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March 11, 2022
Milkman by Anna Burns
This book is easily in my top 5 books of all time. The novel is set in Northern Ireland during The Troubles. The protagonist is an 18 year old girl who doesn’t quite fit in anywhere, and is searching for her path to her future all while being pursued by an older man and dealing with the political strife and violence of her time. While the horrors of The Troubles are clear in this book, the reader is also forced to think about the role of violence (in all its forms) and communication in all relationships. The setting and the theme could have easily made for a depressing book, but you will find yourself laughing aloud at times and racing to get to the end of the chapter to see what happens next. If you enjoy listening to books, this one also has a wonderful reader. There is no doubt in my mind why this was awarded the Booker Prize.
Say Nothing by Patrick Radden Keefe
This is a non-fiction book and one written by an Irish American investigative journalist. It makes a wonderful follow up (or I supposed preface) to Milkman. The book is about the 1972 kidnapping, disappearance and murder of a young mother Jean McConville in Northern Ireland and the role of Dolores Price in that abduction and murder. While heavily researched and filled with details and questions, this book reads like a novel. The main players of the story are rich and complex. Keefe does an amazing job keeping his political feelings out of it, allowing the reader to see each IRA member, each British soldier, each person as just that, a flawed person.
Angela’s Ashes by Frank McCourt
This is American born author Frank McCourt's memoir. The narrator is a young Frank, telling mostly of his life in Ireland after his family had to move back because of his father’s alcoholism and inability to keep a job. Despite terrible poverty and other sad occurrences throughout his childhood, the child narrator’s innocence allows for some, albeit light, comic relief.
Dubliners by James Joyce
This is a collection of short stories originally published in 1914. While the stories do not connect, each has a character experiencing an epiphany. These stories were written at the height of Irish Nationalism, which Joyce found to be paralyzing, another theme of the stories. Joyce is best known for Ulysses or Finnegan’s Wake, two very long and complicated books. If you have experienced either of those and dreaded the experience, don’t let that scare you away from these short, entertaining and powerful stories.
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