Roy Foster: Books of the Year

Towering books on architecture in Ireland past and present

 

Three marvellous books about Irish architecture: Kevin Mulligan’s sparkling volume South Ulster, in the stellar Buildings of Ireland series (Yale University Press), illuminates Cavan town hall, Armagh’s streetscapes and a wealth of churches and houses scattered through drumlin country.

Niall McCullough’s Palimpsest: Intervention and Change in Irish Architecture (Anne Street Press) is an inspired reflection on Irish poetics of space and Erika Hanna’s Modern Dublin: Urban Change and the Irish Past 1957-73 (Oxford) traces the sociopolitical
labyrinths of destruction and conservation.

In fiction, Sebastian Barry’s The Temporary Gentleman (Faber) tracks a well-meaning failure through war and colonial service, unpicking more of the family tapestry woven in previous novels and plays. Colm Tóibín’s Nora Webster (Viking) is an astonishingly accomplished study of grief and survival.

Transcending genres, Hubert Butler’s The Poet and the Appleman (Lilliput) reflects on history, religion, politics and life, ranging from Moscow to Trieste to Kilkenny. As mordant, entertaining and profound as the previous four volumes, Butler’s book completes the unique oeuvre of a very particular kind of Irish – and European – mind.

Vivid Faces: The Revolutionary Generation in Ireland, 1890-1923, by RF Foster, is published by Allen Lane
 

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