Tuesday, April 2, 2019

Niamh Boyle's new book 'Her Kind'

The highly anticipated second novel from Niamh Boyce, the author of ‘The Herbalist’ will be launched in Athy Library on the 12th April at 7.00 p.m. Published by Penguin books ‘Her Kind’ is an escape into to the imagined events leading to the Alice Kytler witch trials of the 14th century. This will be Niamh’s second historical novel and follows the success she secured with ‘The Herbalist’. That novel was based on the Athy story of the 1940’s involving the infamous Doctor Roderick De Vere, a one-time resident of Beggars End. His story and subsequent trial provided Niamh with the opportunity which every historical novelist desires of exercising freedom to reimagine the past. She did so with aplomb producing a first novel which attracted and pleased a large readership. Now with her second novel, Niamh, a history graduate of University College Galway, returns to a dramatic event in Irish social history. With her new novel she follows in the footsteps of those Irish writers who are particularly noted for the excellence of their historical novels. That list is top heavy with male writers, the most noteworthy being George A. Birmingham and Francis McManus. Birmingham published a number of political novels starting with the ‘Seething Pot’ and continued with ‘The Red Hand of Ulster’, finishing with ‘Up the Rebels’ in 1919. The author’s name was the pseudonym of Church of Ireland canon, James Owen Hannay who for a time was rector in nearby Carnalway, Kilcullen. Francis McManus published a highly regarded historical trilogy in the 1930s which dealt with 18th century Irish peasant life. ‘Stand for Challenge’, ‘Candle for the Proud’ and ‘Men Withering’ still remain firm favourites with readers today. Another name amongst the leading Irish historical novelists is that of Eilis Dillon whose best selling ‘Across the Bitter Sea’ published in 1973 is an impressive historical romance set against the background of the Easter Rebellion. The Kilkenny witch trials of Alice Kytler, which is the centre of Niamh’s new book, brings to mind another famous Kilkenny based historical novel. Thomas Kilroy’s ‘The Big Chapel’ which told the story of the Callan Parish Priest’s dispute in the 1870s with the Catholic Church authorities won many awards when it was published in 1971. The Athy Kilkenny connection is further enhanced by the historical research which was carried out by Niamh which shows that the letter from the Bishop of Ossory to the Justiciar of Ireland accusing Alice Kytler and others of witchcraft was written in, and dispatched from the town of Athy. It is often claimed that there is a book in everyone. But of course few get the inspiration, the time or indeed the courage perhaps to put pen to paper. How did the eldest daughter of my good friends Frank and Ann Boyce come to achieve such success in a relatively short time. Another local and very successful writer, John MacKenna. played a big part in helping to channel the writing talents of the young Niamh Boyce. John’s writers’ classes attended by Niamh encouraged her to write short stories. Her first published piece was a short story ‘Wild Cat Buffet’ which appeared in the Crannog magazine eleven years ago. Niamh’s work has appeared since then in several magazines including Poetry Ireland. Inclusion in that later publication followed her success in winning a Hennessy award in 2012 for her poem ‘Kitty’. I was surprised to hear Niamh declare that despite her success as a novelist, she is happiest when writing poetry. It reminded me that the pen of Thomas Hardy in his later years was devoted exclusively to poetry after a hugely successful novel writing career. Niamh last year published a book of poetry ‘Inside the Wolf’ and her new novel published by Penguin marks a further progress in her development as a writer. The launch takes place in Athy’s new library on Friday, 12th April at 7.00 p.m. An invitation is extended to readers far and wide to attend the launch. Another cultural event worthy of note is the scheduled performance of John MacKenna’s one man play, ‘The Mental’, premiered last year which is to be performed in the Woodbine Bookshop in Kilcullen on the 2nd May. John’s theatrical company, Mend and Makedo, will also stage ‘Between your Love and Mine’, a requiem by Leonard Cohen in the National Concert Hall, Dublin on the 21st September, coincidentally the date of what would have been Cohen’s 85th birthday. The show featuring a cast of eighteen, all from Athy or Carlow will be staged in Carlow, Athy and other venues during the year. The book launch in Athy’s library on Friday 12th April promises to be a further important step for a local writer who on the strength of her published work has become an integral part of the Irish literary scene.

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