Sunday is Saint Patrick’s Day. What better way to celebrate the Irish holiday than by reading Irish fiction and fiction set in Ireland. Settle in with a pint of Guinness and find your weekend read on this list.
Milkman by Anna Burns
Milkman, a novel set in Northern Ireland in the 1970s, was the winner of the 2018 Man Booker Prize. Burns was the first Northern Irish to win the award. Milkman follows an 18-year-old protagonist and the harassment she receives from an old man called the milkman. Kwame Anthony Appiah called Burns’s voice “utterly distinctive” and her prose both “surprising and immersive.” https://themanbookerprize.com/news/anna-burns-wins-50th-man-booker-prize-milkman
“Bluebeard in Ireland” by John Updike
If Milkman doesn’t resonate with you, then perhaps a short story by one of America’s most prolific authors of the 20th century will better suit you. “Bluebeard in Ireland” is a modern take on the classic fable and explores the things we keep to ourselves in marriage. The story can be found in My Mother She Killed Me, My Father He Ate Me, an anthology of modern fairy tales edited by Anthology judge Kate Bernheimer with Carmen Gimenez Smith. Of Updike’s story, Smith says, “George and Vivian’s problem isn’t that they don’t love each other, but rather that love doesn’t invalidate the quiet darkness of every marriage.”
Ulysses by James Joyce
What list about Irish writers would be complete without reference to one of the greatest and most influential writers in modern history? James Joyce’s seminal novel, Ulysses, a novel utilizing the stream-of-consciousness, is set in Dublin in 1904. The novel parallels Homer’s epic Odyssey and is a staple of modernist literature.
The Dubliners by James Joyce
But maybe Joyce’s novels aren’t your thing, or you don’t have the time to digest Ulysses in one weekend. No worries! Turn instead to Joyce’s collection Dubliners. If you have to choose only one, I would suggest the collection’s concluding piece, “The Dead.”
Young Skins by Colin Barrett
Or how about something more modern? Look no farther than Colin Barrett’s gritty debut collection, Young Skins. Young Skins was published in 2014 and is filled with stories about the youth of Ireland. The collection won the Frank O’Connor International Short Story Award and the Guardian First Book Award in 2014.
The Sea by John Banville
The Sea is another Man Booker Prize winner, this award coming in 2005. Banville’s thirteenth novel, the book has been described by Banville as “a direct return to his childhood.”
The novel is narrated by Max Morden, an art historian and widower who returns to a village on the seaside where he’d spent a summer when he was growing up. The Sea is filled with Banville’s distinctive style, prose which Don DeLillo has called “dangerous and clear-running.” http://www.john-banville.com/books/the-book-of-evidence/