Friday Reads: Irish Lit


“I will arise and go now, for always night and day/I hear lake water lapping with low sounds by the shore;/While I stand on the roadway, or on the pavements grey/I hear it in the deep heart’s core.”

– William Butler Yeats, from “The Lake Isle of Innisfree”


As St. Patrick’s Day approaches this Sunday, and in celebration of Irish-American Heritage Month, we are again showcasing great literature by Irish writers —classic, contemporary, crime novels, cozies, and award-winning—for your reading foray into the Emerald Isle:


Old God's Time by Sebastian BarryOLD GOD’S TIME by Sebastian Barry

From the five-time Booker Prize nominee and 2018-2021 Laureate for Irish Fiction, Old God’s Time is a virtuosic, profound novel exploring love, memory, grief, and long-buried secrets

Recently retired policeman Tom Kettle is settling into the quiet of his new home, a lean-to annexed to a Victorian castle overlooking the Irish Sea. For months he has barely seen a soul, catching only glimpses of his eccentric landlord and a nervous young mother who has moved in next door. Occasionally, fond memories return of his family: his beloved wife June and their two children, Winnie and Joe. But when two former colleagues turn up at his door with questions about a decades-old case, one which Tom never quite came to terms with, he finds himself pulled into the darkest currents of his past.


Dirty Laundry by Disha BoseDIRTY LAUNDRY: A NOVEL by Disha Bose


Ciara Dunphy has it all—a loving husband, well-behaved children, and a beautiful home. Her circle of friends in their small Irish village go to her for tips about mothering, style, and influencer success—after all, a picture-perfect life is easy money on Instagram. But behind the filters, reality is less polished…Ciara is found murdered in her pristine home, and the house of cards she’d worked so hard to build comes crumbling down. Everyone seems to have something to gain from Ciara’s death, so if they don’t want the blame, it may be the perfect time to air their enemies’ dirty laundry.


The Hunter by Tana FrenchTHE HUNTER: A NOVEL by Tana French

“Hailed as the queen of Irish crime fiction, French spins a taut tale of retribution, sacrifice, and family.”—TIME

It’s a blazing summer when two men arrive in a small village in the West of Ireland. One of them is coming home. Both of them are coming to get rich. One of them is coming to die. The Hunter is a nuanced, atmospheric tale that explores what we’ll do for our loved ones, what we’ll do for revenge, and what we sacrifice when the two collide.


IRISH MILKSHAKE MURDER by Carlene O’Connor, Peggy Ehrhart, Liz Ireland

Raise a glass for St. Paddy’s Day but keep a shamrock handy because some of these minty milkshakes are made with murder!




The End of the World Is a Cul de Sac by Louise KennedyTHE END OF THE WORLD IS A CUL DE SAC: STORIES by Louise Kennedy

Brilliant, dark stories of women’s lives by “a very major talent” (Joseph O’Connor, The Irish Times)

In these visceral, stunningly crafted stories by the author of the much-acclaimed Trespasses, women’s lives are etched by deprivation—material, emotional, sexual—but also splashed by beauty, sometimes even joy, as they search for the good in the cards they’ve been dealt.


The Star-Child by Oscar WildeTHE STAR-CHILD: STORIES by Oscar Wilde

With warmth, tenderness and quiet wit, Oscar Wilde’s fables and fairy tales have moved and delighted for generations. In far-off kingdoms and ocean realms, in the company of giants and nightingales, Wilde speaks of heartbreak and redemption, of cruelty and compassion, of love lost, of love gained, of love lasting. Included in this selection are stories from The Happy Prince and A House of Pomegranates.


Kala by Colin WalshKALA: A NOVEL by Colin Walsh

In the seaside town of Kinlough, on Ireland’s west coast, three old friends are thrown together for the first time in years. They—Helen, Joe, and Mush—were part of an original group of six inseparable teenagers in the summer of 2003, with motherless, reckless Kala Lanann as their group’s white-hot center. Soon after that summer’s peak, Kala disappeared without a trace…Against the backdrop of a town suffocating on its own secrets, in a story that builds from a smolder to a stunning climax, Kala brilliantly examines the sometimes brutal costs of belonging, as well as the battle in the human heart between vengeance and forgiveness, despair and redemption.


The Rachel Incident by Caroline O'DonoghueTHE RACHEL INCIDENT: A NOVEL by Caroline O’Donoghue

Rachel is a student working at a bookstore when she meets James, and it’s love at first sight. Effervescent and insistently heterosexual, James soon invites Rachel to be his roommate and the two begin a friendship that changes the course of both their lives forever.  Together, they run riot through the streets of Cork city, trying to maintain a bohemian existence while the threat of the financial crash looms before them. When Rachel falls in love with her married professor, Dr. Fred Byrne, James helps her devise a reading at their local bookstore, with the goal that she might seduce him afterwards. But Fred has other desires…


When You Are Old by William Butler YeatsWHEN YOU ARE OLD: EARLY POEMS, PLAYS, AND FAIRY TALES by William Butler Yeats

The poems, prose, and drama gathered in When You Are Old present a fresh portrait of the Nobel Prize–winning writer as a younger man: the 1890s aesthete who dressed as a dandy, collected Irish folklore, dabbled in magic, and wrote heartrending poems for his beloved, the beautiful, elusive Irish revolutionary Maud Gonne. Included here are such celebrated, lyrical poems as “The Lake Isle of Innisfree” and “He Wishes for the Cloths of Heaven,” as well as Yeats’s imaginative retellings of Irish fairytales—including his first major poem, “The Wanderings of Oisin,” based on a Celtic fable—and his critical writings, which offer a fascinating window onto his artistic theories. Through these enchanting works, readers will encounter Yeats as the mystical, lovelorn bard and Irish nationalist popular during his own lifetime.


Pond by Claire-Louise BennettPOND by Claire Louise-Bennett

Pond captures with utterly mesmerizing virtuosity the interior reality of its unnamed protagonist, a young woman living a singular and mostly solitary existence on the outskirts of a small coastal village. Sidestepping the usual conventions of narrative, it focuses on the details of her daily experience—from the best way to eat porridge or bananas to an encounter with cows—rendered sometimes in story-length, story-like stretches of narrative, sometimes in fragments no longer than a page, but always suffused with the hypersaturated, almost synesthetic intensity of the physical world that we remember from childhood.


Ireland by William TrevorIRELAND by William Trevor

William Trevor has long been hailed as one of the greatest living writers of short fiction. These nineteen stories–selected by Trevor himself–capture the nuances of rural and middle-class life in the Ireland he knows so well. Here are its people, their lives driven by love, faith, and duty, surviving in a culture that blends tradition with transformation.


The Queen of Dirt Island by Donal RyanTHE QUEEN OF DIRT ISLAND: A NOVEL by Donal Ryan

“From its opening pages, this book exerts a quiet, propulsive hold over its reader. The three generations of Aylward women will break your heart and then put it back together again.” –Maggie O’Farrell




For more on these and other Irish titles visit the collection Irish Lit

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Posted: March 19, 2024