Literature of the Emerald Isle

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“Top of the morning to you, dear bibliophiles!”

They say absence makes the heart grow fonder and what a mighty big absence I’ve had from writing on this blog. The last time I posted was in August 2016, which was during my first year of full time teaching English and Humanities. 🍎 During my first year of teaching (and the years that followed) I have been sleep deprived, caffeine dependent and a professional busy bee. I preach all the time to my students about the importance of taking time out for yourself, but alas, do not follow my own words of advice. So I am hoping to change this pattern in 2019 and put time aside each week to do some writing of my own on Miss Book Dependent.

Although writing for myself has dropped off over the past two years, I have managed to maintain a regular reading schedule. In 2017, I read a total of 47 books and last year managed a total of 51 books. Reflecting over the 51 books I read for 2018, I noticed a pattern emerging. A lot of the books I was either reading or listening too were written by Irish writers. FEMALE Irish writers! 🙂 This was extremely unintentional on my part, but it made my literary heart soar with pride! You see, my Dad was born in Dublin and immigrated to Australia when he was four years old. The emerald isle has a huge place in my heart, as I grew up hearing so many stories of Ireland.

I had the opportunity to travel to Ireland when I was 21 and I absolutely didn’t want to leave. One of my favourite things about Dublin was the city’s appreciation of good literature. I visited The Book of Kells at Trinity College, The Irish Writer’s museum and managed to spot various literary statues around the city. I came home with all these books from James Joyce and Oscar Wilde to add to my collection.

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One of my favourite literary hot spots in Dublin was Oscar Wilde’s childhood home ☘️

Now as a 26 year old, I’m falling in love with Modern Irish Literature. Ireland has such a variety of beautiful landscapes and I love feeling like I’ve been transported there in a book. Here are the four novels I have read over the last few months set in Ireland. Don’t mind me, I’m just trying to read my way through Ireland one book at a time…

Sally Rooney’s ‘Normal People’

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Out of all the books I read in 2018, ‘Normal People’ was my favourite.

The story follows Connell and Marianne who grow up together in Sligo and have absolutely nothing in common, except for the fact that Connell’s mother works for Marianne’s family. Hidden away from the pressures of high school, Connell is no longer the popular guy and Marianne no longer an isolated loser. The the two are able to strike up an extremely private friendship and romance that spans over a number of years.

This story is told from both Marianne and Connell’s perspectives. I must admit that I am always apprehensive about a split narrative from the perspective of a male and female couple. I always feel like the male voice is either too aggressive or overdone. I must say, Sally Rooney writes from the perspective of Connell perfectly. Ultimately, I fell head over heels for both of them, faults and all.

Sally Rooney is an absolutely extraordinary writer and has become one of my favourites. I’d read her shopping list if it was available. There was this moment in ‘Normal People’ when Marianne was at a party with Connell and just needed him to look her. It was such a simple scene, but I felt Marianne’s longing. When you read it, you’ll understand.

🍵🍵🍵🍵🍵/5

(I’ve actually been listening to this book again because I love it so much. #readingrepeater)

‘Conversations with Friends.’ (Listened to this on Audible) 

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I loved ‘Normal People’ so much that as soon as I finished it I downloaded Sally Rooney’s first novel ‘Conversations with Friends’ on audible. I was delighted to hear that the same narrator Aoife McMahon was reading this book. Her voice is soooooo beautiful.

The story follows two college students and former lovers, Frances and Bobbi, who perform spoken poetry together. They are spotted by an older journalist Melissa who sees potential in their work and introduces the girls into her circle of friends. Frances, Bobbi, Melissa and Melissa’s husband Nick become tangled in this very complicated relationship. (*Sigh.* Emphasis on complicated.)

I have so many feelings about this book and have been struggling to write it down. I loved that this story had two characters who were very open with their sexuality, however I didn’t personally like any of the characters. This sounds so negative of me to write, but I honestly found that they were all horrible people and didn’t feel sorry for any of them. After finishing this story, I came to the belief that Sally Rooney needed to write this story so she could go on to create ‘Normal People.’ If you read the two (especially back to back like I did), you can see so many similarities between Frances and Marianne and Connell. Although I would rate this book 2.5-3 out of 5, I would actually go back and read this book. Sally Rooney has such a charm about her writing that I can’t explain. You just have to read her stories to understand.

🍵🍵🍵/5

Dervla McTiernan’s ‘The Ruin’ (Cormac Reilly #1) 

My dear book bunny Arnold could not put this book down..

“It’s not a secret if a third person knows about it…” 

Crime Thrillers are my favourite kind of story to read. I read them faster as I’m sucked into their fast moving plots and constant second guessing of character’s motives.

Dervla McTiernan’s ‘The Rúin’ is set in Galway and follows Garda Cormac Reilly’s reopening of his first case from 20 years earlier. Cormac is a really intelligent protagonist both psychologically and socially and he was really interesting to follow. This story has many layers and I loved how it all unraveled without feeling like the story was too complicated to follow.

This book was really well written and kept me guessing the entire way through. Initially I was suss on Cormac’s relationship with his partner Emma as it is extremely private. I realise now that it is intended to be so that it can be explored in further novels. McTiernan has beautifully set up a sequel and I am eagerly awaiting Cormac Reilly’s second novel called ‘The Scholar’ in April this year!

🍵🍵🍵🍵/5

Anna Burns’ ‘Milkman.’ (Listened to this on Audible)  

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Like other readers, I really enjoy following books nominated for literary prizes. Last Year, Sally Rooney’s novel ‘Normal People’, Donal Ryan’s ‘From A Low and Quiet Sea’ and Anna Burns’ ‘Milkman’ were all nominated for the Man Booker Prize. GO IRISH LITERATURE. And Anna Burns won! I downloaded this story immediately after this was released.

‘Milkman’ is set in an unnamed city (most likely Belfast) and is told from the perspective of “Middle Sister” in a town where everyone appears to be watching themselves and the people around them.  I was so into this story when I started. I loved that Middle sister referred to her boyfriend as “going on a year maybe boyfriend” and no one used their real names.

I listened to this story as an audio book and I think that was a mistake. (Although, the narration is brilliant.) The narrative is jumpy and hard to follow at times, so I would recommend reading this as a hard copy. There is no direct timeline of this story and I could only guess it was in the 1970’s due to some pop culture references. The concept of surveillance was really interesting, but I found the book a bit too long. Middle Sister was  too naive for me and I felt she needed to be more informed to tell this tale.

🍵🍵🍵/5

I’ll be on the lookout for more Irish Literature to add to my reading list in 2019. Do you have any favourite books set in Ireland? I’d love to know in the comments below.

And as the Irish say in farewell..

“Cheerio!” 🍀

 

Happy Reading,

Miss Book Dependent 🍵

 

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