I happen to love a good story and the Irish have to be, hands-down, some of the best storytellers on the planet. So, to celebrate St. Patrick’s day and my love of a good book, here’s my list of Irish literature (Sorry, no James Joyce here – you’ll have to find a more classy blog for that sort of literary stuff).
How the Irish Save Civilization by Thomas Cahill
After the fall of the Roman Empire, when the ancient Goths roamed the Western world raping and plundering, Irish monks were busy working on keeping the written word alive. They carefully and painstakingly copied literature and one of their most famous works is The Book of Kells, from which much Celtic art is derived.
Cahill’s theory is that, since so much sacred art and literature were burned during this chaotic period in history, the Irish contributed to the preservation of both history and learning. Without the heroic efforts of these monks to hide their precious masterpieces, so much would have been lost.
As usual, this book is controversial to many history purists. Whatever. I have to believe that Cahill did some research before he wrote this book and, quite honestly, it’s a very interesting read. So, if you can read this, thank an Irish monk – they’re partly responsible for it.
Tara Road by Maeve Binchy
Two women, one American and one Irish, both share tragedies in their lives. By chance, they meet each other and trade houses for a summer. A great read about loss and friendship.
Maeve Binchy is like comfort food to me. There’s something about reading her books that has a calming effect. I’ve read many of her books over the years, but chose this one because I was listening to it on the morning of 9/11. In my mind, Dublin and New York will forever be linked together.
Daughter of the Forest by Juliet Marillier
Marillier, a writer from New Zealand, wrote this first novel (and the first installment of the Sevenwater Trilogy) based on the Celtic “Swans” legend. In order to save her brothers, who were transformed into swans by their evil stepmother, Sorcha must weave clothes for them out of painful nettles. Of course, she has to escape being captured by enemies and find them first. As the saying goes, there’s much more to this story than meets the eye. I highly recommend it.
The Agnes Browne Series by Brendan O’Carroll
Agnes Browne, a widow and mother of seven (yes, seven) children in 1960’s Dublin, is one tough cookie. She runs a fruit stand, raises her children and shares her dreams with her best friend Marion (who pokes her head into a church every morning and yells, “Hello God – it’s me, Marion!”). O’Carroll’s books show the happier side of living in working class Dublin, but he doesn’t shy away from the fact that life wasn’t easy for Agnes. She just had to make her own happiness. You’ll share too if you read these very funny books.
Ireland by Frank Delaney
Delaney’s novel is the perfect book for someone who loves a story. Since it’s about an Irish storyteller who travels Ireland sharing the history of his beloved country, so much the better. I had no idea that such a small island would have so many different dialects, traditions and customs. Nor did I know much about Irish history. However, Delaney brings it all alive in this very spirited novel. A fine tale, indeed.