What to read on holiday in . . . Ireland
The final part in our summer reading series recommends 10 books for those staying at home this summer
Heinrich Böll (1957)
A tour of Ireland in the 1950s inspired the German author Heinrich Böll to write a travelogue on the countryside and customs that had so charmed himself and his family. The vivid description and lyrical prose of a former Nobel prize-winner combine with a factual account of the placesBöll visited with his family, notably Achill Island off the coast of Mayo where they based themselves and returned on numerous occasions. The author’s cottage on the island is now used as a guesthouse for Irish and international artists.
The Eleventh Summer
Carlo Gebler (1985)
Following the death of his mother, a young adolescent from London is sent to spend the summer at his eccentric grandparents’ farm in rural Ireland. Twenty years later, the adult narrator Paul looks back at his time there and contemplates the profound effect it had on his development. Drawing heavily on the author’s own childhood, Gebler’s debut novel is concerned with memory and reconstruction and on how the past informs the future.
The Dancers Dancing
Éilis Ní Dhuibhne (1999)
What’s a summer in Ireland without a trip to the Gaeltacht? Eilis Ní Dhuibhne takes the reader back to Donegal in the early seventies as four teenage girls get shipped off to Irish college for a month. Two urbanites from Dublin – the overweight Orla and her perfect best friend Aisling – and two older, more experienced Derry girls find themselves in a house together, learning and negotiating the rules of the Bean anTí’s kingdom in a foreign language. Shortlisted for the Orange Prize (now the Bailey’s), The Dancers Dancing is a bildungsroman immersed in Irish culture and language.
That They May Face The Rising Sun
John McGahern (2001)
The couple at the heart of John McGahern’s last novel aren’t ones for foreign holidays. The gentle Jamesie and his wife Mary have never left the sparsely populated lakeside village in County Leitrim where the book is set. They rely on visitors and returning immigrants for news, forming a close bond with a younger couple, Joe and Kate Ruttledge, who have moved back from England to try their hand at rural living. The enclosed world of the village and its inhabitants opens up, its joys and sorrows relayed with McGahern’s trademark realism and eye for detail.
Claire Kilroy (2003)
Set in various locations from the west of Ireland to the outskirts of Dublin, Claire Kilroy’s debut novel pieces together the mysterious life of Anna Hunt, a young woman who wakes up in a hay barn with no memory and a suitcase full of money. Centred around the restoration of a painting in the National Gallery, the book explores themes of memory, love, art and escape. A literary thriller that heralded Kilroy as a writer to watch, All Summer won the Rooney Prize in 2004.