Authentic to the bone.” Kit de Waal

Fíona Scarlett’s stunning debut novel Boys Don’t Cry is a heartbreaking book about two brothers growing up in Dublin. Trying to get by while their dad is in prison, their world shatters when the younger brother Joe gets a cancer diagnosis. This book will make you cry and warm your heart at the same time. Here Fiona discusses her love of reading, trying to pluck up the courage to get a favourite book signed by the author, and her chaotic collection of old and new must-reads.


Tell us about the bookshelves in your home 

I have bookshelves crammed into every room in the house, as well books being squashed into any free space I can find, in boxes under the children’s beds, in piles on bedside lockers, in wardrobes, in the space at either side of the microwave, you name it, if it’s got space for a book to be wedged or balanced anywhere near it’s vicinity, it will be there. I don’t have any system as to what goes where, read and unread can live happily side by side, no colour-coded systems, no alphabitisation, just, ooh, that’ll look nice there, off you go my pretty.

Which books are your most recent bookshelf additions?

Oh, I’ve loads, Eat Or We Both Starve by Victoria Kennefick, The End of the World is a Cul de Sac by Louise Kennedy, Line by Niall Bourke, Kololo Hill by Neema Shah, When They Find Her by Lia Middleton, Klara and the Sun by Kazuo Ishiguro, How Much of These Hills is Gold by C. Pam Zhang, and last but not least This One Sky Day by Leone Ross.

I hope my bookshelves show my absolute love of reading, in all its forms, that I will give anything a go, and am open to trying new and wonderful things.”

Do you judge people by their bookshelves?

Absolutely not. Fill your house and bookshelves with what you love and enjoy is what I say, regardless of what anyone else says or thinks.

Which is your most treasured book?

My copy of The Spinning Heart by Donal Ryan. This book was like a lightbulb moment for me, realising the absolute beauty in the language of the everyday. How he exploits the musicality of language is magic, storytelling at its very best. I met Donal at a writing event he was lecturing at a couple of years ago, and I carried around my copy of The Spinning Heart for the full four days that I was there waiting to find the opportunity to ask him to sign it, but I was far too nervous to ask. Next time, if I ever do get the chance to meet him again, hopefully I will pluck up the courage to get it signed.

First edition (Jonathan Cape, 1980)

What do your bookshelves say about you?

I hope they show my absolute love of reading, in all its forms, that I will give anything a go, and am open to trying new and wonderful things.

Whats the oldest book on your shelf?

It’s a copy of Roald Dahl’s The Twits that my Aunt gave me for my sixth birthday. The pages have practically disintegrated it’s been read so much.

Do you rearrange your bookshelves often – and where do your replaced books go?

I wouldn’t say rearrange as much as create new piles of newly bought books in random places all over the house. I find it really hard getting rid of a book, although I will regularly pass on one that I know someone else would absolutely adore.

Do you have any books from your childhood on your shelf?

Yes, loads! Apart from The Twits as mentioned above, some of my favourites include The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe by C.S. Lewis, Cautionary Tales for Children by Hilaire Belloc, The Gashlycrumb Tinies by Edward Gorey and a large book of Hans Christian Anderson fairy tales.

Book lender, book giver or book borrower?

All three. Although I lean more towards the book giver than lender and all my borrowing is from my wonderful local library.

Whose bookshelves are you most curious about?

Oh, the lovely Maggie O’Farrell, mainly because I would love to sit down with her for a chat and a cuppa, and have a lovely browse through her books while I’m at it. She is just such a stunning writer and wonderful warm person, that I would love to know what she reads too.

Fíona was talking to Sonia Weir. Read Sonia’s review of Boys Don’t Cry.


Fíona Scarlett is from Dublin but now lives in Co. Kildare with her husband and two children. She holds an MLitt in creative writing from the University of Glasgow as well as a masters in early childhood education. She was granted the Denis O’Driscoll Literary Bursary Award through Kildare County Council in 2019 and a National Arts Council Ireland Literature Bursary Award in 2020. She works full-time as a primary school teacher. Boys Don’t Cry is published by Faber & Faber in hardback and eBook.
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