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When poets write novels

During the 2018 Rostrevor Literary Festival I interviewed Nessa O'Mahony about her new book: The Branchman, published by Arlen House in 2018. (362 pgs.)

The book is now in its second edition, having been very popular with the historically-minded, soul-searching Irish readership. This is fast-spaced as you would expect from a thriller, with short chapters and wonderfully crisp descriptions of the time when it is set: the first year of the New State after the Civil War, but in reality still struggling to come to terms with its shadows.

Nessa opens a window to this world, where alliances change from day to day and people are killed to be silenced. A central love story drives the book and we turn the pages, impatient to discover whether the Brnanchman’s love interest will make the right choice at the end.

As I hear, the follow on sequel is already in the pipelines - and I look forward to reading the next chapter in the Branchman's life.

Writing this, another first novel, written by an Irish poet jumps to mind that I have recently read.

He is mine and I have no other by Rebecca O’Connor (Canongate, 2018) is a heart-quenching coming of age story and it arrived to me at the right time, from a friend. This is a book that you should read, even if you say “not another miserable Irish childhood story”.

The voice of this young narrator is so strong and captivating that you will not be able to put it aside for too long.

In this novel too, the craft of a poet applied to prose shines through, with brilliant sentences that could be lines from a poem, succinct and straight into the heart, to the point.

On the left: Nessa O'Mahony at Rostrevor Lit Fest (thanks to Cathy Cole for the picture)

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