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Dundalk-based novel from Mark Mulholland released in Europe today

Mark Mulholland, who is well known in Dundalk for his association with The Spirit Store and The Beer Keeper

Mark Mulholland, who is well known in Dundalk for his association with The Spirit Store and The Beer Keeper

Following critical acclaim and success after its recent launch in Australia and New Zealand, the Dundalk-based novel ‘A Mad and Wonderful Thing’ by Mark Mulholland is getting a European wide release from today.

As well as an Irish and UK release, Faber and Faber, who are enthusiastic supporters of the work, are making it available in every major European city in its original English language version. Talk of the Town originally covered news of the book’s impending release in January.

Town native Mark, who ran the Beerkeeper pub in Park Street – now The Bar Tender – before relocating to France, says: “It is a great thing the work is getting such a wide release, and in its original ‘Dundalk-Speak’ version, too. Given that the voice of the book is so particular, and important, this is more than I could have wished for.

“It is a rare thing that such a distinguished publisher would choose to champion one’s work. I was recently invited to Faber and Faber’s Bloomsbury House HQ in London and guided through a tour of their archives and the review notes of the original editorial team including the submission considerations of the early works of Ted Hughes and William Golding. And as I sat there reading in T.S. Eliot’s old chair and desk, staff entered and put copies of my book in front of me and asked me to sign it for them. That was an unreal event.’

And Mark adds: ‘The response in Australia and New Zealand has been fantastic with the work being awarded Book of the Month / Book of the Week, etc . . . with many press and book outlets from Australia’s biggest bookseller to small coastal bookstore cafés. In a way the small shops are more real as I can visualise readers there with my book, and that is a wonderful thing. Not everyone gets the book, and that’s okay. And not everyone wants to get it, and that’s okay too. But the critics and press, broadly speaking, have been very generous and supportive in their reviews. This, too, is more than I could have wished for.’

Every major national and state newspaper in Australia has published an article on the Dundalk novel, and many have carried an interview with Mark. ABC National Radio featured a prominent interview on their prime-time morning show. The book is also beginning to prove popular with book and reading clubs. ‘Isn’t is a mad thing,’ Mark asks, ‘to think of people so far away and who have never been to Ireland, are talking about curry chips at The Square and walks to Cúchulainn’s Castle?’

But Mark cautions: ‘UK and Irish reviews of the book will be harsher, and some may be severe. And that is understandable. The focus, arc, and language of the work will annoy many. And that’s okay by me. It is, I guess, a fairytale of sorts, a mixing of the real and the unreal, just like the ancient myths and legends it references. Not all readers will go with that. But it won’t add up if read in the absolute. And, of course, the book will be viewed differently in Dundalk than elsewhere. Things like this are seen, and weighted, differently by distance.’

The Australian cover for Mark's debut book 'A Mad and Wonderful Thing'

The Australian cover for Mark’s debut book ‘A Mad and Wonderful Thing’

The novel has already provoked debate and diverse reactions, though critical reviews to date have been overwhelmingly positive and commending:

‘An extraordinary book; it confronts political and moral choices with a harsh brutality, but is, as well, a great love story.’
Readings Monthly

‘Remember that phrase from Jerry McGuire ‘”You had me at hello”? Well this book did that. Intense and unashamedly romantic . Written with playful, light, and poetic language … it tackles the great moral paradox of its central character with deftness and sensitivity. A sparkling debut that celebrates the vitality, resilience, and humanity of Ireland.’

‘Beneath the passion, wit, and poetry of A Mad and Wonderful Thing is an undertow of tragedy. This is a world where our moral certainties are challenged, where gentle domesticity and sudden violence disrupt our expectations.’
Robert Gott (Australian Writer)

‘A thoroughly engaging novel … weaving Irish folklore and history into a landscape where the lines are blurred between home and war, the threat of violence always being around the corner doesn’t diminish the shock and heartbreak.’
Sunday Mail / Avid Reader

‘Real pathos, underlying the Irish charm and wit, permeates the book as Mulholland brings to life Ireland’s bitter strife-torn history. And he proves to be an extremely gifted storyteller to boot.’
The Weekend West

‘A Mad and Wonderful Thing inspires a sense of pure delight. … Despite some dark themes, this riveting novel manages to be one of the great uplifting reads of the year.’
Great Escape Books

‘A Mad and Wonderful Thing is Mark Mulholland’s terrific first novel. Johnny Donnelly, our charismatic hero, is a young man of many parts: a carpenter, a self-taught philosopher, and a cultural nationalist of the first order. Mulholland has pulled off that most difficult of literary quinellas: a serious story, entertainly told.’
The New Zealand Listener

‘A lyrical, poetic, and passionate tale …’
Sydney Morning Herald / Canberra Times / News Turkey 24

‘Johnny Donnelly is a romantic and a rhetorician  … it’s easy to be swept along … Mulholland has Roddy Doyle’s gift of vernacular … you’ll be there with him to the bitter end.’
Herald Sun / Gold Coast Bulletin / Townsville Bulletin / The Weekend Post, Cairns

‘I really enjoyed reading this … An amazing narrator,  he’s charming and funny, realistic, patriotic, and wistful. Ultimately this is a redemption story and a story about life – just how mad and difficult and surprising, heartbreaking, impossible, and wonderful it can be. The language is descriptive and flows beautifully making it a really lovely read that has surprising twists and high drama.’
The Co-op Bookseller

‘A debut novel from that clever Aussie publisher – Scribe. In turns elegiac and disturbing. Pulls off that trick of making you sympathise with a character who does some truly awful things. Has a genuine OMG moment. One to watch.’
May Contain Nuts

‘A fabulous, wonderful tour of Ireland. A passionate and heart-wrenching story about an IRA sniper and his beloved homeland. Faintly disturbing.’
Booktique (Merimbula)

‘Awesome debut novel.’

‘The final act . . . is marvellous as Johnny faces the brutal calculas of his moral code. Here we also see echoes of McGahern’s marvellous work Amongst Women as Mulholland fashions his own grim IRA chieftain and settles his own account of the cost. . . . thrilling, appalling, and marvellously resolved.’
The Age

‘What defines a man? Is it the overall shape of his life, or the individual moments?  The insignificant kindnesses or the significant cruelties?  A study of character, both of the individual and country, A Mad and Wonderful Thing traces the life of Johnny Donnelly, a charismatic and philosophical young man … but (who) is also involved with the IRA. It is a wonderful novel.’
The Book Show, 4zzz FM, Brisbane

For more information on Mark’s novel please visit:


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