Wicked Good Irish Reads

Yes, we’re still celebrating the release of Sheila Connolly’s Scandal in Skibbereen. What’s your favorite book by an Irish author, or one set in Ireland, at least? Any genre goes!

Edith: My neighbor Áine Greaney‘s 2011 novel Dance Lessons cover_dance_lessonshas to be my pick (other than Sheila’s series, of course, which I love). It’s a wonderful story of a young Irish-American Bostonian in Ireland looking for her roots, much like Sheila’s protagonist, Maura Donovan. Áine is a transplant from Ireland to Newburyport, Massachusetts. She won awards with her first novel, has a prize-winning book of short fiction out, and has also published a very useful non-fiction guide called Writer With a Day Job.  I highly recommend Dance Lessons.

Jessie: I love books by John Connolly. He is Irish but sets much of his work in Maine, both around Portland and up into the woods of the vast north. Some of his books are aimed at younger readers, like The Gates. I really enjoyed the spooky, whacky humor in that one!

Barb: I think I have to go with the novels of Dennis Lehane, particularly the Kenzie and Gennaro novels set in Dorchester, MA and The Given Day about a Boston Irish family and the police strike of 1919.

Liz: Jessie and Barb, I’m with you on John Connolly and Dennis Lehane – two of my all-time favorites. Lehane’s Live by Night was amazing too, kind of a sequel to The Given Day. I also love Tana French’s books: In the Woods, The Likeness, Faithful Place. Her newest, Broken Harbor, is still in my TBR pile.

Julie: I love Irish playwrights. Eugene O’Neill. Roddy Doyle. Oscar Wilde. Not a huge Beckett fan, but he should be mentioned. And there are many Irish writers, including Maeve Binchy. As I said before, I love the tendency towards lyrical darkness mixed with humor.

Readers: Your favorite Irish-flavored read?

7 Thoughts

  1. Thank you, Edith, for mentioning my book. And I can’t wait to read Sheila’s. My fave Irish read is actually by a (second generation? Have to look that up) British-Irish author, Maggie O’Farrell. I love her works, and my top fave of hers is “The Hand That Once Held Mine.”

    1. You are most welcome, Aine! And I’ll look up O’Farrell. Thanks for the recommendation. One of these days I’ll get you and Sheila to meet each other!

  2. I love Tana French’s novels! Broken Harbor is actually my favorite of hers. Can’t wait to check out some of the authors mentioned in this post!

  3. (Julie, Roddy Doyle will be at the Brookline Booksmith this week–either tonight or tomorrow, depending on which source you believe!)

    Great choices, all. I love John Connolly’s work (no relation, that I know of), but he doesn’t say “Irish” to me, or not first–just beautiful writing. Lehane is great for depicting the Irish in Boston. And both write with a kind of lyricism that is impressive, especially combined with crime.

    Tana French, oh my. When’s the next one? I’ve read reviews that say she’s sloppy about the crime side–but I don’t care.

    But the Irish writers that had the strongest impact on me were Frank McCourt–I remember reading a single chapter of Angela’s Ashes, excerpted in the New Yorker, and being blown away. And William Trevor’s short stories are so poignant. Crime writers? Declan Hughes, Stuart Neville. There are more, but they seldom make it to US bookstores, so you have to know to look for them. And I’ve probably forgotten a few.

  4. He is an American, but Cormac McCarthy’s writing has some hallmarks of great Irish poets. And while not a crime genre writer, he definitely explores the violent side of humanity in The Road and esp. Blood Meridian.

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