The shelves of American libraries are full of Irish narratives. Indeed, the story of America itself is strongly shaped by the Irish. Celebrate today—and every day of the year—with examples of Ireland’s extraordinary literary gifts to readers. Here are but five choices.
- Days Without End by Sebastian Barry (Viking).
Barry won his second Costa Book Award for this novel (the first was for The Secret Scripture). With arresting prose and a stunning sense of scale, it tells of Thomas McNulty, an Irish migrant fleeing the famine of the 1850s. Enlisting in the U.S. Army, he falls in love with a fellow soldier. The novel spins out as the two forge a life together.
- The Things I Should Have Told You by Carmel Harrington (Harper).
A popular voice in Irish publishing, often compared to the beloved Maeve Binchy, Harrington focuses her books on relationships, with a strong emotional overlay. Here she relates the story of a family falling apart and how they are brought back together.
- The Dead by James Joyce (Coyote Canyon).
One of literature’s most perfect short stories, Joyce’s iconic tale concludes his collection Dubliners. On the surface, it recounts a party in Dublin, brimming with various personal, political, and social interactions. However, its thematic weight moves far past the concerns of the guests to a meditation on the way the dead shape the living.
- The Lesser Bohemians by Eimear McBride (Hogarth: Crown).
Baileys Women’s Prize for Fiction winner McBride (for 2014’s A Girl Is a Half-Formed Thing) makes the long list for that award again this year for this new novel. Known as a style powerhouse, she here turns her skills of creating voice and character to a coming-of-age story.
- Brooklyn by Colm Tóibín (Scribner).
Adapted into an Oscar-nominated film, this lovely, aching, and melancholy novel centers on choices and finding one’s way. Faced with dwindling prospects, Eilis Lacey leaves Ireland for Brooklyn and builds a fledgling life for herself. Changes bring her back home, however, and force her to confront who she wants to be.