(Published in The Irish Times, Sep 2, 2016)

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Multitudes by Lucy Caldwell is September’s Irish Times Book Club selection. The Belfast author’s short story collection, published by Faber in May, was described by Young Skins author Colin Barrett in The Irish Times as “a lively, humane book, gritty but wholehearted, and it offers an ultimately optimistic, progressive vision for the city of Belfast and the women who come from there, while never forgetting what has come before.

“Caldwell is not a writer who cultivates bleakness for its own sake, and the tone that ultimately prevails throughout Multitudes is one of tentative defiance, of a kind of celebratory bittersweetness and a refusal to finally bow to adversity.

“Set almost entirely in Belfast, featuring a succession of young female protagonists, and ordered in rough accordance with the the narrators’ ages, the stories in Multitudes collectively work as a sort of kaleidoscopic bildungsroman, tracing the archetypal milestones and tribulations of the various characters’ lives as they come of age in the city in the pre-Good Friday Agreement era.”

The Sunday Times review said: “Anyone who thinks adolescence is a happy experience should read Lucy Caldwell’s Multitudes, a series of stories about girlhood set mainly in Belfast around the time of the Troubles. Thirteen is a memorably grim tale featuring a miserable birthday party and a near rape, but most of these pieces (in a book neatly structured so that the various protagonists are older in each one, adding up to a composite whole) have something bleak or queasy in them. Caldwell captures every last sob and spew in a book redeemed by its underlying resilience and exhilarating vividness.”

Kevin Power in the Sunday Business Post wrote: “While the Young Turks and Tukesses of Irish Lit are all about the linguistic fireworks, Caldwell writes an understated, conversational prose that never advertises itself unduly.

Irish Times Book Club choice: “Multitudes”

Awards, News

Killing Time

Awards, News

allirelandLucy Caldwell’s short story “Killing Time”, which won the Commonwealth Writers’ Prize (Canada & Europe) 2014 has just been published in the anthology “All Over Ireland”, edited by Deirdre Madden. Max Liu, in the Independent, wrote:

“The bar is set high for the fifth instalment in Faber & Faber’s new Irish short stories series, not only by the standard of previous volumes… All Over Ireland (Faber, £9.99) features contributions from new and established writers, from Andrew Fox, whose first collection appeared earlier this year, to Colm Tóibín’s “The Journey to Galway”, a powerful meditation on grief and Irish history. Other standouts include “Killing Time”, Lucy Caldwell’s story of a child who may or may not have taken an overdose of painkillers, Mary Morrissy’s “Emergency” and Selina Guinness’ “The Weather Project”.

The collection’s editor Deidre Madden notes that “emigration features in several of the stories” as authors take us to America, Ghana and London, reaching into the past and confronting topical subjects in a variety of ways which bode well for Ireland’s literary future.”

Commonwealth Short Story Prize

Awards, News

Commonwealth Short Story PrizeLucy Caldwell has been named Regional Winner, Canada & Europe for the 2014 Commonwealth Short Story Prize for her story Killing Time.

The prize provides a platform for writers from the 53 countries of the Commonwealth to share unpublished work with a wider audience.

The five regional winners (Africa, Asia, Canada & Europe, Caribbean, Pacific) will now move forward to the next round and the overall winner will be announced in Kampala, Uganda, on 13 June to coincide with a series of Commonwealth Writers initiatives in East Africa.

Killing Time is the story of ayoung girl just turned thirteen who tries to take her own life. She swallows down as many paracetamol and baby aspirin tablets as she can and goes downstairs to have dinner with her family. That evening, and in the days that follow, she waits for something to happen, caught between the equally terrifying possibilities that something might, and that nothing will at all.

Asked about being named Regional Winner, Lucy said:

“I am thrilled to hear that my story Killing Time has been chosen as the Canada and Europe regional winner. It was a very difficult story to write, and took well over a dozen entirely new drafts for me to get the balance and tone of it right. At several points I almost abandoned it entirely. So it’s a huge boost for it to receive such recognition.”

The judges for the Prize reflect the five regions with Doreen Baingana from Africa, Michelle de Kretser from the Pacific, Marlon James from Caribbean, Courttia Newland representing Canada and Europe, and Jeet Thayil representing Asia. The chair is Ellah Allfrey, who is deputy chair of the Council of the Caine Prize and was previously deputy editor of Granta and senior editor at Jonathan Cape, Random House.

Irish Novel of the Year – Shortlist

Awards, News

All The Beggars Riding book coverAll The Beggars Riding is among the 5 shortlisted titles for the Kerry Group Irish Novel of the Year Award 2013, which was announced on April 17at Dublin’s Mansion House by Kerry Group’s Aoife O’Brien. The €15,000 award is the largest monetary prize for fiction available solely to Irish authors. Previous winners of the award include Christine Dwyer Hickey, Anne Enright, Neil Jordan, John Banville, Joseph O’Neill, Roddy Doyle, Sebastian Barry and John McGahern.

The chair of the jury, Robert McCrum said “After an intensive selection process, shared throughout this spring with my distinguished associate Rita Ann Higgins, I am delighted to announce these 5 fine writers for the shortlist of a most important Irish literary prize. It has been such an honour to make a contribution to this part of Listowel Writers’ Week, and I look forward to working with Rita Ann in picking the winner. It’s going to be a close race, down to the wire.”

Commenting on her shortlisting, Lucy said “I am thrilled beyond words that my novel’s been shortlisted for the Kerry Group Irish Novel of the Year. I’ve wanted to come to Listowel Writers’ Week for as long as I can remember, and to come as a shortlistee is just wonderful.”

Belfast’s One City One Book 2013

Awards, News

One City One Book 2013“You are standing, face upturned to the window, breathing in the sun. I can see you, almost: if I close my eyes I can almost see you. A Thursday morning in May, 1972”.
All the Beggars Riding, a novel by Lucy Caldwell – Belfast choice for One City One Book Belfast 2013

The people of Belfast are being encouraged to get reading with One City One Book which returns to the city this May. All the Beggars Riding, the latest novel by Belfast born author Lucy Caldwell, has been selected as Belfast’s second ‘One City One Book’ read and will be the focus of this Arts Council initiative to develop the art of reading and promote Belfast’s rich creativity. Narrated by Lara, nearing forty and nursing her dying mother,the chosen book is the heartbreaking portrait of a woman confronting her past.
Developed by the Arts Council and supported by Belfast City Council, Literary Belfast, Libraries NI, Belfast Telegraph, QFT, Faber & Faber and U105, One City One Book is a community reading initiative which aims to get the people of Belfast reading and discussing the same book throughout the entire month of May.

Following on from the hugely successful campaign in 2012, this year’s One City One Book month long campaign promises to be bolder, brighter and packed with a bigger programme of events. Themed around the book, the exciting programme will feature a wide range of talks, city tours and a weeklong QFT film screening hosted by well known and loved local personalities. (read more)

Fiction Uncovered – Shortlist

Awards, News

fiction-uncovered-2013All The Beggars Riding is among the 8 titles on the Fiction Uncovered shortlist. Fiction Uncovered is a promotion which celebrates our best British fiction writers. The titles were selected by a judging panel chaired by novelist Louise Doughty, with judges Sandeep Mahal, Programme Manager at the Reading Agency, Lynne Hatwell, aka influential blogger dovegreyreader, and writer Courttia Newland.

The promotion is supported by Arts Council England and funded by the National Lottery.  The titles will be part of a summer promotion supported by retailers Foyles, Kobo, Waterstones, iBookstore, Amazon and independent bookstores across the UK. Fiction Uncovered authors receive a artist-bound edition of their book. For more information, visit the website

Fiction Uncovered Review

Lucy Caldwell’s All The Beggars Riding is difficult to write about without spoiling its effects. Not that the twists and revelations in it are particularly dramatic – in fact almost the opposite – but that they are so deeply woven into the fabric of the story that to tell to any great extent what the book is about, and how it goes about being what it is, would be to diminish it, and in the end make it rather less worth reading than it is.

In other words, it’s one of those books you have to take on trust – though if I mention that it’s been shortlisted for the Kerry Group Irish Novel of the Year Award 2013 and chosen as Belfast’s One City One Book mass read this year (this month, in fact), then at least you’ll know it’s not just me you’re trusting.

The book’s narrator is Lara Moorhouse, a young woman living in London under the shadows of a string of losses: being dumped by her long-term boyfriend, the death of her mother, and, further back, the death of her father, in a helicopter crash in Northern Ireland, where he worked as a plastic surgeon, patching up people who’d been blown half to pieces in the Troubles, only making it back in snatches to see his patiently waiting family. His job, of course, is deeply ironical, for all the time he is saving lives and faces, he is sinking the knife deeper and deeper into the life of his family, so slowly that you might not notice how much damage is being done.

What we get, then, is a portrait of a family seen with the bitter clarity of hindsight. “All the time I watched them as a child,” Lara writes, “and was convinced that no parents on earth loved each other as much as my mother and father – it wasn’t love, it was desperation, and addiction, and a shared guilt, and a need for that guilt and its consequences to feel justified.”

And that Lara writes what we read is equally important – for that’s another thing Caldwell gets just right. Lara’s self-discovery comes about through writing, through ‘Creative Writing’, and Caldwell very accurately mirrors the particular way that memoir and fiction mix and blur in contemporary literature, and the way that the Creative Writing industry is sanctioning, even formalising, a particular way for people to think about and use their own past.

Which might make the book sound tricksier or more severe than it is. All The Beggars Riding offers the reader a subtly intelligent and moving journey through domestic tragedy and its long aftereffects. If Lara Moorhouse had really written it, or if it really were Caldwell’s own story, disguised, we might applaud them their courage, and their accomplishment. But she didn’t, it isn’t, and so we must applaud Caldwell for something altogether slyer and more intriguing – a fake fake memoir that lives up to the demands of its genre, while also gently lifting the cover to show the machinery at work beneath. I could say more, but I’d ruin it.

Woman of the Year Award

Awards
Press Eye - Belfast - Northern Ireland - 5th December 2012 - 2012 Belfast Telegraph Woman of the Year Awards in Association with ASDA at the Ramada Hotel in Belfast. Lucy Caldwell and Maureen Caldwell pictured at the awards. Picture by Kelvin Boyes / Press Eye

Lucy Caldwell and Maureen Caldwell pictured at the awards.
Picture by Kelvin Boyes / Press Eye

Lucy was named one of the Women of the Year 2012 in the sixth Belfast Telegraph awards ceremony. Lucy picked up her her beautiful Belleek trophy as Woman of the Year In The Arts Award 2012 at a glitzy award ceremony and gala dinner on Wednesday 5th December at the Ramada Plaza Hotel, Belfast. The awards recognise the outstanding talents of the women of Northern Ireland.

Commenting on her award Lucy said “I’d like to thank especially the Arts Council of Northern Ireland for their support over the past year. Their wonderful generosity and the strength of their belief in my work helped to make this year my most intensive and creative yet. This feels like a very rich and exciting time for the arts in Northern Ireland, and it’s wonderful beyond words to feel a part of it, and to have the backing of such a dedicated and committed arts organisation”.