Solace, the debut novel of Longford arts journalist, playwright and former festival curator, Belinda McKeon, has been voted the Bord Gáis Energy Irish Book of the Year for 2011.
The public were asked to vote for their favourite title from the list of ten category winners announced at the recent Bord Gáis Energy Irish Book Awards 2011 and Solace, which was named as Sunday Independent Best Irish Newcomer of the Year at the awards, topped the poll.
Widely-praised by reviewers and heavily endorsed by many of Ireland’s established novelists including Anne Enright, Colm Toibin and Colum McCann, Solace has been described as “a fine example of the modern Irish novel encompassing the breadth of a country and acknowledging an entire generation. In it we feel a young writer carefully negotiating her relationship to her native Ireland and to its literary traditions.”
Belinda McKeon was born in Ireland in 1979 and grew up on a farm in Co. Longford. She studied English and Philosophy at Trinity College Dublin (BA) and University College, Dublin (MLitt). She lives in Brooklyn, New York and in Ireland.
Her writing has been published in journals including The Paris Review, The Dublin Review and Irish Pages, and has been anthologized in Fishamble Firsts: New Playwrights (New Island, 2008) and The News from Dublin: New Irish Stories (Faber, 2011). She has also written on the arts for The Irish Times for over ten years, and has interviewed writers including John McGahern, Richard Ford, Amy Bloom, John Banville, Colm Toibin, Eavan Boland, W.S. Merwin and Joan Didion.
She curated Ireland’s largest poetry festival, DLR Poetry Now, from 2008 to 2011 and has curated a number of events in the US, including IAC Poetry Fest, a festival of contemporary Irish poetry in New York, and the literary strand of Imagine Ireland. As a playwright, McKeon has had work staged at the Abbey and Project Theatres in Dublin and at 59E59 and PS 122 in New York. She is currently under commission to the Abbey Theatre, Dublin and is also working on a second novel.
Belinda will be doing a reading and signing in the Bord Gáis Energy 2011 Bookshop of the Year, Crannóg Bookshop, Church Street, Cavan this Saturday, 17th December at 12.30pm.
Belinda McKeon says she is deeply honoured to receive this award:
“The Bord Gáis Energy Irish Book Awards are testimony to the fact that Ireland is a country of readers, and I’m hugely honoured that Solace has been endorsed and supported in this way by so many people who know and love books. To have won the Sunday Independent Best Newcomer Award was a real boost, especially given the quality of the shortlist, and now winning the overall Irish Book of the Year is wonderful, and a bit of a shock to be frank. I’m very grateful to Bord Gáis Energy for standing up for Irish writing and Irish publishing in these times, and above all I’m very grateful to the readers.”
Bert Wright from the Bord Gáis Energy Irish Book Awards said:
“Solace was among the most eagerly-anticipated literary debuts in many a long year and fully justified the hopes of those already familiar with the keen literary intelligence evident in all Belinda McKeon’s work hitherto. Its brilliant success augurs well for a fine new literary career in the making.”
David Kirwan, Managing Director at Bord Gáis Energy, said:
“We would like to congratulate Belinda McKeon on winning the Bord Gáis Energy Irish Book of the Year for 2011. It is a fantastic achievement for Belinda as a newcomer to the awards and we wish Belinda ongoing success in her literary career. Bord Gáis Energy is immensely proud to support the Irish Book Awards which celebrates the wealth of indigenous literary talent that we have in Ireland.”
Madeleine Keane, Literary Editor with the Sunday Independent, which sponsored the Newcomer of the Year category, added:
“I’m absolutely delighted that Solace has won this important award which is richly deserves. Belinda McKeon’s novel is a beautifully wrought, assured and intensely moving debut. I look forward to more from this exciting new writer.”