Reading Ireland: Where to begin?

readingirelandAfter a few days musing on authors from Wales I’m now going to hop across the sea to do homage to my Celtic cousins via Reading Ireland Month. I missed the event hosted by Cathy of 746books and Niall of The Fluff is Raging last year but am geared up for this year’s month long event.

I have three books in mind but will probably only manage one of them. I’m just not sure which of them to pick.

Do I go for….

Ancient Light by John Banville. In it an old actor recalls his schoolboy affair with a woman twice his age.  I bought this in 2013 on my first visit to the Hay Book Festival where he was one of the featured authors  He was a wonderful interviewee, full of anecdotes about the craft of writing (with a fountain pen if he is writing a John Banville novel but a biro when he writes as Benjamin Black). I’d only read The Sea by him previously but loved its lyricism so immediately the session finished I sped over to the bookshop and got a signed copy of Ancient Light. But its stayed on my shelf all this time.


Devoted Ladies by Molly Keane. This is her fifth novel but will be my first experience. I’ve seen her lauded by so many bloggers I simply have to explore her work. This one is set in fashionable, chic London rather than her usual world in Ireland.  It shocked readers at the time because it dealt with a a stormy relationship between a lesbian couple.

or my final choice ..

Brooklyn by Colm Tóibín. If this is anywhere as good as Nora Webster which was one of my favourite books from 2015, then it will be a joyful experience. I’m deliberately choosing to ignore the film until I read the book.

All good options I think but which to I choose? Anyone care to make a recommendation???

About BookerTalk

What do you need to know about me? 1. I'm from Wales which is one of the countries in the UK and must never be confused with England. 2. My life has always revolved around the written and spoken word. I worked as a journalist for nine years then in international corporate communications 3. My tastes in books are eclectic. I love realism and hate science fiction and science fantasy. 4. I am trying to broaden my reading horizons geographically by reading more books in translation

Posted on March 3, 2016, in Irish authors, Reading Ireland and tagged , , . Bookmark the permalink. 27 Comments.

  1. I’ve read Brooklyn and I liked it. I couldn’t finish the Molly Keane I tried. (Billets on both available)
    I’d recommend the short stories True Believers by Joseph O’Connor. (billet also available)

  2. I’d opt for Brooklyn; everyone seems to have enjoyed it and you’ve the recent film to watch afterwards. I think it’s also the most famous of the three?

  3. I loved Nora Webster too and keep eyeing up Brooklyn which is very appealing!

  4. I loved Devoted Ladies, and I will probably read a Molly Keane as I must have five or six of her books tbr.

  5. Having read none of these books or authors, I have no clue. I own The Sea and just haven’t read it yet. I think I might be tempted with Brooklyn since you loved the other one written by him so much. Tough call! 🙂

  6. Brooklyn would be my choice. I love Colm Toibin – a fantastic writer.

  7. I’d go for Brooklyn (since you loved Nora Webster so much), with the Molly Keane as the ‘runner-up’!

  8. I haven’t read any of these—though they sound good—but I’m going to add to your list and suggest In The Woods by Tana French. She’s one of the best writers on earth (in my opinion!)

  9. I have the pre-conception in my head (on no other grounds than “because”) that the two men are rather *earnest* and I fear rather heavy and Not My Type. I think this is why I’ve avoided both authors. Haven’t heard, much less read, Webster, so part of me is inclined to suggest her.

  10. I’ve read both Nora Webster and Brooklyn (there’s reviews of both at mine) and am a bit Toibin fan. I think Brooklyn is actually the better novel of the two, so you owe yourself that. I also liked Anne Enright’s The Forgotten Waltz which is very different and deals among other things with the relatively recent Irish financial crisis, but that’s not on your shortlist.

  11. If you loved Nora Webster I think you should also like Brooklyn. I’m not big on John Banville and have never tried Molly Keane. You might also consider The Green Road by Anne Enright or The Spinning Heart by Donal Ryan.

  12. I’m an independent bookseller in Canada- I revere each of this writing trio. Having read each choice myself I’ll tell you what I’d tell a friend or customer: go with your ‘gut. ‘ “Nora Webster” was one of your (& my) 2015 favourites so you may unwittingly make unconscious comparisons. That would be unfortunate as both those Toibin novels are brilliant. Breathe deeply & go with your instinct. Literary passion never steers us of course. The beauty is that you can read the other 2 later! 🍷 Best, Kelly- Bibliobroads 🇨🇦📚

    • Love the philosophy:)
      You know what is likely to happen is that I decide on the book and then come the day I am ready to make a start, I will invariably chose one of the others

  13. Glad to have you on board. I’m looking forward to your thoughts on Ancient Light

  14. Brroklyn, but that’s because I have seen the film and it was perfection. And the book is always better than the film, right? 😉

  15. I’m not going to help, but I’m thinking Angela’s Ashes, or nonfiction: How the Irish Saved Civilization (Thomas Cahill, 1995)

  16. The only one I have read is Brooklyn and I loved it, although I would love to vicariously enjoy the Molly Keane with you!

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