Caitriona Lally has been announced as this year’s winner of the Rooney Prize for Irish Literature, an award given by Trinity to emerging Irish writers.
The Rooney Award for Irish Literature is administered by the Oscar Wilde Centre for Irish Writing at the School of English at Trinity. The award, which is granted for a piece of work by a young Irish writer that shows exceptional promise, was given to Lally for her 2015 novel “Eggshells”.
Lally is the fourth woman to be awarded the Prize in the last four years. Chair of the selection committee, Jonathan Williams, declared her a deserving winner as he announced the decision, stating: “Caitriona Lally’s only novel ‘Eggshells’ is a work of impressive imaginative reach, witty, subtle and occasionally endearingly unpredictable.” Lally’s work was commended by the six panel members giving out the prize.
Finding out she’d won the Rooney Prize was “pure magic”, Lally recalls. “It was a Monday, I’d been having a rough day – up early for my cleaning job, tearing home to mind the baby. So hearing Jonathan Williams say down the phone ‘You’ve won the Rooney’ – it was surreal,” says Lally.
In 2015, “Eggshells” was shortlisted for the Newcomer Award at the Irish Book Awards and the Kate O’Brien Award. The novel tells the story of protagonist Vivian who, believing herself to be a changeling, searches Dublin to find “a portal to another world”. Eggshells is published by HarperCollins in Ireland and the UK and by Melville House in the US.
Lally is currently working on her second novel and cites her new win as a motivator going forward. “I’d virtually given up on ever finishing my second novel, it all seemed so pointless,” explains Lally. “Finding out I’d won the prize gave me a confidence I’d lacked the past couple of years and sent me back to the desk to really knuckle down and finish my second novel. That feeling that your work has been acknowledged is unbeatable.”
At the awards ceremony, Assistant Professor in Irish Writing and member of the selection panel Dr Rosie Lavan gave an analysis of the novel, speaking on how Eggshells “reveals an artistic vision which is distinctive in Irish contemporary writing”.