Shamrock Tea

Ciaran Carson

Longlisted For The Man Booker Prize

Shamrock Tea

Shamrock tea is a magical substance that allows people to see things not given to ordinary mortals. They can sense colours and sounds more vividly; they can penetrate the surface of paintings; they can cross time. The narrator, his cousin and a strange Belgian friend know that their lives are ruled mysteriously by the great van Eyck painting, the Arnolfini portrait, and they have travelled in dream-like moments through the painting into other times. They discover that each moment is connected to every other. But in the strange world of Shamrock Tea, no story can be straightforward. With a cast of characters that includes the gardener Ludwig Wittgenstein, this book will intrigue and entrance.

‘A heady brew, both as a book and as a drink. Carons writes like a poet, who can weave and bind his words together with such rhythm that his prose seems to slide off the page.’ Spectator

‘Welcome to Carsonville. A literary labyrinth . . . Relax, let the writing’s slipstream lift and levitate you through a magical state of being, verbal alchemy and dream. Carson’s world is unique. That we, the readers, remain receptive, compliant, plunging even more willingly through the vortex of Carson’s narrative, is a measure of the marvel of his writing’ Scotsman

‘Composed of 101 short chapters, Carson’s new book is an eccentric disquisition on the world ranging from colour pigmentation in paintings, to flying, the Arnolfini Marriage, Wittgenstein and Sherlock Holmes. Shamrock Tea is a marvellous, entirely idiosyncratic book’ Marie Claire

‘Shamrock Tea is a fluid mosaic: each chapter is named after a particular colour; many are devoted to the lives of individual saints; all are connected together by a series of serendipitous affinities and associations . . . page by page, it is a book that puts no rein or limit on its generous imaginings’ Times Literary Supplement

‘Ciaran Carson sets himself an ambitious task, but the imagination and story juggling skills which characterised his previous novel, Fishing for Amber, have done him proud once again’ The Times

‘The writing is bright and pacey. The 101 chapters fly by, each one firmly written, none more than a few pages long. This is a novel devoted to play, serendipity, and inconsequentiality . . . a cerebral and sparkling performance’ Tablet

‘The pleasures of this utterly original work lie in the small narratives with which the larger narrative is spiced . . . an eccentric treat’ Daily Telegraph


  • Del Vecchio Editore Italy
  • Previously Granta Books UK

Previously published (rights reverted) in the following languages:

  • Actes Sud France
  • Stowarzyszenie A KuKu Sztuka Poland
  • Rosman Publishing Russia
  • Alexandria Publications Greece
  • Tokyo Sogensha Japan

Material: English PDF and various translations