Fiction: Irish Authors to Read for St. Paddy’s Day

Ireland has a history of cultivating great poets and authors – William Butler Yeats, James Joyce, and Oscar Wilde, to name a few. Modern-day Irish authors successfully carry on this rich tradition. In honor of St. Patrick’s Day, here are newer books from contemporary authors who hail from the Emerald Isle.

Anne Enright, The Green Road
A darkly glinting novel set mainly in a small town on Ireland’s Atlantic coast.The children of Rosaleen Madigan grow up in the West of Ireland in a world that is about to change. Three of the children leave home for lives they could never have imagined – Dan, for the frenzy of New York under the shadow of AIDS; Emmet, for the backlands of Mali where he learns the fragility of love and order; and actress Hanna, for modern day Dublin and the trials of motherhood. In her early old age their difficult, wonderful mother Rosaleen decides to sell the family home. Her adult children visit for Christmas carrying with them the complications of their present lives and the old needs of childhood as they are brought face to face with their mother’s aging and the effects her decision will have on them all.

 

Colum McCann, Thirteen Ways of Looking
In the exuberant title novella, a retired judge reflects on his life’s work, unaware as he goes about his daily routines that this particular morning will be his last. In “Sh’khol,” a mother spending Christmas alone with her son confronts the unthinkable when he disappears while swimming off the coast near their home in Ireland. In “Treaty,” an elderly nun catches a snippet of a news report in which it is revealed that the man who once kidnapped and brutalized her is alive, masquerading as an agent of peace. And in “What Time Is It Now, Where You Are?” a writer constructs a story about a Marine in Afghanistan calling home on New Year’s Eve.

 

 

Emma Donoghue, The Wonder
An English nurse is brought to a small Irish village to observe what appears to be a miracle-a girl said to have survived without food for months-soon finds herself fighting to save the child’s life.Tourists flock to the cabin of eleven-year-old Anna O’Donnell, who believes herself to be living off manna from heaven, and a journalist is sent to cover the sensation. Lib Wright, a veteran of Florence Nightingale’s Crimean campaign, is hired to keep watch over the girl.

 

 

 

Colm Toibin, House of Names
“I have been acquainted with the smell of death.” So begins Clytemnestra’s tale of her own life in ancient Mycenae, the legendary Greek city from which her husband King Agamemnon left when he set sail with his army for Troy. Clytemnestra rules Mycenae now, along with her new lover Aegisthus, and together they plot the bloody murder of Agamemnon.. Clytemnestra reveals the tragic saga that led to these bloody actions: how her husband deceived her eldest daughter with a promise of marriage to Achilles, only to sacrifice her; how she seduced and collaborated with the prisoner Aegisthus; how Agamemnon came back with a lover himself; and how Clytemnestra finally achieved her vengeance for his stunning betrayal—his quest for victory, greater than his love for his child.

 

Lisa McInerney, The Glorious Heresies
When grandmother Maureen Phelan is surprised in her home by a stranger, she clubs the intruder with a Holy Stone. The consequences of this unplanned murder connect four misfits struggling against their meager circumstances. Ryan is a fifteen-year-old drug dealer desperate not to turn out like his alcoholic father, Tony, whose feud with his next-door neighbor threatens to ruin his family. Georgie is a sex worker who half-heartedly joins a born-again movement to escape her profession and drug habit. And Jimmy Phelan, the most fearsome gangster in the city and Maureen’s estranged son, finds that his mother’s bizarre attempts at redemption threaten his entire organization.