All Things Irish

Every March, I celebrate Saint Patrick’s Day with a trip to the Emerald Isle of Ireland. A literary, not physical (though maybe someday . . .) trip, that is. In recent years, my “journey” has included a week’s stop in the small Northern Ireland village of Ballybucklebo for a visit with Doctor Fingal O’Reilly and his delightful friends. I’m back from this year’s jaunt and am happy to report O’Reilly and his village are as charming as ever.

I write, of course, of Patrick Taylor’s fantastic An Irish Country series. I’ve been a reader of the Bangor(Northern Ireland)-born Taylor’s tales of Fingal and the Ballybucklebo denizens since book one. The latest, An Irish Country Love Story, is another winner filled with wit, sweetness, and a bit of blarney.

Want more stories set in Ireland to fill your month? Here you go . . .

Irishman James Joyce wrote several of the twentieth century’s best books (and its most challenging), including the masterpiece Ulysses. You may have read his A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man in high school or been confounded by Finnegans Wake. If you’d like a taste of Joyce’s work this March 17, read Dubliners. The short story collection portrays Irish life in the early 1900’s and comprises the best writing I have ever read.

The late Maeve Binchy celebrated the everyday lives of the Irish in more than two dozen novels, short stories, and novellas. She captured the spirit, heartbreak, struggles, and faith of the Irish in her work, including A Circle of FriendsScarlet Feather, and Evening Class. Though two of Binchy’s novels have been published posthumously, Binchy’s legion of fans still mourn her 2012 passing at age 72.

Cecelia Ahern writes terrific novels of life in contemporary Ireland. She has followed up her 2004 best-selling debut, PS, I Love, with more than a dozen books, including Where Rainbows End (if you live in the USA, you might have read this under the titles Rosie Dunne or Love, Rosie), The Gift, and How to Fall in Love.

If you’re looking for a cozy with a Gaelic (not garlic) flavor, look no further than Irish-American Sheila Connolly’s County Cork Mysteries.  The series features an American expatriate solving murders in the small town where her grandmother was born. I get lost in the pages of these mysteries, imagining traveling the winding roads of Irish villages, discovering my family’s roots, and  stopping at a pub (and I’m a teetotaler!) for a bit of craic (pronounced “crack,” it means fun). Check out Connolly’s fifth County Cork mystery, Cruel Winter, which arrived in stores this month.

Chances are you’ve already read Frank McCourt’s Pulitzer Prize-winning memoir, Angela’s Ashes, which was published in 1996. More than a few have called McCourt’s account of his impoverished childhood in Limerick depressing, but what I remember from my reading of the book is the humor and grace with which McCourt relates his early years in Ireland. I also recommend his memoirs of life in New York: ‘Tis and Teacher Man.

There are plenty more Irish writers to celebrate. Check out the work of Nobel Laureate Seamus Heaney, Frank Delaney, Colm Tóibín, Edna O’Brien, Joseph O’Connor, Roddy Doyle, Lucy Caldwell, Lisa McInerney, Claire Keegan, and Nuala Ní Chonchúir. To name just a few!

Have a great week, everyone, and happy Saint Patrick’s Day!

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