Sean is back in Belfast after university. He is the first in his family to attend, but the life-changing opportunities his degree promised have not materialised: he can’t find a job, he’s living hand to mouth and when he assaults a stranger at a party one night, his hopes for a different kind of life are jeopardised forever.

Told from Sean’s perspective and written in Belfast dialect, Close to Home immerses readers in Nationalist, working class Belfast life where the collective, generational trauma of ‘The Troubles’ still casts its shadow, and poverty and addiction feel as permanent as the mountains visible from Sean’s window.

Intense and urgent, Sean’s deadpan humour and McGee’s tenderness for his characters cut through the bleak circumstances to offer hope and redemption. Close to Home is strongly rooted in a particular place and time but Sean’s attempts to make sense of how and even if he still belongs in the community that raised him, and to discover what it means to be a man, are themes that resonate across cultures. 

Want to know more? We’ve created a reading guide for this book – just click here.


Michael Magee is the fiction editor of the Tangerine and a graduate of the creative writing PhD programme at Queen’s University, Belfast. His writing has appeared in Winter Papers, The Stinging Fly, The Lifeboat and The 32: The Anthology of Irish Working-Class Voices. Close to Home was shortlisted for the Waterstones Debut Fiction Prize 2023 and won the Rooney Prize for Literature 2023. Michael lives in Belfast.

Photography © Aashfaria A. Anwar

‘What sets this apart is the voice, which perfectly evokes a character and a community straining so hard against the systemic clamps of poverty, disillusionment, and ennui that the effort crackles off the page.’

2023 Debut Fiction judges

Sara Collins

Hattie Crisell

Tom Robinson

Other books shortlisted in this category: