St. Patrick’s Day is this Sunday! Besides being a good excuse for a drink, St. Patrick’s Day is also my grandmother’s birthday, and marks exactly one month til I celebrate my own. So I thought Ireland- St. Patrick’s adopted homeland- would be a good topic for this weeks TBR Themed Thursday!
The Circle and the Cross (The Wanderers #1) by Caiseal Mor
Historical Fantasy; 536 pages
Mawn knows little of the world outside his village. But his island home is in turmoil – monks have made their way from Rome and set the people at war. The High-King and the Druid Council know they cannot survive the might of Rome so they must find a way to save their ancient magic and traditions. (from Amazon)
At Swim, Two Boys by Jamie O’Neill
Historical Fiction, 562 pages
Set during the year preceding the Easter Uprising of 1916 — Ireland’s brave but fractured revolt against British rule — At Swim, Two Boys is a tender, tragic love story and a brilliant depiction of people caught in the tide of history. Powerful and artful, and ten years in the writing, it is a masterwork from Jamie O’Neill. Jim Mack is a naïve young scholar and the son of a foolish, aspiring shopkeeper. Doyler Doyle is the rough-diamond son — revolutionary and blasphemous — of Mr. Mack’s old army pal. Out at the Forty Foot, that great jut of rock where gentlemen bathe in the nude, the two boys make a pact: Doyler will teach Jim to swim, and in a year, on Easter of 1916, they will swim to the distant beacon of Muglins Rock and claim that island for themselves. All the while Mr. Mack, who has grand plans for a corner shop empire, remains unaware of the depth of the boys’ burgeoning friendship and of the changing landscape of a nation. (from Goodreads)
Finally reading this one for a challenge this year- so excited!
A Star Called Henry (The Last Roundup #1) by Roddy Doyle
Historical Fiction; 342 pages
Born at the beginning of the twentieth century, Henry Smart lives through the evolution of modern Ireland, and in this extraordinary novel he brilliantly tells his story. From his own birth and childhood on the streets of Dublin to his role as soldier (and lover) in the Irish Rebellion, Henry recounts his early years of reckless heroism and adventure. At once an epic, a love story, and a portrait of Irish history, A Star Called Henry is a grand picaresque novel brimming with both poignant moments and comic ones, and told in a voice that is both quintessentially Irish and inimitably Roddy Doyle’s. (from Goodreads)
I’ve had this book forever- planning on starting it this week!
The Confessions of Saint Patrick by Saint Patrick
Memoir; 112 pages
Beyond being recognized as the patron saint of Ireland (perhaps for having chased some nonexistent snakes off the Emerald Isle), little else is popularly known about Saint Patrick. And yet, Patrick left behind a unique document, his Confession, which tells us much about both his life and his beliefs. This autobiography, originally written in the fifth century, and short by modern standards, is nonetheless a work that fascinates with its glimpse into the life of an intriguing man, and inspires with its testament of faith. Here, in this new edition from internationally acclaimed translator John Skinner, the character of Patrick, his era, and his world vividly come to life. Also included in this volume is the only other document known to have been written by Patrick, a letter he wrote to the soldiers of Coroticus–also Christians–who had raided parts of Ireland and taken away prisoners who were then sold into slavery. This letter is a wonderful demonstration of Patrick’s rhetorical fire. Quite irate, Patrick harangues his fellow Christians, and the results are every bit as autobiographically revealing as the Confession. (from Goodreads)
St. Patrick of Ireland: A Biography by Philip Freeman
Biography; 240 pages
Ireland’s patron saint has long been shrouded in legend, but the true story of St. Patrick is far more inspiring than the myths. In St. Patrick of Ireland, Philip Freeman brings the historic Patrick and his world vividly to life. Patrick speaks in his own voice in two remarkable letters he wrote about himself and his beliefs, new translations of which are included here and which are still astonishing for their passion and eloquence. Born late in the fourth century to an aristocratic British family, Patrick’s life was changed forever when he was abducted and taken to Ireland just before his sixteenth birthday. He spent six grueling years there as a slave, but the ordeal turned him from an atheist into a true believer. After a vision in which God told him he would go home, Patrick escaped captivity and, following a perilous journey, returned safely to Britain to the amazement of his family. But even more amazing to them was his announcement that he intended to go back to Ireland to spend the rest of his life ministering to the people who had once enslaved him.Set against the turbulent backdrop of the British Isles during the last years of the Roman Empire, St. Patrick of Ireland brilliantly brings to life the real Patrick, shorn of legend, a man whose deep spiritual conviction and devotion helped to transform a country. (from Goodreads)
Malachy McCourt’s History of Ireland by Malachy McCourt
History; 432 pages
New York Times best-selling author Malachy McCourt offers an authoritative and engrossing one-volume chronicle of Ireland from pre-Christian times to the present, told with Irish flair by the gifted storyteller. The pages are populated with figures from myth, history, and the present, from Saint Patrick to Oliver Cromwell, James Joyce, Samuel Beckett and Charles Parnell, to Sinead O’Connor and Bono. Some beloved, some controversial-each influenced the course of Irish and world history. While McCourt vividly describes Ireland’s turbulent history, he also offers a cultural survey with fresh insights to the folklore, literature, art, music, and cuisine of Ireland, producing an irresistible tour through the Emerald Isle. (from Goodreads)
Stones of Aran: Pilgrimage (Stones of Aran #1) by Tim Robinson
Non-fiction; 320 pages
Tim Robinson’s epic exploration of the desolate, storm-lashed, limestone rocks, which have already haunted generations of Irish writers, takes the form of a clockwise journey around the coast. Every cliff, inlet and headland reveals layers of myth and historical memory, and Robinson makes beautifully crafted observations about the habits of birds, plants and the humans who lived there and endured, leaving records in stone – on the walls, cairns and ancient forts – in story and in oral tradition. (from Goodreads)
On An Irish Island by Robert Kanigel
Non-fiction; 336 pages
On an Irish Island is a love letter to a vanished way of life, in which Robert Kanigel, the highly praised author of The Man Who Knew Infinity and The One Best Way, tells the story of the Great Blasket, a wildly beautiful island off the west coast of Ireland, renowned during the early twentieth century for the rich communal life of its residents and the unadulterated Irish they spoke. With the Irish language vanishing all through the rest of Ireland, the Great Blasket became a magnet for scholars and writers drawn there during the Gaelic renaissance—and the scene for a memorable clash of cultures between modern life and an older, sometimes sweeter world slipping away. Kanigel introduces us to the playwright John Millington Synge, some of whose characters in The Playboy of the Western World, were inspired by his time on the island; Carl Marstrander, a Norwegian linguist who gave his place on Norway’s Olympic team for a summer on the Blasket; Marie-Louise Sjoestedt, a Celtic studies scholar fresh from the Sorbonne; and central to the story, George Thomson, a British classicist whose involvement with the island and its people we follow from his first visit as a twenty-year-old to the end of his life.
On the island, they met a colorful coterie of men and women with whom they formed lifelong and life-changing friendships. There’s Tomás O’Crohan, a stoic fisherman, one of the few islanders who could read and write Irish, who tutored many of the incomers in the language’s formidable intricacies and became the Blasket’s first published writer; Maurice O’Sullivan, a good-natured prankster and teller of stories, whose memoir, Twenty Years A-Growing, became an Irish classic; and Peig Sayers, whose endless repertoire of earthy tales left listeners spellbound.
As we get to know these men and women, we become immersed in the vivid culture of the islanders, their hard lives of fishing and farming matched by their love of singing, dancing, and talk. Yet, sadly, we watch them leave the island, the village becoming uninhabited by 1953. The story of the Great Blasket is one of struggle—between the call of modernity and the tug of Ireland’s ancient ways, between the promise of emigration and the peculiar warmth of island life amid its physical isolation. But ultimately it is a tribute to the strength and beauty of a people who, tucked away from the rest of civilization, kept alive a nation’s past, and to the newcomers and islanders alike who brought the island’s remarkable story to the larger world. (from Goodreads)
I have a couple more books that fit the theme but these are what stick out to me right now. What’s you’re favorite book set in or about Ireland?