To contrast with a night of drinking Guinness and screaming “Slainte,” I’d recommend picking up some good Irish reads to round out the green month of March. My two recommendations were not on the designated Irish Reading Table at Denver’s, Tattered Cover, although there were some good reads there. Oscar Widle and James Joyce were the obvious choices, but I haven’t read Ulysses and writing a blog about The Importance of Being Earnest and Dubliners might sound a bit too much like an essay for some Freshman Western Lit college course.
The shamrocked decorated table also included Tony Hawks’s Round Ireland with a Fridge, which I purchased because I’ve heard great things about the tale of the guy who carried a fridge around the Emerald Isle. However, I haven’t read it yet – look for the review NEXT St. Patrick’s Day.
My favorite Irish story to date is Leon Uris’s Trinity. Uris is an American writer, so maybe that’s why Tattered Cover didn’t have a place for him on the Irish Reading Table. Then again, there wasn’t a single copy of his book in the entire store, so that might have had something to do with it also.
I read my former husband’s copy of the book three or four years ago, after he’d been pushing it on me for years. I wasn’t initially excited about the read. The book was thick, the yellowed pages featured very small print, and the dusty cover was not very interesting looking. Plus I’d just started my YA lit phase (which has yet to end), and Trinity was going to be a serious departure from slim books about teenage angst.
But since I’m here writing about it, you know I loved the book. First of all, my grasp on 19th century Ireland is much stronger after reading Trinity. I even read Uris’s description of Ireland’s potato famine and tales of the Irish sneaking into British lands to steal food aloud to my 8th grade students, and they were captivated by the tale (although the girth and obvious age of the book had them initially suspicious as well). The conflicts between the British and Irish, Protestants and Catholics, those who immigrated to America and those who stayed (often to fight for Irish independence) were portrayed with all their complicated nuances. The fictional stories of Conor, Seamus, and their extended families is what made the history interesting (even to 13 year old “urban youths”) and the book one of my favorites. Be sure to read it by next St. Patrick’s Day.
From Leon Uris, I’m moving on to Marian Keyes. Writing about these two authors in the same 700 words is a bit like writing about how smart Einstein and Dave Barry are. Yet, here we go.
I went through my chick-lit phase in my early twenties, passing around pink-jacketed books with my girlfriends along with our Steve Madden heels. Authors from across the pond were our favorites, (exception: Jen Lancaster) most likely due to Helen Fielding’s Bridget Jones’s Diary. We still exuberantly text each other when the Renee Zellweger flick comes on TV despite the fact that we all have copies of the movie.
Anyways, my chick-flick phase has (somewhat) come to an end, but I still read anything Marion Keyes writes. Her best batch of books chronicles the tales of five Irish sisters. Keyes is working on writing a book about each sister. The oldest sister’s husband takes off the day her baby girl is born, another sister loses her mind and takes off to L.A. for awhile, another get a tad too friendly with heroin, etc. The books are HILARIOUS. Reading them in order is not at all necessary. My favorite of this series is “Anybody Out There?”
I’m not even mentioning the plot as to not give anything away, but unexpected heartbreak comes with the expected hilarity in this one. I’ve read it over and over – usually in one sitting. Don’t start this book at night if you have to get up in the morning.
Uris and Keyes are the ultimate Irish-tale due for girly wanna-be history buffs. If you are of the male persuasion, you might want to skip Keyes and pick up Round Ireland with a Fridge instead. Let me know if it’s worth the read.
Leitheoireacht Shona…Happy Reading!