On the first anniversary of the Eason Book Club, the panel tackled a book that was "just the right side of seedy"
It’s been a quick 12 months in Newstalk’s Dublin studios, with many literary passages placed under the intense scrutiny of the Eason Book Club on The Pat Kenny Show. There’ve been laughs, squabbles, short stories, and off-script anecdotes, and one year in, the promise of plenty more pages to come.
To celebrate the first anniversary of the club, the panellists (Pat Kenny, Mary O’Rourke, Katherine Lynch, and Brian Kennedy) were joined live in studio by Stephen Boylan, a man who knows a thing or two about what kind of books capture the public’s imagination. One of Eason’s book buyers, Stephen charged with selection many of the 500-600 new titles acquired by the retailer every month.
“There’s a huge amount of book publishing these days, and it’s great to see a resurgence in the industry right now,” Stephen said.
Having just finished surveying its readers on their favourite book club titles, Stephen revealed that when it comes to the monthly meetings around the country, the most popular book is The Book Thief by Australian writer Markus Zusak, with The Kite Runner and Me Before You hot on its heels. Irish books polling well included Sebastian Barry’s The Secret Scripture, The Spinning Heart by Dónal Ryan, and Joseph O’Connor’s The Star of the Sea.
Newstalk’s book club, however, were this month taking a trip across the Irish Sea and taking on slam poet and musician Kate Tempest’s debut novel The Bricks that Built the Houses.
“She’s one of the best writers I’ve ever read,” said Katherine Lynch. “And we fear there’s nobody to replace the likes of Dylan and Prince, but there are people like Kate Tempest coming up in the wings.”
The interconnected story of a number of young Londoners hit the spot with Brian Kennedy too. “. It seemed very fragmented, the novel. It reminded me of the opening to Goodfellas, where there’s something going on in the car and there’s a fella in the boot. But the culmination of when it’s Pete’s surprise birthday party, and then all of a sudden all of the characters that we didn’t think were connected just fitted. Like a jigsaw puzzle. Excellent writing.”
Pat was struck by the London of Tempest’s creation, a place where “everyone is leading desperate lives, looking for connections, looking for relevance, looking for meaning.” A place where young people, from all walks of life, are crippled with loneliness and pretending they’re not.
Mary O’Rourke was also a fan, saying Tempest’s evocative and provocative language was “just on the right side of seedy” for her personal tastes.
“I just wanted the book to go on and on. I was so sorry it was finished. I would have read so much more. I just loved the writing, the scenes. It was all so vivid,” the former Fianna Fáil cabinet minister said.
On the phone, Dublin secondary-school teacher Katie Flanagan, representing the BYOB book club, said her group adored the book to boot, saying it’s the kind of read that would be welcome on the Leaving Certificate English course.
“The world Kate Tempest describes is not a nice life, it’s not romanticised. She is so passionate and that comes across really well in her writing and her characters.”
A huge hit across the board, the Eason Book Club members on The Pat Kenny Show were unanimous is praising the book, describing it as the best read they’ve finished in their first year. Here’s hoping for some more excellent books in the year to come.
Brian Kennedy will make the selection for May's book, from the following four titles: Our Souls at Night by Kent Haruf, Chris Cleave's Everyone Brave is Forgiven, The Difference by Justine Delaney Wilson, and Granta 135, a collection of new Irish writing Kevin Barry, Eimear McBride, Belinda McKeon, Donal Ryan, Colm Tóibín and many others, edited by Sigrid Rausing.
Tune into the Pat Kenny Show next week to see what book the panel will discuss in May. You can listen back to the podcast of this month's segment in full below: