"Do I Love You"
By Paul McDonald
Not a lot of people know this, but in the 60s Northern Ireland had a surprisingly dedicated soul music appreciation club. They really liked to dance too, inventing a dedicated white person’s take on an original — the “very athletic” style of Northern Irish soul dancing.
In Paul McDonald’s new novel we meet the half psychotic Trebbo and his oldest swinger in town dad Minty. When Minty hears Frank Wilson’s soul classic “Do I Love You?” on a TV ad he bursts into a dance that eventually lands him in hospital.
In his pointless quest for his vanished youth, Minty, undaunted by his fall, begins to reassemble all his old soul friends for one big all-nighter. Music, dancing and drugs are on the menu as he tries (and fails) to recreate his glory days.
McDonald’s book is written in the chatty, stream of consciousness that comes straight from its characters’ occasionally addled heads.
Behind Trebbo and Minty’s daily grandstanding lurks poor Hazel, Minty’s long-suffering wife. Exhausted by her son’s cynicism and her husband’s non-stop mishaps, she starts seeking comfort in her own obsessions and the new man who has come into her life.
While middle aged Minty pursues his youthful dreams he forgets to notice that his wife is moving on, and his son’s rebellions are getting more and more out of hand.
McDonald’s third novel is part fable, part slice of life, and his prose is as vivid and mercurial as the adventure he sets out on.
The Civil War in Kerry
By Tom Doyle
Kerry was the scene of some of the most tragic, bloody and protracted fighting during the Irish Civil War. When the free state troops landed dramatically by sea, taking the anti-treaty forces by surprise, the initial fighting was intense.
But that initial confrontation gave way to a prolonged period of guerilla conflict, and the back and forth scarred the lives of both sides.
In his new book, Tom Doyle, a native of Kerry, creates an at all times insightful picture of the conflict and its principle players. In lively and accessible prose Doyle explores their motivations, the challenges they faced and also their deep similarities, drawing a vivid picture of Ireland during this painful period.
By following the political events that led to the general election of 1923, when a degree of normality returned, Doyle’s book examines how the locals in Kerry viewed the conflict, and how that tragic rupture shaped the future politics of Ireland for decades to come.
Decoding the IRA
By Tom Mahon and James J. Gillogly
For years historian Tom Mahon and code breaker James J. Gillogly have worked together to break the IRA’s communications code.
Used by the organization to convey their most secret messages, including to undercover agents in Britain and America, the author’s success in decoding secret documents reveals the IRA’s mindset in the years following the Irish Civil War. In the process they have revealed IRA secrets that have been concealed for over 75 years.
"Decoding the IRA" includes facsimiles of the actual coded documents themselves, and the book delves into nearly every matter confronting the paramilitary organization, ranging from the importation of explosives to the use of informants in the Irish police force (Gardai).
Readers may be surprised to learn of the IRA’s secret agreement with the Soviet Union and its attempts to provide military assistance to China.
Other plans included a potential gas attack in Dublin and the infiltration of the GAA. At one point the IRA took control of the Kerry football team.
Mahon and Gillogly’s book provides a rare insight into how the IRA undertook its dangerous business in total secrecy.
Storm Over Belfast
By Mary O’Donnell
Novelist Mary O’Donnell has published five poetry collections to date and it shows. Her prose is as limpid as glass.
In "Storm Over Belfast" she has assembled 20 deceptively simple tales featuring stories that can steal up on you with the unexpected intensity of a summer shower.
The tiny frustrations and disappointments that mark us for life are her subject matter. O’Donnell is a perceptive observer of the secret longings of the human heart, and each of these stories take place in an Ireland that is changing alongside the destinies of her characters.
Alongside her palpable delight in human nature is her delight in language. Alternating between confession, meditation, reverie and dream, "Storm Over Belfast" is the work of an immense talent.
New Island, $26.95
Ireland’s Garden Birds
By Oran O’Sullivan and Jim Wilson