Kate O'Brien Award

Announcing the shortlist for the annual Kate O’Brien Award for a debut novel from an Irish female author. The Award will be presented as part of the 40th annual Limerick Literary Festival in Honour of Kate O’Brien in February 2024. It is one of Ireland’s most vibrant and successful festivals which has been running since 1984 and it showcases in a diverse and eclectic programme the best in Irish and international contemporary literature. The Festival takes place from February 23rd to 25th in Limerick City. The event continues to honour the life and works of the Limerick author, while attracting prominent participants from all over the world. Building on this significant history, the Limerick Literary Festival seeks to promote Limerick nationally as a place of literary excellence and to provide a platform where readers can meet their favourite authors and other readers.

Shortlist judge Vivienne McKechnie commented on the high standard of all the submissions. “This year, once again, it was wonderful to read the debut books by Irish female writers and we are delighted with our shortlist which is made up of three well written, interesting and very engaging novels. We look forward to a lively discussion with the shortlisted authors at the Festival in a special event on Sunday 25th February.  This is an opportunity to meet these writers at the beginning of their careers and to listen to their stories.”

The winner of the 2024 Award will be chosen from the following shortlist:

Slant by Katherine O’Donnell published by New Island Books

The Red Bird Sings by Aoife Fitzpatrick published by Virago

The Last Days of Joy by Anne Tiernan published by Hachette

The judges for this year’s Award are committee member Marie Hackett, writer and critic Niall MacMonagle, poet and committee member Vivienne McKechnie, writer and Children’s book buyer for Kenny’s Bookshop Grainne O’Brien and novelist Donal Ryan.

The Kate O’Brien Award comes with a €2000 cash prize sponsored by Bill and Denise Whelan.

Past Winners and Nominees...

The Kate O’Brien Award was established in 2015. It celebrates new Irish writing by a female author. It was established by the organising committee of the Kate O’Brien Weekend to celebrate Irish Women’s Writing in memory of Kate O’Brien. It is an honorary award which celebrates debut Irish fiction; this award is a great affirmation for the debut winner and a recognition of the literary quality of the book. There is a presentation to the winner at the Limerick Literary Festival in honour of Kate O’Brien.

It is an award presented for debut book which could be either a book of short stories or a novel. The competition is open to debut female writers so long as they are Irish. There are no age or geographic limitations. The shortlist is announced at the beginning of January and the shortlisted authors are invited to the Festival, where the winner is announced.

In 2015, the winner was Martine Madden for her novel Anyush.

In 2016, the shortlist was Caitriona Lally with Eggshells, Danielle McLaughlin with Dinosaurs On Other Planets, Doreen Finn with My Buried Life, and Sara Baume with Spill Simmer Falter Wither. 2016 winner was Sara Baume.

In 2017, the shortlist for the award was Tanya Farrelly with When Black Dogs Sing, Roisin O’Donnell with Wild Quiet and E. M. Reapy with Red Dirt. The winner of the Kate O’Brien 2017 award was Tana Farrell.

In 2018, the shortlist for the award was Lisa Harding with Harvesting, Maria Hoey with The Last Lost Girl, Andrea Mara with The Other Side Of the Wall, and Sally Rooney with Conversations With Friends. The winner of the Kate O’Brien 2018 award was Lisa Harding for her novel Harvesting.

In 2019, the shortlist for the award was Eileen Battersby with Teethmarks On My Tongue, Rebecca O’Connor with He Is Mine And I Have No Other, Caroline O’Donoghue with Promising Young Women, Sue Rainsford with Follow Me To Ground, and Dervla McTiernan with The Ruin. The winner of the Kate O’Brien 2019 award was Sue Rainsford.

In 2020, the shortlist for the award was Sarah Davis Goff with Last Ones Left Alive, Nicole Flattery with Show Them A Good Time, Lucy Sweeney Byrne with Paris Syndrome, and Anne Griffin with When All is Said. The winner of the Kate O’Brien 2020 award was Nicole Flattery.

In 2021, the shortlist for the award included Rachel Donoghue with The Temple House Vanishing, Alice Lyons with Oona, Marianne Lee with A Quiet Tide, Elaine Feeney with As You Were, Michelle Gallen with Big Girl Small Town and Niamh Campbell with This Happy. The winner of the Kate O’Brien 2021 award was Elaine Feeney.

In 2022, the shortlist for the award was Sarah Gilmartin for Dinner Party, Louise Kennedy for The End Of The World Is A Cul De Sac. Annie Macmanus for Mother Mother, Una Mannion for A Crooked Tree, Eimear Ryan for Holding Her Breath and Fiona Scarlett for Boys Don’t Cry. The winner of the Kate O’Brien 2022 award was Una Mannion.

In 2023, the shortlist for the award was Emilie Pine for Ruth and Pen, Olivia Fitzsimons for The Ouiet Whispers Never Stop, and Sheila Armstrong for How to Gut a Fish. The winner of the Kate O’Brien 2023 award was Emilie Pine.

We celebrate the shortlisted authors and the winner on the Sunday of the Festival.