BleachHouseLibrary blog is currently holding an #IrishFictionFortnight focussing on, well you've guessed, Irish writers and their works, and I've been visiting regularly, discovering new writers and entering some of the giveaways. It all started me thinking about my favourite Irish writers and books ..... and the list kept growing...
Even in an English school the curriculum was liberally sprinkled with Irish fiction - from Swift's Gulliver's Travels in primary school to WB Yeats' poetry, Synge and O'Casey's plays and James Joyce and Samuel Beckett novels at secondary. After school I discovered more recent authors through my local library - Maeve Binchy, Edna O'Brien, John Banville, Colm Toibin and Roddy Doyle - but I think it's only since I've started blogging and, importantly, chatting about books on Twitter that the vast range of Irish writing has become apparent.
So.... favourites.... well, my Top Ten stretched a little to eleven recommendations, and then I asked The Mole who dominated a Top Three...
Number one spot has to go to relative newcomer, Donal Ryan - he's only two novels to his name so far, but what stunners they are! Multi-voiced The Spinning Heart and its 'prequel' The Thing About December will wring your heart and make you laugh and everything in-between.
I've long been aware of John Boyne but mainly thought of him as a children's writer, probably due to the publicity surrounding The Boy in the Striped Pyjamas. Last year though I read his latest adult novel A History of Loneliness looking at the sex scandals in the Irish church from the point of view of an innocent priest. It's hard-hitting and moving, and made me determined to read more by the author.
Hoping that place of birth qualifies her as Irish, I'd like to include Maggie O'Farrell, especially The Hand That First Held Mine and Instructions For A Heatwave
and in a similar vein of fiction, debut author Johanna Lane's Black Lake a story of a family in crisis, trying to cope with overwhelming loss.
Another impressive debut last year came from Audrey Magee with The Undertaking set in Germany and on its Eastern front during WW2.
I read a lot of crime thrillers so had to include some from both north and south of the border -
Claire McGowan's thrillers The Lost and The Dead Ground set in the fictional border town of Ballyterrin which mix present day crime with the legacy of The Troubles;
Niamh O'Connor's Dublin-set Jo Birmingham series starting with If I Never See You Again
Colin Bateman's Dan Starkey series that I've just discovered with The Dead Pass
Neil Mackay's All The Little Guns Went Bang, Bang, Bang is a different, extremely disturbing, crime novel exploring how violence begets violence as two eleven year olds embark on a Natural Born Killers style spree of increasing brutality. Chilling stuff.
Time for something lighter ... I discovered Maria Duffy's light-hearted novels of everyday life through chatting on Twitter, so her novel Any Dream Will Do about virtual Twitter friends meeting up in real life seems really appropriate.
Also through Twitter I discovered Denise Deegan and her insightful teen /YA Butterfly novels dealing with a range of teenage problems from bullying to pregnancy.
So there's my picks - what would The Mole choose....
Last Guardian has to be my favourite! What is not to love about Artemis and Holly Short? Well actually as this is the last of the Artemis Fowl books I suppose just that - an end of series, never a happy time.
Alan Monaghan and The Soldier's Song also has to be my favourite. It is a story of the First World War and Stephen enlists as an officer in the British Army. For Stephen
it as a time of horrors and loss and the book deserved far more accolades than it got.
Brian Gallagher's Stormclouds is set during the troubles in Northern Ireland and is a book you won't "enjoy" but may get a better understanding of the lives that the citizens of NI, particularly children, lived at that time. It's a book well worth reading but be strong and stick it out.
To find more visit BleachHouseLibrary or follow the #IrishFictionFortnight tag on Twitter