As always there are a huge variety of books available as
gifts this Christmas which in an increasingly harsh economic climate offer
wonderful value and, when chosen properly, are immensely and deeply appreciated.
For the historian there is the wonderful Ireland: A History by Tom Bartlett. This is a witty,
informative and engrossing book debunking all the established myths relating to
our past and awash with new and challenging interpretations of the effects of
such watershed events as the 1798 Rebellion, the Great Famine and the 1916
Rebellion. It is an absorbing read.
Too many of the great books of Irish life and culture are
difficult and hard to get. This year has seen a number of reprints such as The
Card of the Gambler by Ben Kiely and The Life of Riley by
Anthony Cronin but perhaps the most delightful reprint of all is The Farm by Lough Gur by Mary Carbery. First published in 1937,
this is a snapshot of life in Rural Ireland before The Land War. It offers a
full and convincing description of a strong farm family in post famine Munster
and the narration is warm and comforting, yet sharp and incisive.
Moving to more modern times, Ryan Tubridy brings us back to those
four days in June 1963 when Ireland played host to John F. Kennedy. In his
wonderfully researched and profusely illustrated book JFK in Ireland: Four
Days that Changed a President, Tubridy evokes an Ireland long gone
and brings us back to those halcyon days when we thought the world was our
Tom Garvin’s News From A New Republic surveys
the Ireland of the nineteen fifties. While the economies of the rest of world
expanded, Ireland’s actually and contracted thousands emigrated. He identifies
the causes of this and traces the rise of the generation that carried Ireland
into the free trade boom of the sixties. In his Down Down Deeper and Down, Eamonn Sweeney brings us the Ireland of the seventies and eighties
a turbulent, dramatic and unpredictable time when hundreds and thousands
protested on our streets, when strikes were endemic, women fought for equal pay
and Irish Gays came out of the closet. It was a period rocked by political and
economic controversy and wasn’t too different from today.
Moving to the Ireland of today, Lorna Siggins’s book Once
Upon a Time in the West is an even handed, fully researched and
carefully narrated account of the Corrib Gas Controversy. As a journalist Siggins has been covering
this controversy for the Irish Times since its outset and in this book she
unravels the twists and turns of this divisive and fascinating human drama
which has bedevilled North Mayo since the mid eighties. This is a most
informative book for the normal punter.
Kieran Hickey’s Deluge describes in some
detail Ireland’s Weather disasters in 2009 and 2010 when the country suffered
severe flooding unusual near Arctic temperatures not to mention Volcanic Ash
and the first ever Earthquake in County Clare. This is an intriguing book
giving full vein to the Irish delight in discussing the weather but also
underlining the serious implications global change.
Staying local, just published is William Henry’s Galway
Through Time and Tide consists of a wide ranging and intriguing
articles on Galway’s History and is perfect for a Fireside read. The articles deal with such diverse subjects
as the Great Famine, Christmases of Galway past, Eva of the Nation, the Battle
of Athenry 1316, Galway’s involvement in the Congo and the Galway connection
As Gaeilge, tá cnuasacht fhilíochta Learaí Phádraic Learaí
Uí Fhínneadha curtha amach ag Cló Iar Chonnachta eagraithe ag Gearóid Denvir
faoin teidil Sé an Saol an Máistir. Bailiúchán den scoth atá
annseo a mbeidh an suimiúl do muinntir Bearna agus a timpeallacht.
There are, of course, the usual crop of novels perhaps the
most notable being Joe O’Connor’s Ghost Light, Ken
Bruen’s The Devil and
Hugo Hamilton’s Hand in the Fire. Also worthy of note is Dick
Donaghue’s Dance of the Mocking Birds invoking the Dublin of the
seventies and telling in a wonderfully laconic style the story of two misfits
on a voyage of self discovery.
Rita Anne Higgins’s collection of essays and poetry Hurting
God is an intense spiritual autobiography written in the now
recognisable sharp and honest style, finally finding peace in the bogs around
Spiddal. Voices at the World End edited by Paddy Bushe is the fascinating result of a sojourn on Skellig Michael
of some twelve poets and one photographer. The resulting anthology of prose and
poetry is part travel writing, part meditative day-book, part natural history
and part response to the history of faith on this pinnacle of rock.
Over the last year a new press called Little Island have
been publishing books specifically designed for teenagers. Among the first crop
was the delightful Prim Improper written by Deirdre Sullivan. The
whole series is delightful but Deirdre’s, who hails from Knocknacarra, book is,
in the words of one thirteen year old who has read it, BRILLANT.
For younger readers there is the extraordinary book The
Tale of Lundravar the Dragon by John Blakey. This tells the story
of a little lost dragon who hatches from his egg many centuries after all of
the dragons had been vanquished. Full of
beautiful and delightful illustrations the story is a wonderful fantasy full of
magic, glee and charm. Also just reprinted is Patricia Lynch’s wonderful Tales
of Irish Enchantment illustrated by Sara Baker. This allows both
children and adults alike to indulge in the wonderfully fantastical world of
Patricia Lynch from the heroic tale of Cuchulainn to the humour story of the
Kingdom of the Dwarves helping them as I hope and wish you all to have, a
wonderful and Happy Christmas.