It’s the last day of April, so I’m definitely late to the parade on this challenge, but I thought to compile the whole month as a blog post would be a nice way to put all these recommendations and listings together! This challenge on Twitter was initiated by @Jabberwocky808 and has been joined in by a multitude of readers with thousands of suggestions. Here’s my addition to the Reading Irish Women Challenge.
Book That Made You Laugh
Sinead Moriarty’s “The Baby Trail” (and the three sequels, “A Perfect Match’, “From Here To Maternity” and “Mad About You”) made me laugh out loud when I read them. Full of Irish humour and a family dynamic I recognised completely, I was absolutely enchanted with the world of Emma and James and their journey into parenthood.
Book In Your Favourite Time Period
I don’t really have a particular favourite time period, but I’ve started reading historical fiction because of the beautiful words of Nicola Cassidy and her book “December Girl”. Set at the turn of the 19th century, it’s a beautiful read, a mystery with twists and turns at every chapter.
“Molly Thomas is a feisty, independent soul, born on the Winter Solstice. At every stage of her life, she has faced troubles. As a young woman, her family are evicted from their home at Christmas. Molly swears vengeance on the jealous neighbour and land agent responsible, Flann Montgomery. Then in 1896, her baby son is taken from his pram. While Molly searches the streets for little Oliver, the police are called but her baby is gone. Why does trouble seem to follow Molly? And will she ever find out what happened to her child? December Girl is a tale of family bonds, love, revenge and murder.”
I’m looking forward to Nicola’s second book which is set to come out later this year!
Book Published This Year
I really enjoyed Apple of My Eye by Claire Allan, published in January. The Derry author’s thrillers really pull you in, and this one is no different.
“When a mysterious note arrives for seven months pregnant nurse Eliana Hughes, she begins to doubt every aspect of her life – from her mixed feelings about motherhood to her marriage to Martin, who has become distant in recent months.
As the person behind the note escalates their campaign to out Eli’s husband as a cheat, she finds herself unable to trust even her own instincts, and as pressure builds she makes a mistake that jeopardises her entire future. Elsewhere, someone is watching. Someone who desperately wants a baby to call their own and will go to any lengths to become a mother – and stay a mother…”
Book With A Cream Cover
It’s in my To-Read pile on my Kindle library, but it has to be Constellations by Sinead Gleeson. I’ve heard so many incredible things about this book and am looking forward to reading it.
Book Featuring Siblings
For this, it has to be the Walsh sisters from Marian Keyes, and no better book than Rachel’s Holiday. When Rachel is corralled off to rehab she’s expecting a spa break like no other…. and that’s definitely what she gets but in a way she’s never expected. The dynamic between the family members of the Walsh family make this book the treasure that it is (as in any of her books), and I’d recommend it to anyone as an amazing pick me up full of laughter and tears.
Popular Fiction Book
This list really couldn’t go by without mentioning Oh My God What A Complete Aisling, could it? Technically this was written by TWO female Irish writers, Emer McLysaght and Sarah Breen, and as a culchie who lives in the little smoke (alright, medium-smoke, we’ll upgrade Cork a bit) there was SO much of Aisling that I laughed along to and understood. Aisling has been an absolute phenomenon and deserves every accolade the ladies have received. I enjoyed the sequel just as much, and I cannot wait for the third Aisling book which is coming out this Autumn!
Marita Conlon-McKenna’s Under The Hawthorn Tree was one we read in primary school that gave us a real insight into life in the famine which as kids we really had no clue of. It was vivid in its imagery and sticks with me even nearly twenty years later.
Book Made Into A Film
The film “Love, Rosie” originates from the 2004 book “Where Rainbows End ” by Cecilia Ahern. When it came out I was 13 and I read it shortly afterwards. PS I Love You at that stage was EVERYWHERE, it was the smash hit book, but I preferred the story of two best friends, whose circumstances were never quite right for. The format of the book, in emails, instant messages and letters were one I liked a lot, and even now 15 years later, the book still stands up for me as a lovely read that makes me feel happy inside. (Let’s not discuss the film though, I’m not such a fan).
Your TBR pile
So, so many books. Dervla Tiernan’s “The Ruin” and “The Scholar” are up there as they’ve come highly recommended from others. Similarly, I’m looking forward to getting stuck into “I am, I am, I am” by Maggie O Farrell.
Book Set Where You Came From
I am taking some liberties with this one, but the brilliant Distress Signals by Catherine Ryan Howard while predominantly based on a cruise ship starts out in the apartment block on the South Douglas Road in Cork that we lived in up until we bought our house. That counts, right? Really looking forward to her new book Rewind which is set to come out this September.
Book of Poetry or a Play
Máiréad Ní Ghráda’s “An Triail”, which we studied for Leaving Cert Higher Level Irish in 2009, has always stuck with me. At 17, we knew so little of the world but we knew somewhat of what falling in love for the first time and having our heart utterly broken felt like. A decade on, I’m still calling certain characters arseholes and wishing for a better resolution…
Book That Had An Impact On You
Andrea Hayes “Pain-Free Life” was an eye-opener for me as someone who lives with Chronic Pain. It was incredible to read about someone else’s experience with not only living in chronic pain but also various treatments, medications and discussions with doctors. Having spoken to the author since she’s been extremely supportive and I would highly recommend any of her work to people either suffering from chronic pain or who have someone they love in that position. I wrote a full review of the book here.
Book Based On Mythology
I’m really enjoying the Gill Books collection of children’s stories based on Celtic Tales, including this one by illustrator Fatti Burke and her dad John Burke about Granuaile. As someone who studied Celtic Studies and Irish History in a degree a lifetime ago, it’s lovely to be able to share these stories in a slightly more kid-friendly format with my five-year-old. (I say slightly since I’ve still had to explain the term “Murdered”, but hey, compared to the originals, that’s fairly tame…)
A Crime Book
Andrea Mara’s “One Click” is her second crime novel which I devoured in the last few years. When Lauren takes a photo of a stranger on a beach and shares it online, she has no idea what will come of that single click. Her daughters are surprised that she posted a photo without consent, but it’s only when she starts to get anonymous messages about the woman on the beach that she deletes the photo. What follows is a madcap dash down a crime rabbithole that she could never have imagined… In a world where we’re all about updating our Instagram and not thinking any further about it, this was definitely one to make me stop and think.
Book With Illustrations
On my currently reading list, the brilliant The NewBorn Identity from Twisted Doodles, aka Maria Boyle. It’s a hilarious read with her trademark brilliant illustrations, all about the journey into parenthood with twins alongside staying a human at the same time.
Book You’d Most Like To Receive
There are so many. I’m really looking forward to Rewind by Catherine Ryan Howard, as her last two books sucked me in DEEP. And I’m hearing wonderful things about Sarah Maria Griffin’s “Other Words For Smoke”, so that’s on the list too. But again, SO MANY.
An Award Winning Book
Notes To Self: Essays by Emilie Pine is on my to-read list. Described as: “Tackling subjects like addiction, fertility, feminism and sexual violence, and where these subjects intersect with legislation, these beautifully written essays are at once fascinating and funny, intimate and searingly honest.” It’s won the An Post Irish Book of The Year in 2018, and from all I’ve heard, deserves all the praise it’s being given.
Most Recently Read Book
My GoodReads seems to be the most accurate record of when I read books, and according to that, the last book I read written by an Irish woman was Kate Gunn’s “Untying The Knot”. Kate, who also blogs at Kate Takes 5, released her guide to “consciously uncoupling” without losing your mind earlier this year and while Himself can breathe a sigh of relief, I found it to be incredibly well put together, informative but also personable to have not only a how-to guide but also the “How we did it” alongside it so you can see how it happens to real people.
Literary Periodical Published/ Strongly Featuring Writing
Banshee Lit showcases the best of Irish writers of short works. A platform that is incredibly important to nourish. It’s currently on its 8th iteration and they just keep improving.
Book with LGBTQI+ Protagonist
I read Claire Hennessy “Good Girls Don’t” as a teenager and felt HEARD. As a follow on from Stereotype, where I’d first fallen in love with the character of Emily, it was wonderful to see a character that had her flaws and wasn’t perfect but led her life the way she wanted. Her sexuality was brought up but not in a “oh my god this is the only important thing about this character” way which was novel – I was a student in an all girls secondary school where the IDEA of having feelings for someone of the same sex was SCANDALOUS, not unlike the characters in the book, and they lived through it anyway and got up to normal teenage stuff without that being polarising. In the confusing haze that was teenage life, Emily felt like a friend (and has continued to do in Claire Hennessy’s further writings which include her on her blog).
Young Adult Book
Louise O Neill “Asking For It” isn’t just a Young Adult Book but it’s definitely one I believe that all Young Adults should read/should be on the Leaving Cert English curriculum. It’s not an easy read, but it’s not an easy topic yet it’s something we seriously need to discuss – the idea of consent, believing victims and the right to bodily autonomy. I have a longer review for this one (and an interview with the author) that you can find here.
Book With Ghost/Supernatural Element
It’s on my TBR pile, but for this one, I’ve been recommended to read Dorothy Macardle’s “The Uninvited”, originally published in 1942 but recently republished by Tramp Press.
Book That Made You Cry
Emma Hannigan “The Pink Ladies Club” is one of THOSE books. It’s about a cancer support group, so you’d expect it to be somewhat depressing – but it isn’t – it’s full of warmth and understanding and properly fleshed out characters with senses of humour, who just happen to have breast cancer. However, that doesn’t stop the emotional blows – in fact, it desensitises you and can make you forget the serious subject matter until certain moments, where the tears just start rolling down your face. Emma Hannigan herself was an absolute fighter until the end and wrote powerfully. Make sure to stock up on the tissues when you pick up a copy.
Book You’d Recommend To A Friend
While this is the hardest category (given that all of these are really recommendations and I don’t want to repeat any), I’ve gone with Nothing Tastes As Good by Claire Hennessy. A book about eating disorders and the voices in your head that you really shouldn’t listen to, as well as having a flawed guardian angel who might have her own agenda…
Memoir or Travel Book
Emma Hannigan’s fight with cancer was documented by her in her memoir “All to Live For”.
“In 2005 Emma Hannigan was thirty two years old, happily married to her long-time love with two young children. Her world was shattered when she discovered that she had the rare gene BRCA1, meaning a 50% chance of developing ovarian cancer and an 85% chance of developing breast cancer. To reduce the risk, Emma had a double mastectomy and both ovaries removed. But in 2007 she received the devastating news that cancer had struck anyway. Now, twelve years later, Emma Hannigan is battling cancer for the tenth time. With her trademark warmth and wisdom, Emma shares her journey and her advice on everything from skincare and hair loss to how to keep a sense of humour through it all. All to Live For is a story of one woman’s determination not to let cancer win; a story of strength and inspiration, hope and love. And of never giving up.”
While she sadly succumbed to cancer and died in 2018, the book is filled with hope and the fight that she kept up for over a decade, and is truly inspirational.
Book By A Member of the Diaspora/New Irish
Christine Doran, originally from Dublin but living State Side these days, has a trilogy of books for kids about Lilac McCarthy, set in Ireland, aimed at the 9-12 years age bracket. They’re engaging and really well-written realistic stories. “Lilac In Blue“, “Lilac in Black and White” and “Lilac in Scarlet” are available from Amazon and The Book Depository.
As someone who doesn’t really read Scifi/Dystopia, Louise O Neill’s “Only Ever Yours” was a pick I wouldn’t normally have gone for, but I’m glad I did. Dark and twisty, its the HandMaids Tale meets Irish Catholic School, taken to a whole new level… I loved it.
Anthology of Fiction
The Long Gaze Back, edited by Sinead Gleeson – another one on my To Read List!
“Dublin’s One City, One Book Choice for 2018. The Long Gaze Back, edited by Sinéad Gleeson, is an exhilarating anthology of thirty short stories by some of the most gifted women writers this island has ever produced. Taken together, the collected works of these writers reveal an enrapturing, unnerving, and piercingly beautiful mosaic of a lively literary landscape. Spanning four centuries, The Long Gaze Back features 8 rare stories from deceased luminaries and forerunners, and 22 new unpublished stories by some of the most talented Irish women writers working today. The anthology presents an inclusive and celebratory portrait of the high calibre of contemporary literature in Ireland. These stories run the gamut from heartbreaking to humorous, but each leaves a lasting impression. They chart the passions, obligations, trials and tribulations of a variety of vividly-drawn characters with unflinching honesty and relentless compassion. These are stories to savour.”
Favourite Non-Fiction Book
Melanie Murphy’s mix of self-help and memoir was an enjoyable read. “Fully Functioning Human (Almost): Living in an Online/Offline World” isn’t just another “Youtuber” book, but actually a really honest read about getting into adulthood and not quite knowing which way is up, but muddling through anyway. Topics like self-esteem, sexuality and getting your skin under control are contained within this humorous book – I listened to it on Audiobook, read by the author herself, and really liked it.
Your Next Read
Next on my list is I Am, I Am, I Am by Maggie Farrell, and a whole lot of other books which have been shown to me through this challenge.
That was so much tougher than I thought – and my To Read list has expanded by a here of a lot (sorry, college work, you’ve got company!). Have you spotted anything new to add to your list, or have I left out anything you think I definitely need to read? Let me know in the comments, on Facebook or over on Twitter. I’m looking forward to hearing from you!