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Reading for Writers: Irish Authors

Published on Monday, March 15, 2010 by

Irresistible Irish: Authors and Books

To celebrate St. Patrick’s Day, I thought I should give you a look at some of the more recently published Irish authors and books set in Ireland.

yellowhouseThe Yellow House (2010) by Patricia Falvey is newly published and getting good reviews. A work of historical fiction, this book takes us back to Northern Ireland at the beginning of the 20th century at the start of the Irish war of independence. The central character is a young woman caught between passion and politics, a plot that is always a page turner. This one is on my TBR list and will soon be reviewed on my women4reading blog.

Alice Taylor began publishing her memoirs in 1988 and they were big sellers in Ireland. Now they are being republished this year. Her latest in the series, The Parish (2009) won the Irish-Published Book of the Year Award. Perhaps she is best known in the U.S. for her novel The Woman of the House (1999) followed by Across the River (2006). This is a story of Irish farm life set in the 1950s. The story centers around the relationship between Martha and her sister-in-law Kate and their power struggle to establish their places within the family.

Coming in April will be The Dead Republic: A Novel, Roddy Doyle’s third book telling the the story of Irish rebel Henry Smart. A Star Called Henry (2004) and Oh, Play That Thing (2005) were the first two. Henry is from an impoverished Dublin family and finds himself surviving on his own in the streets at the age of 9. By 14 he is a soldier in the Irish Republican Army and is involved in the Easter Rising of 1916.

The theme of rising up from extreme poverty was earlier made famous in the well-known memoir Angela’s Ashes (1999) by Frank McCourt, followed by ‘Tis: A Memoir (2000) and Teacher Man: A Memoir (2005). For many in the U.S. this was probably the first real exposure to what it was like to grow up in Ireland, told so brutally and yet beautifully at the same time in McCourt’s words. When reading Angela’s Ashes more than ten years ago I found myself appalled, at times angry and yet found it so uplifting when he rose above his circumstances in the end. This book was one of the most talked about in the U.S. for several years. His later books speak of his career in teaching writing which both teachers and writers would find interesting. The latter two in his memoir series did not gain near as much fame.

Let’s meet Anne Enright, an Irish writer who won the Man Booker Prize in 2007 for her novel The Gathering. As with so many of our Irish novels, it is a family tale of depression. Main character Veronica is trying to deal with her brother Liam’s suicide. However, Enright feels we should not worry as there is a happy ending.

Colm Tóibín has a recent bestseller in Brooklyn: A Novel (2010). In this story, Ellis Lacey travels from Ireland to an adventure in a Brooklyn boarding house. She is then thrust into the life of an immigrant struggling to adapt to a new life in New York in the 1950s. This can be described as a quiet, if somewhat simple story that comes alive with a surprise ending. I am planning to get this one soon and put it on my next in line to read list.

Let’s go to Ireland, at least in our mind, through some excellent novel settings. Just out is Venetia Kelly’s Traveling Show: A Novel (2010) along with Shannon: A Novel (2010), Tipperary: A Novel (2008) and Ireland: A Novel (2008) by Frank Delaney. Also recommended are Galway Bay (2009) by Mary Pat Kelly, The Rebels of Ireland:The Dublin Saga (2007), The Princes of Ireland: The Dublin Saga (2005), Dublin:The Epic Novel (2005) by Edward Rutherfurd and the Irish Country series by Patrick Taylor, An Irish Country Girl (2010), An Irish Country Village (2009), An Irish Country Doctor (2008), and An Irish Country Christmas (2009). All of these books will provide you with a wonderful sense of place and culture and bring you a “wee little bit of the Irish” to complete your celebration of all things Irish.

The wealth of writing from the Irish cannot be discussed without mention of the many famous classic writers from Ireland. The theme of this column is a focus on the more recently published but you may want to take a look back at the voice of James Joyce, Oscar Wilde, W.B. Yeats, George Bernard Shaw and a host of other wonderful Irish authors from the past.

A Very Old Irish Blessing:

May love and laughter light your days,

and warm your heart and home.

May good and faithful friends be yours,

wherever you may roam.

May peace and plenty bless your world

with joy that long endures.

May all life’s passing seasons

bring the best to you and yours!

Some interesting references to Irish authors and books:

Read Me, I’m Irish by Mark Salter


7 Favorites Set in Ireland


Irish Reading Challenge


Anne Enright


A Modern Irish Reading List


The Yellow House


Roddy Doyle


One Response
    • Thanks so much for this, Hedda. I’m definitely going to get The Yellow House because it is set around the time period and place of my NaNo novel. Looks really interesting. Have you read it yet? Let me know what you think.

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