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Posts Tagged ‘Ireland’

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March came in like a lion in Vermont, and we hope it goes out like a lamb. In the meantime, we can celebrate St. Patrick’s Day with great books from Irish authors (and Irish Canadians). Thank you to our superb friend and great author Sarah Stewart Taylor for your recommendations; we are so looking forward to reading your next book, which we know is partially set in Ireland.

Conversations with Friends: A Novel Cover ImageConversations with Friends by Sally Rooney (2017). As a woman of a certain age facing a life with teenaged sons and trying to figure out what marriage after 20 years looks like, I realize I have forgotten how fraught, exciting, and lonely life as a college student/recent college grad can be.  This intense novel by Ireland’s Sally Rooney reminded me of that life phase in a delightful way. In it, Frances, an aspiring poet, and her performance artist partner / lover Bobbi are befriended by an older couple. Complications ensue, including the perhaps predictable affairs and strivings for more by everyone. I read it in one long sitting, as could have perhaps been predicted for a novel by the Winner of the 2017 Sunday Times Young Writer of the Year. Enjoy! (We have heard her next novel Normal People is even better and won the 2019 Costa Novel Prize; you’ll have to ask your friends in Europe to send it to you though or preorder it from your favorite local bookstore as it is not available in the USA until April 16.)

Milkman: A Novel Cover ImageMilkman: A Novel by Anna Burns(2018).  We highly recommend listening to the audio version of this Man Booker award-winning book. Not only does the narrator’s irresistible Irish accent transport the listener to Belfast in the 1970’s but her conversational delivery invites the listener into this difficult story of an18-year-old being sexually harassed by a much older man (the eponymous “milkman”). The author’s intentionally long, run-on sentences are delivered in a way that the listener is able to sink in her teeth and truly feel the Terror in Ireland – though the decade is never directly named –  a time when partisan politics came to a head (think America modern day), infusing daily life with bombings and fear. This book makes one wonder if the shaming of accused women will ever change or if perhaps continuing to spotlight an awareness of this timeless storyline will ultimately lead us to an age of equality.

FC9780140186475.jpgThe Dubliners by James Joyce (1914) – If you’ve ever wished to get to know Joyce in a more casual “meet and greet” kind of way before committing to a multi week journey with him through his denser works such as Ulysses and Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man, this is the book for you. It is a stunning collection of short stories that concludes with his most famous (nearly) novella “The Dead.” There are echoes of the voices of Tolstoy and Chekov in these cautionary tales, many of which deal with themes of memories, regret, missed opportunities, and times gone by. It is fascinating to consider that Joyce wrote this work in exile while living in Trieste, a city where he spent most of his adult life, given how effectively he captures poignant scenes of middle class Irish life in the late twentieth century.

Our Homesick Songs Cover ImageOur Homesick Songs by Emma Hooper (2018) – The fish have left Newfoundland and so has pretty much every person in this lovely hopeful novel about how things change.  As the New York Times said  “Lyrical…the town is filled with magic, and so is Hooper’s writing…Our Homesick Songs is a eulogy not just to a town but a lifestyle – one built on waves, and winds, and fish, and folklore.” We include it here as the novel is peopled by Irish Canadians, and because sometimes you just need to read a book that leaves you hopeful about the human spirit. Thank you Susan Voake, retired elementary school librarian extraordinaire and current superb indie bookseller for this recommendation.

To finish, we highlight some Irish recipes from our local gem of a bakery King Arthur FlourIrish Soda Bread and Irish Brown Bread. Long may we all bake and read.


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searchOne of our favorite people  – the superb author Sarah Stewart Taylor – is someone we turn to when we need a great new book or author to read. Thus, we were thrilled when she agreed to turn her recent trip to Ireland into a Book Jam post about some authors she discovered while abroad. In this post, Sarah discusses the power of literature one discovers when traveling, and how literature provides superb armchair travel when hopping on a plane is just not possible. We hope you enjoy her suggested reading list as much as we do. Thank you Sarah! And, happy travels to all.

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On a trip to Dublin, Ireland recently, I ducked into a fantastic little bookshop in Sandymount. The tables were piled high with new and used books of all kinds, and I asked the proprietor to recommend some Irish mysteries for me. An obsessive fan of both Ireland and crime fiction, I love revisiting one of my favorite places on earth through the works of the Irish crime writers Tana French and John Banville (one of my favorite Irish novelists, writing mysteries as Benjamin Black), and I needed some more titles to get me through until their next ones are published.

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He obliged very nicely and I came home with an extra bag to contain all the books I’d bought. I discovered some terrific new-to-me Irish crime writers, among them Gene Kerrigan, Jane Casey (who is Irish but writes mysteries set in London), Declan Hughes, Adrian McKinty, Brian McGilloway, and Stuart Neville. 

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Reading mysteries about a place is one of my favorite ways to prepare for travel, to prolong the fun of an adventure once I’m home. Donna Leon’s Venice mysteries are among my favorites, focusing on the cases (and the meals) of the appealing Inspector Guido Brunetti and reminding me of past trips to that magical city. I love the mysteries of Cara Black, which always bring me back to trips to Paris.

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It’s also fun to read mysteries about places I haven’t yet been lucky enough to visit. Jason Goodwin’s Inspector Yashim novels, set in the 19th century Ottoman Empire, have made me obsessed with visiting (modern-day) Turkey and Colin Cotteril’s wonderful mysteries set in Cambodia have added that country to my travel bucket list. I absolutely loved a novel by Richard Crompton, set in Kenya and titled Hour of the Red God. It stars a Masai detective named Detective Mollel and was one of my favorite new mysteries of the past few years.

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So — what are your favorite mysteries about places you’ve visited — or would like to?

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Mystery Click to listen now or download http://www.box.net/files#/files/0/f/0/1/f_662854061.

In the Woods

Lisa LC began the show with a confession: she’s not  (gasp! –Agatha Christie please don’t turn in your grave)  a mystery reader.  However, after numerous recommendations, she finally picked up a copy of Tana French’s immensely popular In the Woods and was riveted from page one.  Acknowledging that the Hardy Boys and Nancy Drew entertained her as a child and confessing a contemporary love for the Maisie Dobbs series, she now understands  that she’s actually a closeted mystery lover.   J Lisa C then also came out of the mystery closet,  and confessed her own new found appreciation of this thrilling genre.

And so our show began with recommendations for great mysteries – ones great even for people who don’t think they like mysteries. In the Woods by Tana French – Lisa LC’s review “This woman knows how to write!”  She appreciated the sense of place created  by the author  (Dublin and Ireland in the early seventies and then post-economic boom), the feeling of suspense evoked by French and the intricately psychological aspects of this novel.

 

 

Daughter of Time

The Daughter of Time and The Franchise Affair by Josephine Tey – J Lisa C likes the precise writing style, subtle and effective character development and the very British tone of these two books by Josephine Tey. Tey was a contemporary of Agatha Christie but perhaps due to lack of movies and television shows depicting her works, she’s not quite as well known.

Forgotten Garden by Kate Morton – Lisa LC was intrigued by the look at two continents – Australia and England – and the unraveling of family secrets. Bruno Chief of Police by Martin Walker is another favorite of admitted francophile Lisa LC. This is the story of a police inspector in southern France who encounters small town issues like  family feuds as well big world problems such as racism and the complexities created by the EU and the euro. (J Lisa likes it as well.)

Donna Leon’s Commissario Guido Brunetti mystery series – J Lisa C looks forward to every installment of this series. The books offer a chance to live a bit with a inspector, his wife and his two children – all of whom she admires. It also transports you to Venice  – not a bad place to vacation, even if only in your mind.

Both Lisas love and recommend: Maisie Dobbs novels – A series of books by Jacqueline Winspear that transport the reader into post WWI England and allows insight into what it takes for people and countries to recover from such massive devastation. Louise Penny’s novels set in southern Quebec also made our cut.  We love the main dectective – Inspector Gamache, his family and the characters he befriends as the mysteries unfold.

Because we can’t stop talking about books, we also mentioned the following books, many of which are definitely not mysteries: Lovely Bones by Alice Sebold – In The Woods reminded Lisa LC of The Lovely Bones – a best-selling book told from the perspective of a dead child. Still Alice by Lisa Genova – The well-told story of 50-year-old Harvard professor Alice Howland as she grapples with early-onset Alzheimer’s disease. Wit, A Play by Margaret Edson – A one woman play about living with cancer and dying with grace. Just Kids by Patti Smith – The best selling memoir of life as an artist and life spent loving an artist. The Tower, the Zoo and the Tortoise by Julia Stuart – A tale of a beefeater, his wife and their tortoise and of course, the Tower of London.

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