Celebrating Irish Authors for St. Patrick’s Day!
By Lucy Lillystone, Kelly Stone, Sarah Lundy, Ellie Brady, Kate Baguley and Laura Jones
St. Patrick’s Day is a time to honour Irish heritage and culture and what better way to do that than to celebrate some of the best Irish authors? We have combined some of our favourite books by Irish writers so this 17 March can be celebrated in the best way possible – through reading!
Grown Ups by Marian Keyes
It would be almost criminal to celebrate Irish authors without mentioning the magnificent Marian Keyes. Her writing is beautiful, funny and poignant with her warm personality bouncing off the page. For so many people, Marian’s books are the ones we turn to in hard times for humour and to simply lighten the load.
Marian’s latest offering Grown Ups does not disappoint if you are looking for a warm hug of a book to fall into. Following the intriguing Casey family, the book unravels each of its complex and vivid characters with tenderness for their individual stories. Keyes is able to tackle tough issues with the gentlest of touches, approaching immigration and eating disorders with understanding and empathy. You are swept away until you feel nothing short of grief when you reach the last page and have to say goodbye. Being welcomed into this larger-than-life family is especially wonderful when so many of us are missing our own.
Milkman by Anna Burns
Set at the height of The Troubles in the 1970’s, Milkman follows the narrator and her experiences growing up in an atmosphere of political chaos and unrest. A fresh and innovative female voice, Burns brings a new and distinctive style to her work, most evident in how characters are referenced using their place in the story, rather than through names.
Burns also crafts one of the most sinister fictional villains – the eponymous milkman. This IRA Intelligence Officer who seems to stalk the narrator, leading the community to believe they are having an affair is utterly intriguing. Blending humour and drama, Burns conveys the damaging impact of an oppressive climate, all while providing an interesting social commentary. A phenomenally breath-taking read for St. Patrick’s Day!
The Call by Peadar Ó Guilín
Set in a dystopian version of our world, The Call follows a group of teenagers in Ireland, where vengeful faeries called the Sídhe haunt the land. Every child grows up knowing that at some point the Sídhe will steal them into the faerie realm and hunt them to the death. The book’s savvy, underdog protagonist Nessa and her peers attend a school that teaches survival tactics to help them make it out alive. The northwest of Ireland, where Peadar Ó Guilín grew up, inspired the novel’s setting, creating a fascinating juxtaposition between the beautiful backdrop and brutal, thrilling story.
Strange Hotel by Eimear McBride
Strange Hotel is the third book from the extraordinary Irish writer Eimear McBride. This short book follows a middle-aged woman travelling around the world, fleeing from one hotel room to the next, and discovering the memories that each space evokes. The writing is a claustrophobic stream of consciousness that follows a complex and strange internal monologue, letting go of the constraints of formulaic narrative and letting loose to the realities of thought processes. This book is unlike any other and if you’re in the mood for something different, Strange Hotel is the one.
Brian Friel Various Titles
With Friel’s body of work it is impossible to select just one to recommend, but his more noted works include Translations, Dancing at Lughnasa and Philadelphia, Here I Come! A former teacher, Friel explores Ireland and Northern Island’s social and political life in his plays. With the creation of Translations, Friel was incremental in reflecting post-colonial Irish literature as characters Yolland and Owen arrive to anglicise Irish place names. Inspired by his own family, Dancing at Lughnasa explores family, love and past memories against a backdrop of poverty and religion. But it was Philadelphia, Here I Come! that gave Friel international recognition, focusing on ‘Gar’ as he is about to leave his hometown in Ireland for the bright lights of America.
The Third Policeman by Flann O’Brien/Brian O’Nolan
Brian O’Nolan’s The Third Policeman (published under the pseudonym Flann O’Brien) is the hilarious and totally strange novel that took over twenty years to be published, before being done so posthumously a year after O’Nolan’s death. Set in rural Ireland, the novel unfolds under a myriad of mysterious circumstances which befuddle and bemuse the reader. O’Nolan pokes fun at philosophical worldviews, as his protagonist views his world through an obsession with de Selby, a bogus scientific philosopher whose work is nearly completely incomprehensible. An amusing and dark dance along the line of fantasy and reality, patrolled by comical policemen and personified bicycles, The Third Policeman is a wonderful Irish novel to read for St. Patrick’s Day.