Great Irish Books to Read

/ posted in: Reading

In honor of St. Patrick’s Day, let’s discuss books set in Ireland.

The Lace Makers of GlenmaraThe Lace Makers of Glenmara by Heather Barbieri

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

 

“”You can always start again,” Kate Robinson’s mother once told her, “all it takes is a new thread.” Overwhelmed by heartbreak and loss, the struggling twenty-six-year-old fashion designer follows her mother’s advice and flees to her ancestral homeland of Ireland, hoping to break free of old patterns and reinvent herself.

She arrives on the west coast, in the seaside hamlet of Glenmara. In this charming, fading Gaelic village, Kate quickly develops a bond with members of the local lace-making society: Bernie, alone and yearning for a new purpose since the death of her beloved husband, John; Aileen, plagued by doubt, helplessly watching her teenage daughter grow distant; Moira, caught in a cycle of abuse and denial, stubbornly refusing help from those closest to her; Oona, in remission from breast cancer, secretly harboring misgivings about her marriage; Colleen, the leader of the group, worried about her fisherman husband, missing at sea. And outside this newfound circle is local artist Sullivan Deane, an enigmatic man trying to overcome a tragedy of his own.

Daughter of the Forest  (Sevenwaters, #1)Daughter of the Forest by Juliet Marillier

 

“Lovely Sorcha is the seventh child and only daughter of Lord Colum of Sevenwaters. Bereft of a mother, she is comforted by her six brothers who love and protect her. Sorcha is the light in their lives, they are determined that she know only contentment.

But Sorcha’s joy is shattered when her father is bewitched by his new wife, an evil enchantress who binds her brothers with a terrible spell, a spell which only Sorcha can lift-by staying silent. If she speaks before she completes the quest set to her by the Fair Folk and their queen, the Lady of the Forest, she will lose her brothers forever.

Juliet Marillier isn’t Irish but the books are retellings of fairy tales set in Ireland.

 

1949: A Novel of the Irish Free State1949: A Novel of the Irish Free State by Morgan Llywelyn

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

 

“1949 tells the story of Ireland’s progress as seen through the eyes of one woman, from the bitter aftermath of civil war to the controversial dawn of a modern state. Ursula Halloran, the daughter of a famous revolutionary, comes of age in the turbulent 1920s. An education in Switzerland broadens her world view, but Ireland has become a repressive Catholic state where women are second-class citizens. Married women cannot hold jobs and divorce is illegal.

Fighting against the stifling constraints of church and state, Ursula forges an exciting career in the fledgling Irish radio service. Her life is torn apart when she finds herself caught between two men who love her in very different ways. Refusing to surrender her hard-won independence to marriage, or her illegitimate infant to an orphanage, she flees to Europe to bear her child. There she takes a job with the League of Nations and is caught up in the terrifying outbreak of World War II. Hard decisions and desperate situations stand between her and any hope of returning to the land she loves.

These books are a historical fiction family saga that taught me all about the Irish fight for statehood.  They range from 1916 to 1999.  They can be clunky to read but I learned a lot.

Sushi for BeginnersSushi for Beginners by Marian Keyes

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

 

“This Prada-wearing magazine editor thinks her life is over when her “fabulous” new job turns out to be a deportation to Dublin to launch Colleen magazine. The only saving grace is that her friends aren’t there to witness her downward spiral. Might her new boss, the disheveled and moody Jack Devine, save her from a fate worse than hell?”

Scarlet FeatherScarlet Feather by Maeve Binchy

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

 

“Set in contemporary Ireland, filled with warmth, wit, and drama, Scarlet Feather is the story of Cathy Scarlet and Tom Feather, their spouses, families, and friends, and the struggling new catering business that transforms their lives in ways big and small.”

I loved Maeve Binchy.  Her books did always make me wonder if Ireland would be a better place if antidepressants were put in the drinking water, though.

Irish Gold (Nuala Anne McGrail, #1)Irish Gold by Andrew M. Greeley

 

“Nuala Anne McGrail, a student at Dublin’s Trinity College, is beautiful the way a Celtic goddess is beautiful – not that Dermot Michael Coyne of Chicago has ever seen one of those in his twenty-five years – unless you count his grandmother Nell, who left Ireland during the Troubles with her husband Liam O’Riada, and who would never tell why they left. Somebody else remembers, though – or why is Dermot set upon by thugs?”

Ah, Andrew Greeley, a priest who wrote romance novels.  In his books the woman are always magnificent, the men are subservient, and married couples have sex at least twice a day or their marriage is in serious trouble.

The Greener Shore: A Novel of the Druids of HiberniaThe Greener Shore: A Novel of the Druids of Hibernia by Morgan Llywelyn

 

“As druids in Celtic Gaul, they had been the harmonious soul of their tribe, the Carnutes. But when Julius Caesar and his army invaded and conquered their homeland, the great druid Ainvar and his clan fled for their lives, taking with them the ancient knowledge. Guided by a strange destiny, they found themselves drawn to a green island at the very rim of the world: Hibernia, home of the Gael.

Here they would depend for survival on an embittered man who had lost his faith–and a remarkable woman who would find hers. Burning with hatred of the Romans, Ainvar can no longer command his magic. But his mantle falls on unexpected shoulders. In a beautiful, war-torn land of numerous kingdoms and belligerent tribes, Ainvar and his beloved wife, Briga, struggle toward an uncertain future. Their companions include the volatile Onuava, widow of their fallen chieftain; Lakutu, Ainvar’s dark and mysterious second wife; Ainvar’s son, Dara, who seems more drawn to poetry than to combat; and the “Red Wolf,” the young warrior who is as close as kin and is determined to find Ainvar’s missing daughter.”

Morgan Llywelyn’s magical/historical fiction novels set among the Druids are wonderful too.

-All descriptions from Goodreads

What are your favorite books set in Ireland?