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

Wed, Jul 16, 2014, 11:28

Irish Journal
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.

All Summer
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.

The Sea
John Banville (2005)
In Banville’s Booker winning novel, the widowed art historian Max Morden returns to The Cedars, a boarding house in a seaside Wicklow village where he spent his summers as a child. Dealing with the death of his wife evokes earlier losses. In his journal, Morden splices past narratives with present experience. As he learns more about the current housekeeper Miss Vavasour and her tenant the Colonel, the narrator recalls his experiences with the former tenants of The Cedars, the wealthy Grace family.

 

This Charming Man
Marian Keyes (2008)
Winner of the popular fiction award at the Irish Book Awards in 2009, the plot of Keyes’s eleventh novel pivots around a well-known politician, Paddy de Courcy, as his story is told by the women he has used and abused. With multiple narrators including trophy wife Alicia, journalist Grace and her sister Marnie based in Dublin and London, a fourth character, Lola, relocates to a seaside town in County Clare. Amid the local surfers and scenic landscape, Lola is able to get perspective on the charismatic and dangerous de Courcy.

Love and Summer
William Trevor (2009)
Depicting the illicit affair between a photographer and a married woman, William Trevor’s most recent novel was shortlisted for both the Booker and Impac literary awards. Set in the fictional Irish town of Rathmoyle in the 1950s, the story follows Ellie, a foundling raised by nuns, as she is spurred by local gossip into beginning an affair with Florian Kilderry. Ellie’s farmer husband, Dillahan, has his own ghosts to wrestle with, having accidentally killed his first wife and child. As the hot and languid summer unfolds, Ellie is forced to choose between duty and love.

Foster
Claire Keegan (2010)
Claire Keegan’s long short story was published as a stand-alone book in 2010 and has since made its way onto the curriculum for the Leaving Cert. Set on a farm in County Wicklow, Foster is a beautifully rendered account of a young girl who is placed with her aunt and uncle for the holidays while her mother prepares to give birth. Themes of loss and neglect are central to this story, with the temporary family set-uphelping each member to discover new versions of themselves.

Ulysses
James Joyce (1922)
“In long lassoes from the Cock lake the water flowed full, covering greengoldenly lagoons of sand, rising, flowing.”Arguably the most famous beach in Irish fiction, Sandymount Strand in Dublin is used as the location for two episodes in Joyce’s masterpiece. In ‘Proteus’, Stephen Dedalaus wanders the strand ‘into eternity’. Later that day in ‘Nausicaa’ the protagonist Leopold Bloom sits on a rock and masturbates as he watches young Gerty MacDowell lift her skirts, an episode that saw the book banned in America.

 

This Charming Man
Marian Keyes (2008)
Winner of the popular fiction award at the Irish Book Awards in 2009, the plot of Keyes’s eleventh novel pivots around a well-known politician, Paddy de Courcy, as his story is told by the women he has used and abused. With multiple narrators including trophy wife Alicia, journalist Grace and her sister Marnie based in Dublin and London, a fourth character, Lola, relocates to a seaside town in County Clare. Amid the local surfers and scenic landscape, Lola is able to get perspective on the charismatic and dangerous de Courcy.

Love and Summer
William Trevor (2009)
Depicting the illicit affair between a photographer and a married woman, William Trevor’s most recent novel was shortlisted for both the Booker and Impac literary awards. Set in the fictional Irish town of Rathmoyle in the 1950s, the story follows Ellie, a foundling raised by nuns, as she is spurred by local gossip into beginning an affair with Florian Kilderry. Ellie’s farmer husband, Dillahan, has his own ghosts to wrestle with, having accidentally killed his first wife and child. As the hot and languid summer unfolds, Ellie is forced to choose between duty and love.

Foster
Claire Keegan (2010)
Claire Keegan’s long short story was published as a stand-alone book in 2010 and has since made its way onto the curriculum for the Leaving Cert. Set on a farm in County Wicklow, Foster is a beautifully rendered account of a young girl who is placed with her aunt and uncle for the holidays while her mother prepares to give birth. Themes of loss and neglect are central to this story, with the temporary family set-uphelping each member to discover new versions of themselves.


Ulysses
James Joyce (1922)
“In long lassoes from the Cock lake the water flowed full, covering greengoldenly lagoons of sand, rising, flowing.”Arguably the most famous beach in Irish fiction, Sandymount Strand in Dublin is used as the location for two episodes in Joyce’s masterpiece. In ‘Proteus’, Stephen Dedalaus wanders the strand ‘into eternity’. Later that day in ‘Nausicaa’ the protagonist Leopold Bloom sits on a rock and masturbates as he watches young Gerty MacDowell lift her skirts, an episode that saw the book banned in America.

 

What to read on holiday in . . . Italy, Portugal and South Africa

What to read on holiday in . . . Spain, Brazil and Australia

What to read on holiday in . . . the US, France and Germany

 

 

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