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

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.

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.

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.

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