Irish summer Book festivals: Dublin International Literary Festival
I always look forward to this time of year. The whole city – indeed the whole country – is awash with festivals of all sorts.
The excellent International Literary Festival took place in Dublin this year from the 20th to the 29th of May, with some post-festival events in June.
One of these, Selina Guinness’s interview with Arundhati Roy on the 11th June, will be the subject of a later post.
Roy’s second novel (her first was the Booker Prize-winning ‘The God of Small Things’, twenty years ago), is the recently-published ‘The Ministry of Utmost Happiness’.
It is one of my highlights of the literary year so far – and this is already a year in which there is no shortage of highlights.
One of the final Festival events took place in the beautiful surroundings of Belvedere House. It was a delight to be there, to attend Rick O’Shea’s interview with the debut novelist, Sally Rooney.
Sally’s book, ‘Conversations With Friends’, has already garnered great critical acclaim. She was engaging, articulate and frequently funny during her interview with Rick. It was refreshing to listen to a young voice so clearly in love with the process of writing fiction. She is, she said, happiest ‘when immersed in writing’.
‘Conversations With Friends’ explores the emotional lives of ‘strong and opinionated’ young women: there’s Frances, a young college student and Bobbi, her best friend. What interested the author most is the dynamic between these two college students, and what happens to them when they meet an elegant, sophisticated married couple, Nick and Melissa.
It was interesting to hear that this narrative began life as a short story – a ‘story that grew, [with] characters propelled along by their own psychology’. Ambiguity and ambivalence abound in this novel which is, essentially, exploring what happens when people fail to understand each other.
‘Conversations With Friends’ is fresh and immediate; a contemporary story of the intimate lives of real people.
Sally Rooney said the novel was her preferred form for dealing with the ‘emotional intensity’ of her characters’ lives.
It’s also a gripping, often darkly-humorous tale. It stayed with me long after I had finished it.