I am so at home in Dublin, more than any other city, that I feel it has always been familiar to me. It took me years to see through its soft charm to its bitter prickly kernel - which I quite like too.

It’s polyphony, but with a murder


Shortlisted for the Guardian First Book award for The Spinning Heart, Donal Ryan tells the paper’s Saturday book review (November 16th) that “Irish village life tends to have uniform themes and threads, woven around sport, land, drink, money, religion; all hackneyed and cliched if you’re a bit cynical, or wonderfully fecund if you’re prepared to harvest the drama”.

The linked monologues in The Spinning Heart are almost like short stories, he writes, with each character describing themselves and the world around them.

When asked what the book is about, I often pause for too long and then mumble something about a village and the recession and polyphony and watch as the person’s eyes glaze over. I desperately add that there’s a murder – and a kidnap! – but it’s usually too late.