Happy St Patrick’s Day to all my Irish family, friends, acquaintances and fellow bloggers. Ireland is a country very close to my heart since my husband is from Dublin and my children are proudly half-Irish. I have spent very many happy times in Ireland in the last twenty-something years, and sadly not nearly enough time there in the last two.
I know that not every Irish person is a huge fan of ‘Paddy’s Day’ even though the diaspora celebrates it with great vigour. It’s true that the imagery associated with it can harden a false impression about the country and what it means to be Irish, that it’s all about the ‘craic’. Indeed it is not. Ireland and the Irish are thoughtful, deeply emotional, and phenomenally creative people. It’s not for nothing that the nation punches well above its weight internationally.
So, for my post today, in a celebration of all things Irish, I’m picking out a few of my favourite Irish books and authors.
Highlights from my recent reading:
Days Without End by Sebastian Barry
This vivid and powerful account of an Irish emigrant participating in the Amercian Civil War and finding forbidden love is one of my all-time favourite books and began my love affair with the writing of Sebastian Barry.
Holding by Graham Norton
One of my favourite television and radio personalities, Graham Norton proved himself an accomplished author too with this his first novel, which has also now been adapted for television.
Grown Ups by Marian Keyes
Marian Keyes might well have attained the status of “national treasure” in Ireland at this stage. This was the first book of hers that I read and I intend to read more. Loved it.
The Wonder by Emma Donoghue
Donoghue hit the big time with her book Room, which was made into an Oscar-winning film starring Brie Larson, but for me The Wonder, published in 2016, is better. It explores the place of myth and its confused relationship with religion in Ireland. Powerful and beautiful.
The Glorious Heresies by Lisa McInerney
Gangs, drugs, violence, love, this book has it all. Winner of the Baileys Prize (now the Women’s Prize) in 2016, it explores the dark underbelly of the city of Cork in a post-Celtic Tiger Ireland. Not an easy read, but beautifully and confidently written, with dark humour and love at its heart.
And now for some classics…
An education in literature in English would be incomplete without the above. Ulysses changed the world of fiction forever, perhaps even the world. Yeats, for me, evokes all that is Ireland and his life story is so emblematic. O’Casey’s play is a history lesson. Behan and Wilde are authors who embody some of our notions of human suffering.
So, today I will be raising a glass of Guinness to Ireland and in particular to its extraordinary literary heritage.