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Mountains to Sea dlr Book Festival
Mountains to Sea dlr Book Festival

Lessons of History

Billy O'Callaghan and Ciaran McMenamin with Paula Shields

DateSaturday March 27th
Cost€5 - €10

The Festival Bookseller for this event is Books Upstairs.

2021 marks the centenary of the partition of Ireland and in this event, Paula Shields will explore two new novels whose characters experience the turbulence of those times.  Ciaran McMenamin’s The Sunken Road is a vivid and powerful 1916 first-world-war narrative combined with a thrilling 1922 story of lovers on the run together, trying to get over the border from Northern Ireland into the Republic. Annie and Francie are making a run for the Irish border, pursued by Francie’s old nemesis from his regiment in the First World War – and by memories of Annie’s brother Archie, who never came back from the Western Front, despite Francie’s promise to bring him home.  Billy O Callaghan’s Life Sentences is the sweeping and immersive story of one ordinary family in Ireland, and their extraordinary journey over three generations.   At sixteen Nancy leaves her small island for the mainland, the only member of her family to survive the Great Famine. Finding work in a grand house on the edge of Cork City, a love affair soon throws her into a fight for her life. In 1920, Nancy's son Jer has lived through battles of his own as a soldier in the Great War. In the early 1980s, Jer's youngest child Nellie is nearing the end of her life in a council house, moments away from her childhood home. Set in the village where Billy O'Callaghan's family has lived for generations, Life Sentences is imbued with truth and lived experience - creating a novel so rich in life and empathy it is impossible to let go of his characters.

Ciaran McMenamin was born in Enniskillen, County Fermanagh, in 1975. A graduate of the RSAMD, he has worked extensively for the past twenty years as an actor in film, television and theatre. His acclaimed first novel, Skintown, was a WH Smith Fresh Talent pick.

Billy O’Callaghan is the author of the critically acclaimed novel My Coney Island Baby, which has been translated into eight languages. His story The Boatman was shortlisted for the Costa Short Story Award. He lives in Douglas, a village on the edge of Cork City.

Paula Shields has been an arts journalist in London since the 1990s. She has worked in print, TV and now in radio on Arena, RTÉ’s flagship arts show. Highlights of Paula Shield’s career include an interview with Margaret Atwood, making the IFTA award-winning documentary Fairytale of New York, and judging the Irish Times Theatre Awards.


L: Billy O'Callaghan. M: Ciaran McMenamin. R: Paula Shields.