Looking ahead, March is Reading Ireland month over at Cathy746Books, so I’m putting together what is currently on my shelf and what is lurking in the depths of my kindle, which I seem to have been more reluctant to read from lately, so a month of focusing on Irish literature should help.
Cathy has set out a program below for the five weeks that focuses on classics, contemporary works (where most of my titles sit), short stories and non fiction.
I had been looking forward to reading Sara Baume’s Seven Steeples, having read her excellent nonfiction title Handiwork, and two other novels, Spill Simmer Falter Wither and A Line Made by Walking – however I couldn’t wait and read it earlier this month. Highly recommended literary fiction, with a strong tendency toward poetic prose.
Intro Week: 1 – 5 March
I’m going to try and read the Edna O’Brien trilogy The Country Girls in the first week, which I have in one volume, but I will post as the three separate books. Originally published in 1960, 1962 and 1964, they are a portrait of youth, marriage, friendship, love and loss and I’m very excited to read this author for the first time and to begin here. She is hailed as one of the great chroniclers of the female experience in the twentieth century.
I managed to acquire a hardback of her 1994 novel, House of Splendid Isolation, which would be great to read if time allows.
Irish Classics Week: 6 -12 March
I have the novella A World of Love (1954) by Elisabeth Bowen, which should be possible to read in week 2.
I’m putting Brian Moore into this category, I have 3 of his novels on my shelf, a continuation, having read five of his novels for the 100th centenary in 2021. A previously neglected Irish author, he lived most of his adult life in Canada and the U.S., thus his literary output was created from the perspective of an outsider, looking back at his own culture, and occasionally at other cultures where he spent time, such as The Statement (1995), a political thriller set in France and The Magician’s Wife (1997), historical fiction set in France and Algeria, both of which take an aspect of French history that he found fascinating, turning them into compelling stories.
I have The Temptation of Eileen Hughes (1981), a Belfast love triangle, Black Robe (1985), a Jesuit missionary in North America in the 17th century, and The Mangan Inheritance (1979), a recently widowed man in Canada journeys to track down an Irish ancestor.
Contemporary Irish Week: 13 – 19 March
In this 3rd week, I shall attempt one or two of these novels from the kindle.
Trespasses by Louise Kennedy – this novel has garnered much praise since publication, set in Northern Ireland during the Troubles, a shattering novel about a young woman caught between allegiance to community and a dangerous passion.
Factory Girls by Michelle Gallen – I loved her novel Big Girl, Small Town and this latest has just been shortlisted for the Comedy Women in Print Award 2022/23 UK/Ireland. This is a definite, she makes me laugh out loud!
The Quiet Whispers Never Stop Olivia Fitzsimons – a dual narrative set in 1982 & 1994 Ireland, exploring the mother-daughter relationship; described as “A story of love, obsession and escape, an uncompromising, lyrical tour-de-force that marks the arrival of an extraordinary new voice in Irish fiction”.
Listening Still Anne Griffin – her debut When All is Said was a runaway international success, a book I enjoyed about a man who toasts 5 friends of importance to him. Her second book is about a young woman who can hear the last words of the dead, though it hasn’t made the same impact on readers; she has a new book due out on 27 Apr 2023 The Island of Longing about the disappearance of a daughter and a mother’s difficulty in accepting her loss, not knowing whether she is alive or dead. This latest is getting many 5 star reviews (from those reading an advance copy), one to watch.
A Traveller at the Gates of Wisdom John Boyne – an unknown man leads the reader through 2000 years of human and family history, slipping through time and space with slightly different identities, continuing on the same path, from Palestine in AD 1 to the year 2080 in a space colony. An ambitious and epic concept, a story that has had mixed reviews.
Short Story Week: 20 – 26 March
I have this one collection that I shall try to get to read:
Dance Move by Wendy Erskine – stories set in Northern Ireland, where we meet characters looking to wrest control of their lives, only to find themselves defined by a moment in their past that marked them. In these stories – as in real life – the funny, the tender and the devastating go hand in hand. Full of warmth, the familiar and the strange, they are about what it means to live in the world, how far you can end up from where you came from, and what it means to look back.
Non- Fiction Week: 27 – 31 March
I don’t have any Irish nonfiction left unread on my shelf, but I have noted that creative nonfiction author Kerri ní Dochartaigh, whose debut Thin Places I read in 2021 and enjoyed immensely, has a follow up book due out in April 2023, Cacophony of Bones.
It maps the circle of a year – a journey from one place to another, field notes of a life – from one winter, to the next. It is a telling of a changed life, in a changed world – and it is about all that does not change, that which simply keeps on – living and breathing, nesting and dying – in spite of it all.
I would also recommend in this category, the excellent collection of essays The Passenger Ireland – one of my Top Reads in 2022
If you are looking for inspiration, check out Cathy’s blog, where she shares a list of 100 Irish Novels from Gulliver’s Travels by Jonathan Swift (1726) to Here Are The Young Men by Rob Doyle (2014) and 100 Novels by Irish Women Writers from the Memoirs of Miss Sidney Bidulph by Frances Sheridan (1761) to Conversations with Friends by Sally Rooney (2017).
You can check out the One Dublin, One Book challenge – each year an invitation to read an Irish book in April. Last year, I joined in and read the excellent Nora, A Love Story of Nora and James Joyce by Nuala O’Connor.
In April 2023, they will be reading The Coroner’s Daughter by Andrew Hughes.
Alternatively, check out my posts:
My Year of Irish Literature – 2021 Highlights
My Top 5 Irish Fiction & Nonfiction Books
Have you read and enjoyed any of the titles here? Are you planning on reading any Irish literature in March? If so, what are you looking forward to reading? Do you have a favourite Irish author or book? Let me know in the comments below.
Happy Reading Ireland if you join in!