March 2018, Irish Authors are Smiling

I don’t remember consciously choosing Irish stories until Mel started to host the Irish Short Story event in 2011, but since I was nine, there have been Irish authors on my shelves.

Nonetheless, for the past ten years on the 17th of March, I’ve had Bubble and Squeak on my plate and “Kiss Me, I’m Irish” socks on my feet. Sometimes soda bread. Sometimes a pint.

This year, the Irish reading is a little light, but I’m finishing some other reading projects this year, so the shamrock-laden tomes have had to get in line.

Below is a sampling of the Irish authors I’m reading this March.

Cathy at 746 Books has assembled a list of 100 Irish novels (I’ve only read 14) and maintains a page devoted to Irish books as well, comprised of posts from her reading.

We’re only halfway through March, and it’s not even St. Patty’s Day yet, so if you’re interested in participating, the event is outlined here.

I had planned originally to read a few classics but then I heard an interview on the BBC which landed one boook on my stack.

Then, Liz’s Murdoch-a-long brought a reread onto the stack for this month.

And I was looking to share in Mel’s love of Irish short stories too.

And there’s another too – one I’ve longed to read for ages.

Curious how far behind I am with my podcast listening?

This episode of BBC’s “Open Book” from 2014 got me interested in Niall Williams.

This book sounded delightfully bookish and I can’t resist a bookish book: can you?

From the cover and the blurbs, I’m not sure whether he is more like Maeve Binchy or American author Anne Tyler (this cover particularly brings Dinner at the Homesick Restaurant to mind).

Doesn’t matter: I’ve enjoyed both over the years, so I am willing to try.

Opening lines:

“I do not know what words to write. There have been so many words written already. So many endings and beginnings. I have lost my faith.”

I first read The Severed Head in 2001 for a small women’s bookclub.

At the time I was a Murdoch newbie, and had only contemplated reading The Sea, The Sea previously.

That was because I loved A.S. Byatt’s Possession and it won the Booker Prize, so the fact that The Sea, The Sea had also won that prize recommended it to me. (That’s why I read Ben Okri’s The Famished Road too; I had not yet properly understood how much prize juries can vary from year to year!)

But I didn’t have a copy of The Sea, The Sea. However, I did have a copy of literary essays by A.S. Byatt and Ignès Sodre which considered the works of six women writers and one of those was Iris Murdoch’s An Unofficial Rose.

But I didn’t have a copy of An Unofficial Rose either. I had a copy of The Severed Head. And that is sometimes how it goes.

Opening Lines:

“‘You’re sure she doesn’t know?’ said Georgie.
‘Antonia? About us? Certain.'”

For a long time, I collected any William Trevor book that I found in a second-hand shop. At some point, I realised that I had multiple copies of the same book, because they have been reissued with different titles in North America. It didn’t seem excessive: Trevor is worth reading in multiples.

Nonetheless, when it came to reading his stories this month, I wanted to get serious and requested the Collected volume from the library.

Mr. BIP accompanied me to the library that day. There is always good-natured teasing about the number of books I bring home. That day there was additional, still good-natured, teasing about the size of that one.

I was not deterred. Only disappointed that the collected-ness of it only extends to 1992. But – imagine how much bigger the volume would be to include the stories he wrote afterwards.

Opening Lines:

“‘I am Mrs da Tanka,’ siad Mrs da Tanka. ‘Are you Mr Mileson?’
The man nodded, and they walked together the length of the platform, seeking a compartment that might offer them a welcome, or failing that, and they knew the more likely, simple privacy.”

How I loved Edna O’Brien’s short stories. They are stunning. 

And, so, I have been itching to read The Country Girls for years.

I’ve collected parts of it and there, too, (as with the Trevor volumes) been foiled by reissues (the second volume bearing more than one title); the other time I seriously began, I soon realised that my “collection” was incomplete, two copies of one part, no copies of another.

And, so, now a library loan has resolved the matter and I have properly begun.

Opening Lines:

“I wakened quickly and sat up in bed abruptly. It is only when I am anxious that I waken easily and for a minute I did not know why my heart was beating faster than usual. Then I remembered. The old reason. He had not come home.”

Any #IrishLiterature for you?



  1. Kat March 29, 2018 at 10:57 pm - Reply

    Oh my goodness, it sounds to me as though you’re immersed in Irish literature, as well as Murdoch (and I only found out about the Irish lit reading tonight, as I am finally catching up on blogs). I, too, love William Trevor, and now you make me want to get his stories off the shelf. He was truly one of the greats.

    • Buried In Print April 3, 2018 at 9:45 am - Reply

      I think it’s less than a year since I fully understood that Iris Murdoch was born in Ireland: I’d always thought of her as an English writer through-and-through. And I can relate to the out-of-touch-ness that happens when there is a long gap between blog-hops. I don’t like to do it in a rush, but waiting for the time when one can concentrate properly on visiting and reading can be tricky, and often weeks pass while I am out of the proverbial loop.

  2. The Reading Life March 23, 2018 at 4:29 am - Reply

    Was a bit slow getting started on Irish Short Stories this month but picking up now, I have read two stories from Dubliners, two just published stories by Dublin residents, one by Bram Stoker, “The Springs of Affection” by Maeve Brennan, and my favourite gothic story by Joseph Sheridan la Fanu. Trevor is a master. I find him almost overpowering in that I cannot binge read his stories.

    • Buried In Print April 3, 2018 at 9:42 am - Reply

      I was thinking that even though this volume of his collected stories is impressive as a library loan, I really do want to have a copy of it on my own shelves, so that I can slowly read through them, without giving a duedate any thought. They are also often very long (like some of Munro’s stories), even though they are often inviting in tone, so they sometimes require a significant time commitment even for just one story. I’m going to have a look for a printed copy of Le Fanu to read that story you posted about: it sounds magical.

  3. Naomi March 20, 2018 at 3:17 pm - Reply

    Well, I guess this answers the question I asked you before about whether or not you were reading anything Irish this month!
    That Niall Williams book sounds good. And I liked William Trevor’s Nights At the Alexandra.
    I haven’t read anything by Lessing or Edna O’Brien, but I did notice the other day that I had one of O’Brien’s books that I had forgotten about. Maybe I’ll save that one for next year. Not that I need to ‘save’ any – I’m sure more will always show up!

    • Buried In Print April 3, 2018 at 9:39 am - Reply

      And now you’ve answered the question that I just asked on your post about Boyne and O’Farrell, as to whether you’ve read any Edna O’Brien. Hah. And, yes, the idea of saving an Irish book for next year makes me giggle: I find myself thinking the same thing, but then March is here and gone again and plenty of Irish writers have landed on my TBR in the meantime – you too, I’m sure!

  4. iliana March 19, 2018 at 3:18 pm - Reply

    I have enjoyed a couple of William Trevor’s books but still haven’t managed to read Iris Murdoch. By chance I did start a new book last night, Too Close to Breathe by Olivia Kiernan, a Irish crime writer to watch according to several bookish sources! 🙂

    • Buried In Print March 19, 2018 at 3:28 pm - Reply

      Cuz it’d be a cough crime to miss out on Irish fiction in this month in particular!

  5. Cathy746books March 18, 2018 at 11:48 am - Reply

    I do adore William Trevor, his short stories are majestic!

  6. heavenali March 17, 2018 at 6:26 am - Reply

    I’ve read and reviewed Mad Puppetstown by Molly Keane which was stunning. I also read The Forgotten Waltz Anne Enright which I still have to review. I didn’t love it as I thought I would. I’ve read a few William Trevor novels in the past, though none of his short stories. I imagine he would be a good short story writer.

    • Buried In Print March 18, 2018 at 11:13 am - Reply

      Your review of the Molly Keane has freshly ignited my interest in her work. I did love The Forgotten Waltz, but I can completely understand how it would not be a book for every reader. Did you love something else of hers that made you think there would be a tighter match? I’d like to read Trevor’s novels too: do you have a favourite? (They all look good to me. I’ve not seen any of the films based on them either.)

      • Heavenali March 18, 2018 at 11:40 am - Reply

        I read The Gathering and The Green Road by Enright and loved them but oh well.
        I haven’t read everything by William Trevor , I enjoyed The Story of Lucy Gault and Love and Summer very much. Felicia’s Journey was odd but excellent. I read At O’Neills Hotel which I wasn’t mad about but it has stayed with me.

        • Buried In Print March 18, 2018 at 12:13 pm - Reply

          I admired The Gathering but found it very challenging, so sorrow-soaked, but beautifully handled and shaped. At the time I think I was sure that I would never reread it but now I can imagine doing so. I’m looking forward to The Green Road. I’m interested in the idea of a Trevor which you weren’t especially fond of but haven’t shaken. Any theories on that?

  7. kaggsysbookishramblings March 16, 2018 at 5:42 am - Reply

    If I get organised, I’d really like to read some more Elizabeth Bowen!

    • Buried In Print March 16, 2018 at 3:14 pm - Reply

      I sympathize: I can hardly believe it’s the middle of March already!

    • The Reading Life March 23, 2018 at 4:30 am - Reply

      I love her work.

  8. A Life in Books March 16, 2018 at 3:28 am - Reply

    So many fine Irish writers, William Trevor being foremost among them, and so often that hint of melancholy.

    • Buried In Print March 16, 2018 at 3:14 pm - Reply

      That’s true. I feel the similarity there with many Canadian writers as well.

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