Penguin Ireland Signs Hennessy XO Winner

Penguin Ireland has acquired Niamh Boyce’s debut novel, The Herbalist, for publication in 2013.

Boyce won the Hennessy XO New Irish Writer of the Year award in 2012 and she has been shortlisted for the Francis McManus Short Story competition 2011, the Hennessy Literary Awards 2010, the Molly Keane Award 2010 and the WOW Award 2010. Originally from Athy, Co Kildare Niamh now lives with her family in Ballylinan, Co Laois.

According to the publisher, The Herbalist is a vivid and atmospheric story set in a midlands town over a summer in late 1930s. An Indian man appears in the market square, sets up a stall and declares himself a herbalist. The people of the town flock to the exotic visitor, who seems to have a cure for everything that ails them. But the visitor also helps get rid of some of the town’s dirty little secrets and as the summer progresses life becomes complicated and dangerous for the herbalist and his devotees. A rich multi-layered story of life in 1930s Ireland told through the eyes of four women, each of whose lives is changed irrevocably by the herbalist.

Boyce said, ‘I’m over the moon, and clichéd as it may sound, it’s a dream come true to see my novel published, especially by Penguin Ireland.’

Patricia Deevy, Editorial Director, Penguin Ireland said, ‘I’m absolutely thrilled to have bought Niamh’s dazzling novel. Niamh vividly conjures both the warmth and the darkness of life in a provincial Irish town during those years before the Emergency. In particular, she handles the now familiar shadow side of Irish life – the rigid social stratification, the fear of sex, the double standards – in a wholly fresh and confident way. Her characters are fascinating women and she has written a thought-provoking, moving and viscerally engaging novel that marks her out as a remarkable and original new talent.’

The novel was acquired from Ger Nichol at The Book Bureau.