Reading Ireland Month aka Begorrathon (hosted by the wonderful Cathy at 746 Books and Niall at The Fluff is Raging) has begun, so I’ve been trying to decide what books I will read. After much deliberation I’ve decided on 5 books which have been sitting on my shelves for far too long.
- Transatlantic by Colum McCann
This one has been sitting on shelf for far too long. It’s about time I got around to it.
Newfoundland, 1919. Two aviators—Jack Alcock and Arthur Brown—set course for Ireland as they attempt the first nonstop flight across the Atlantic Ocean, placing their trust in a modified bomber to heal the wounds of the Great War.
Dublin, 1845 and ’46. On an international lecture tour in support of his subversive autobiography, Frederick Douglass finds the Irish people sympathetic to the abolitionist cause—despite the fact that, as famine ravages the countryside, the poor suffer from hardships that are astonishing even to an American slave.
New York, 1998. Leaving behind a young wife and newborn child, Senator George Mitchell departs for Belfast, where it has fallen to him, the son of an Irish-American father and a Lebanese mother, to shepherd Northern Ireland’s notoriously bitter and volatile peace talks to an uncertain conclusion.
These three iconic crossings are connected by a series of remarkable women whose personal stories are caught up in the swells of history. Beginning with Irish housemaid Lily Duggan, who crosses paths with Frederick Douglass, the novel follows her daughter and granddaughter, Emily and Lottie, and culminates in the present-day story of Hannah Carson, in whom all the hopes and failures of previous generations live on. From the loughs of Ireland to the flatlands of Missouri and the windswept coast of Newfoundland, their journeys mirror the progress and shape of history. They each learn that even the most unassuming moments of grace have a way of rippling through time, space, and memory.
2. All Names Have Been Changed by Claire Kilroy
The Devil I Know was one of my favourite books from last years Begorrathon, so when I got given this for Christmas I knew it had to be on my list.
Set in the Dublin of the mid 1980s – gripped by a heroin epidemic and light years from the post EU economic boom of today – ‘All Names Have Been Changed’ tells the story of a small group of mature students on a writing course at Trinity, who become dangerously obsessed with their tutor, a notorious writer.
3. You by Nuala Ní Chonchúir
I have to thank Cathy at 746 Books for this one. While I had heard of Nuala Ní Chonchúir, I hadn’t yet read any of her books when I read a review by Cathy of You and thought it sounded interesting. Since I still haven’t gotten around to it, now seems a good time to do so.
Set against the semi-urban backdrop of the River Liffey in 1980, this novel about a 10-year-old girl who lives with her separated mother and two brothers unfolds through the narrator’s observations and interactions, and her naive interpretations of adult conversations and behaviour.
4. A Struggle for Fame by Charlotte Riddle
I’m trying to read more classics by women this year as part of my classic challenge so it seems fitting to include a classic by an Irish woman in my Begorrathon reading list.
After the death of her mother and the loss of her family’s fortune, it falls to young Glen Westley to do what she can for herself and her ailing father. Determined to make her own way in the world, she moves from the West of Ireland to London and works tirelessly to succeed as a novelist, despite the limitations her sex and nationality represent.
Having struggled so long for fame, it is at last thrust upon her – but fame always comes at a price.
A Struggle for Fame is a brilliant novel of astute and observations, still relevant over a century after it was first published. Gender, class, affluence and ability are all laid bare under the author’s exacting eye.
5. Walk the Blue Fields by Claire Keegan
Ireland has a strong tradition in short stories born out of our oral tradition of story telling. It seems only right therefore to include at least one collection of short stories, and one by one of Ireland’s greatest short story writers, Claire Keegan.
Claire Keegan’s brilliant debut collection, Antarctica, was a Los Angeles Times Book of the Year, and earned her resounding accolades on both sides of the Atlantic. Now she has delivered her next, much-anticipated book, Walk the Blue Fields, an unforgettable array of quietly wrenching stories about despair and desire in the timeless world of modern-day Ireland. In the never-before-published story “The Long and Painful Death,” a writer awarded a stay to work in Heinrich Böll’s old cottage has her peace interrupted by an unwelcome intruder, whose ulterior motives only emerge as the night progresses. In the title story, a priest waits at the altar to perform a marriage and, during the ceremony and the festivities that follow, battles his memories of a love affair with the bride that led him to question all to which he has dedicated his life; later that night, he finds an unlikely answer in the magical healing powers of a seer. A masterful portrait of a country wrestling with its past and of individuals eking out their futures, Walk the Blue Fields is a breathtaking collection from one of Ireland’s greatest talents, and a resounding articulation of all the yearnings of the human heart.
So that’s my reading list for Begorrathon. How about you? Will you be joining in? What books will you be reading?
If your looking for inspiration why not check out my Top 5 Irish books I’ve Read in the Past Year, or a full list of my reviews of Irish Literature is available here.