Friday, March 7, 2014

4 Reads for St. Patrick's Day

Spring break is around the corner.  Some colleges are starting their midterm breaks next week already!  What are you doing for spring break?  Traveling?  Going to a deliciously sunny beach?  Hanging out at home?  Whatever you're doing, you'll probably be stuck in a car, a plane, a bus, a train, or on a couch for some of the time.  So you're most likely going to need an entertaining book to keep you company.  Why not kill two birds with one book and read something festively Irish for St. Patrick's Day?  Sounds good to me!

In college I focused my studies on two areas of lit: feminism and Irish literature.  Irish lit is some of my favorite because it is usually beautifully sad and makes your heart hurt, but in a very compassionate and satisfying way that leaves you feeling more connected to humanity.  Ireland has gone through quite a lot of pain, and her children like to share their stories of hunger, political unrest, identity crises, and displaced loved ones through written word.  Most of the Irish lit I studied was contemporary, so I didn't focus a whole lot on long Joycean novels or Yeats poetry.  The books on this list are four of my absolute favorite works by Irish authors.  They also happen to be quite quick and readable, prefect for a spring break and your poor tired brains.  Even if you don't get a spring break because you now belong to "the real world", these are great for March reading.  Enjoy!

1. Dubliners by James Joyce
I know I said I didn't read long novels by Joyce in college, and that statement could have misled you to believe that JJ wouldn't be on this list, but he is.  Of course he is.  Dubliners is a lot different than his other works because it is a collection of short stories and because instead of using crazy modernist techniques, Dubliners is a realist's perspective of the citizens of Dublin in the 1910s when the collection was written.  This will definitely put you in an Ireland state of mind.  And if you only read one of the stories, read the last one "The Dead".

2. The Story of Lucy Gault by William Trevor
Ten-year-old Lucy Gault lives in a big old house with her mother and father on the Irish seaside in the 1920s.  When Lucy decides to run away in order to convince her family to stay in the house and not move to England to escape the Irish war, and her shoes are found on the beach, her parents make quick assumptions and rash decisions that affect the Gaults for the rest of their lives.  Be warned that this short novel is chest-achingly sad but beautifully explores themes of loss, forgiveness of self and others, patience, hope, and love.  All the important parts of life.  Lucy's story has haunted me since I first read it.

3. The Importance of Being Earnest by Oscar Wilde
Oscar Wilde may not have liked to admit it, but he was indeed an Irish author despite the fact that he left Ireland as soon as possible and identified as a British author and playwright.  The Importance of Being Earnest is one of my very favorite plays.  A man named John who leads somewhat of a double life as Ernest falls in love with a woman who claims to only be capable of loving an Ernest.  John's friend with the real and awesome name of Algernon decides to do a little pretending himself or "Bunburying" as he calls it, and everything gets humorously complicated as Ernest tries to win the affection of his mother-in-law to-be while keeping his double lives straight.  It is so witty and entertaining, a perfect short read for the break.  Or if you don't feel like reading it, simply watch the hilarious film version with Colin Firth as Ernest.

4. On Canaan's Side by Sebastian Barry
This is another terrificly sad story that follows one Irish woman's life from the time she immigrates to the United States as a very young woman to very old age.  Fate deals Lily a tough, tough hand, but it makes her a wonderfully strong individual and an intriguing character.  Having escaped the Anglo-Irish war by moving to Chicago with her boyfriend, Lily spends her whole life a wanderer looking for her place in America.  As in many of Barry's works, he focuses on the effects of the Irish diaspora on the individual and the immigrant's struggle to find a home and an identity away from Ireland.

Hope you enjoy these as much as I did!  Have a very Irish spring break!

No comments:

Post a Comment