St. Patrick’s day, Ireland’s national holiday, is more than just a parade of green beer, fake red beards and plastic shamrocks. Ireland has a long, rich tradition of curling up by the fire and cracking open a good book. Here are Chevalier’s recommendations for a quiet swig of literary good stuff:
Brooklyn, Colm Toíbin - a classic immigrant’s tale of the choice between rootedness in Ireland and dreams of Brooklyn. Now a major feature film starring Saoirse Ronan.
Time Pieces, John Banville - Growing up a train ride away, Banville always idolised the ‘bright abyss’ of Dublin as a child. This perceptive memoir is essential reading for anyone planning a trip to one of Europe’s great cities.
The Lesser Bohemians, Eimear McBride - A coming of age novel from one of Ireland’s brightest young talents. A searing account of an Irish drama student’s first love written with McBride’s trademark lyrical, broken sentences. Winner of the James Tait Black prize.
Collected Stories, Bernard MacLaverty - One of the old masters not widely read outside of Europe, MacLaverty blends subtle humour with wry observations on life in Ireland’s north east.
The Death of the Heart, Elizabeth Bowen - ‘The link that connects Virginia Woolf to Muriel Spark.’ Bowen’s novel of 1930s drawing room fizzles with menace of the unsaid.
The Third Policeman, Flann O’Brien - A flash of absurdist brilliance that never stops being funny no matter how many times you re-read.
Smile, Roddy Doyle - One of Ireland’s warmest contemporary writers, Doyle moves from hilarity to heartbreak with astonishing fluency.
The Picture of Dorian Gray, Oscar Wilde - A portrait ages, a young rake does not. What price will Dorian pay for his eternal beauty?
The Wonder, Emma Donoghue - This absorbing novel set in 1850s Ireland is soon to be adapted for the screen by the author.
Days Without End, Sebastian Barry - A young soldier, Thomas McNulty, flees the Irish famine and enlist in the US army. McNulty is quickly caught up in both the Indian Wars and the Civil War as modern America shudders into being.
Complete Plays, J.M.Synge - Unfairly overlooked for years as a Protestant playwright in Catholic Ireland, Synge’s plays are enjoying a resurgence. For fans of flinty characters and pithy irony.