If you’ve never been to Ireland, you probably have your own image of it in your mind. The view I see is one of green hills, windy cliffs, little cottages and villages, and smiling faces. Hopefully one day I’ll get to see it in person and pass some time there. Not being a city person, the wandering roads hold much appeal.
While the beauty is undeniable, it hasn’t always had a happy history. It wasn’t so long ago that the IRA was battling England, with the accompanying anger and destruction. Before that was the tragic potato famine that took over one million lives.
I’ve run across several wonderful books that detail some of the history, some of the struggle, and some of the romance that is Ireland. In honor of St Patrick’s Day and Ireland, here are a few of my favorites.
Frank McCourt and Angela’s Ashes
Perhaps the most well known Irish author today is Frank McCourt. Born in America, Mr. McCourt’s family returned to Ireland. In bestselling Angela’s Ashes, he writes of his youth there. Growing up in horrible poverty, yet with a family he loved. His father’s tales of Ireland may have been some of the only light in his life, but went on to inspire him.
His portrayal, done with humor–and somehow–hope, won the Pulitzer Prize, plus several other awards. As a memoir it may now set the standard.
His following memoir, entitled Tis, continues from his arrival back to America.
Adrian McGinty, Mystery/Suspense
Another excellent author who write of Ireland is Adrian McGinty. Fiction this time, in gritty, well done crime dramas featuring Detective Sean Duffy.
His realistic portrayal of the Irish family has received acclaim.
Mr. McGinty’s plots show a darker side, generally in a city such as Dublin, that often includes some history to see what he writes from different angles.
While Detective Duffy may be among his most popular, I especially enjoyed Falling Glass, though not a Sean Duffy novel.
The “Pavee” culture, that is similar to gypsies, was part of the story that made it very intriguing. It was an excellent drama that I recommend.
Nora Roberts, Romance and…
On the lighter side, Nora Roberts, though American, has written several romances that take place in Ireland or have Irish connections. Usually they include a bit of Irish lore or magic that seems to fit her stories well. My favorite of them is the trilogy, the Gallaghers or Ardmore.
Each follows one of three siblings (two brothers and one sister) in the Gallagher family as they seek their future. The books portray a the small village of Ardmore just as I would expect to find in Ireland.
Friendly people, plenty of history and local lore, gorgeous rolling hills of green, and charming pubs and cottages. Listening to the audio version was delightful since it contained their lovely accents to go with the entertaining story.
Another trilogy by Ms. Roberts is Irish Born Trilogy, beginning with Born in Fire, There are several others, some go between America and Ireland, others have Ireland in their heritage. if you enjoy romance or romantic suspense, Ms. Roberts has written over 200 books that are among the most popular in the genre.
The Potato Famine
Considered one of the world disasters of the century the six year potato famine that began in 1845, took an enormous toll. Over one million died. Another million fled the country.
The worst part was that it was allowed to happen. The book will likely leave you appalled and angry, even all these decades later.
It was so much more than a bad year for the crops. Greed, apathy, politics, all played a part. Could it happen again? That’s one question you are left to consider.
It’s a very well done history of the famine. Again, I listened to the audio version of the book, narrated by Gerald Doyle, who also narrates many of Adrian McGinty’s books. He is a pleasure to listen to, even when the story is heartbreaking.
If you are a history fan, this is one you won’t want to miss.
Colum McCann’s Transatlantic
Three stories, from three centuries, three crossings, tied together brilliantly by Mr. McCann. A work of historical fiction, this novel has received rave reviews and nominations for several awards. It was considered one of the best books of 2013 (Kirkus Reviews) and was a N.Y. Times bestseller.
If you’ve read Colum McCann, you know what to expect. This award winning author has a wonderful way with words!
Transatlantic will give you insight to generations of the Irish, both in Ireland and here in America.
So many others…
Only a few authors who write of Ireland are mentioned here. There are so many others who might be your favorites. It just seemed fitting to include some of my favorite selections today on Saint Patrick’s Day.