There’s a great tradition of storytelling in Irish culture. In the old days, bards were well- respected in Hibernian society. They were part of the court of a king or chieftain; they told tales of heroism, and passed down the oral tradition of mixing history with tall tales. Our modern Irish writers are no less gifted today. To purchase a featured book, click on the title in red.
Patrick Taylor is very much in the forefront of current Irish authors of note. I highly recommend his series of books about the little Irish village of Ballybucklebo. Dr. Fingal Flahertie O’Reilly is the town’s crusty old general practitioner; I suggest you start your reading not with the latest book in the series, but rather with the beginning of O’Reilly’s story, A DUBLIN STUDENT DOCTOR. The time is the 1930’s. Much against his father’s wishes, O’Reilly journeys to the big city to study medicine. In the midst of poverty, disease, and suffering, the young doctor must learn to control his heart as well as learn his craft.
Patrick Taylor is a distinguished medical researcher, originally from Bangor, County Down, Northern Ireland. He writes with tremendous insight, and characters that might be flat and stereotypical in other hands spring to life as real people on the pages of Taylor’s books. AN IRISH COUNTRY GIRL features Mrs. Kinky Kincaid, the stalwart housekeeper who manages to keep it all together for the two busy doctors of Ballybucklebo. But she was once a young woman with hopes and dreams, and a rather extraordinary gift. Maureen O’Hanlon, as she was known in her youth, can see into the magical realm of spirits and fairies. On a fateful snowy day in 1922, she hears the terrifying wail of the banshees; after that, nothing will ever be quite the same.
Kevin O’Hara is an Irish-American writer who surely has the gift of storytelling. He was A LUCKY IRISH LAD, growing up in small town Massachusetts in the 1950’s and 1960’s. His Irish family endured many hardships, but never lost faith in America, and in the idea that all would go according to God’s plan. When O’Hara was sent to fight in Vietnam, it was his ability to make do and to cope that helped pulled him through. That, and the knowledge that he had the love and support of his family, and the strength from the faith they always cherished.
No Irish author is more beloved than Maeve Binchy. Everything she writes shows compassion and an understanding of ordinary people who become extraordinary as their story unfolds. The title character in MINDING FRANKIE is a motherless girl who is raised collectively by her Dublin community. When a social worker doesn’t understand the close-knit group, and threatens to take away the little girl to give her to what she considers a better family, the friends pull together to assure that Frankie will always receive all the love and caring they have to offer. I guarantee that if you have a tender heart, and love a good story, you won’t be able to stop with just one Maeve Binchy book. Go all the way back to her first success, “Light A Penny Candle,”and work your way through, including the book and DVD of “Circle of Friends.” The delight in Binchy’s books is largely in discovering how her characters are interweaved in each other’s lives; a minor player in one book becomes the most important person in the next.
No roundup of Irish writers can be complete without mentioning Morgan Llywelyn. Though born in Texas, she has lived in Ireland for many years, and truly exemplifies the Irish soul. Her great saga of Irish independence begins in “1916,” and includes “1949,” “1972,” and “1999.” If you only have time for one book in the series, it should be “1921,” about the pivotal year of the Irish Civil War, and the separation of the country in north and south. The truth about the conflict between two giants of Irish history, Eamon de Valera and Michael Collins, is debated to this day. If you can, read the chronicle from start to finish. Like her friend Maeve Binchy, Llywelyn also incorporates characters from one novel into the next. Anyone with any interest in Irish history should also pick up Llywelyn’s acclaimed classic “Lion of Ireland.” It was the declared favorite book of President Ronald Reagan, no slouch himself when it came to telling a great story.
There are so many other Irish authors to be mentioned; Yeats and Wilde and Beckett, Shaw and Behan and Joyce, to name but a few. The list goes on and on, because as long as there’s a person left on Earth who loves to hear a good story, there’ll be someone Irish to tell it.
Michall Jeffers is an accomplished Cultural Journalist, an avowed bibliophile, and a lover of nearly all things Irish. She writes extensively, both in print and online. Her eponymous cable TV show is syndicated throughout the tri-state area, and features celebrity interviews, reviews, and commentary. Michall is a voting member of National Book Critics Circle. www.michalljeffers.com