s an easy, enjoyable read and thanks to its snowy Christmas setting, it comes with a nice festive feel too! The perfect present for those who’ve read ‘everything’.
Dash & Lily’s Book of Dares is currently available in the Eason Books of the Year 3 for 2 offer.
It’s December now so we are officially allowed to spread some Christmas cheer! There’s nothing quite like a nice Christmas book to get you in the festive mood and what is Christmas without Raymond Briggs’ The Snowman? There’s a Snowman for every age group, even the buggy-bound. And best of all? There’s even a SOUND book with a built-in jingle bell! Sing it together now: we’re waaalking in the aaaiiirrr……
If that’s all a bit much for you, there’s always the more sedate Michael Morpurgo, with his Christmas Collection. It’s been a great year for Michael, with War Horse and Private Peaceful still selling like hot mince pies (see what I did there?) and you can always rely on him to tell a great story. This book brings together three of his previous Christmas tales (‘The Best Christmas Present in the World’, ‘On Angel Wings’ and ‘The Best of Times’), along with a brand new one, ‘The Goose is Getting Fat’, all lovingly illustrated by Quentin Blake.
If your little ones are just learning to read, try Horrid Henry’s Christmas Presents by Francesca Simon. It has simple text for early readers and everyone loves Henry. Why? Because he’s so horrid!
For those old enough to read alone, give them Rover Saves Christmas by Roddy Doyle. This is kid-comedy at its finest, complete with Doyle’s trademark wit. My 8 year old cousin couldn’t get enough of Rover the Dog and his adventures.
If you’re looking for something more traditional, try this magical pop-up edition from Walker Books of Clement C. Moore’s The Night Before Christmas I also highly recommend The Twelve Days of Christmas by Jane Ray, an absolutely beautiful book based on the classic rhyme. The illustrations are mesmerising and the cover even comes with a bit of sparkle!
And from the sublime to the downright ridiculous, we have Santa’s Christmas Munch, a board book complete with hand-puppet Santa. Stick your fingers in his beard and make him munch through everything the boys and girls leave out for him to eat on Christmas Eve! And after that, as is inevitable, it’s time for Father Christmas Needs a Wee by Nicholas Allan! I always did wonder what Santa did when he needed to go…
If it’s an unusual gift book you’re looking for, I can’t recommend The Jolly Christmas Postman highly enough. For decades, Janet and Allan Ahlberg have been creating incredibly intricate books with the most minute details, like mini letters to pull out and read, and all sorts of tiny items to examine. There’s always something new to find every time you open one of their books and this Christmas edition is no exception.
If you need to keep them busy while you’re doing the annual pre-Christmas clearout, you can rely on the Usborne Big Book of Christmas Things to Make and Do, which is packed full of ideas and simple step-by-step instructions for decorations, cards and wrapping, as well as recipes and lots of stickers!
We started with Raymond Briggs, so we’ll finish with him, and my personal favourite, Father Christmas. So jump up on that sleigh and we’re all on our way, to another bloomin’ Christmas!
Academy Award-winning director Ang Lee (“Brokeback Mountain,” “Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon”) directs LIFE OF PI, based upon Yann Martel’s beloved book, which went on to become one of the biggest publishing events of the past decade. An epic adventure of magical realism, LIFE OF PI follows the story of a young man’s incredible survival at sea against almost impossible odds. A remarkable breakthrough in the use of 3D technology, PI will take audiences on an emotionally captivating journey that will inspire, touch and transport them to a place of discovery they will be unable to forget.
Easons are proud to announce, in association with 20th Century Fox, a preview screening of ‘Life of Pi’ in a Dublin city centre cinema on Monday, 17th December.
Check out the trailer and enter our competition below for tickets to this exclusive screening…
Competition closes at 5pm on Wednesday, 12th December. Good luck!
Please note: This competition has now ended. Congratulations to our lucky winners!
Terms and Conditions
Day 11 of the Eason Book Club Twelve Days of Christmas Competition:
Please note: This competition has now ended. Congratulations to our lucky winners!
Terms and Conditions
- The competition is open to all residents of the Island of Ireland aged 18 or over (proof of age may be required) except employees of the Promoter, their families and/or anyone professionally involved or associated with this Competition.
- No purchase is necessary.
- The Competition will close at 08:59 GMT on Friday, December 21st, 2012.
- To enter, you must answer the question and enter the required information into the above form.
- Only one entry per person. Persons submitting multiple entries will be automatically disqualified.
- The Promoter will select one winner at random, providing they have adhered to the criteria outlined in the Terms and Conditions and the Promoter’s decision in relation to this selection and all other matters is final.
- The winners will receive one prize as outlined on the Eason Book Club Facebook page.
- The prize is non-transferable. No cash alternative will be offered.
- The Promoter reserves the right to withdraw or amend this competition for any reason whatsoever.
- The Promoter and their agents accept no responsibility for difficulties experienced in submitting an entry to this competition nor for any direct or indirect loss suffered by any individual arising from this competition or any involvement therewith.
- This competition and these terms and conditions are governed by Irish law and subject to the exclusive jurisdiction of the Irish Courts.
- An entrant’s personal data will only be held for the purposes of selecting and contacting the winners and will not be held for any other purposes whatsoever without their prior permission.
- Entrants are deemed to have accepted these terms and conditions by participating in this competition.
- The Promoter is Eason & Son Limited.