A look at books - Irish fiction and non-fiction literature to get your teeth in to

The Reckoning
By Jane Casey

Jane Casey’s life looks like an audition for the role of first-rate crime writer. Born and raised in Dublin, she graduated from Oxford University and Trinity College Dublin, and then worked in London for a time as a book editor until the urge to write her own works eventually became too strong.

Marrying a criminal barrister in London who specializes in prosecution, her husband’s day to day life is filled with police officers, criminals, reluctant witnesses, judges and juries – basically the entire stock and trade of a crime writers life.

So if The Reckoning, her second thrilling tour of London’s back streets, is filled with the kind of illuminating details that ground it in reality you’ll know why.

When London detective Maeve Kerrigan sets out to find the killer of a series of sex offenders, she starts with the theory that it’s the work of a mobster who’s hoping to track down a missing girl. But the facts keep pointing in other directions and the lid keeps coming off more and more long buried grudges, with explosive results. 

Casey is a particularly acute reader of human behavior, and there is more than a hint of the psychological depth of the classic crime drama Prime Suspect at work in this tense and twisted tale.

Minotaur, $24.95.

Malarky
By Anakana Schofield

Well, this is a particularly lively tale by an Irish Canadian with a superb understanding of the cadences of Irish speech. In Malarky we meet an Irish widow named Philomena who refuses to be sunk by whatever indignities life tries to serve her. 

Recently bereaved, she has caught her son in the fields with another man. Then a half mad local informs her of all the real or imagines infidelities of her late husband. It’s enough to oppress the spirits of the brightest, but Philomena is made of stronger stuff. 

Schofield’s richest gift is for spirited dialogue which crackles with humor and energy in this blackly funny, half mad tale. Portraits of working class Irish female eccentrics are pretty thin on the ground, and for that reason alone this divertingly brilliant book is entirely worth your time. 

This is the most distinctive novel of its kind I’ve read in a decade. 

Biblioasis, $16.95.


A Fierce Local: Memoirs of My Love Affair With Ireland
By Harvey Gould

Harvey Gould is not your typical Irish moniker, but nonetheless he’s a “fierce local” in his adopted homeland, which he clearly loves unreservedly. So how did a nice Jewish boy from Chicago become a (literally) full-blooded Irishman?

It may have been thanks to the blood transfusion that saved his life during his 13th trip to Ireland. Suffering from a chronic blood disorder, he visited a local doctor when he started feeling poorly. 

She drew some vials and sent them – and him – to the hospital immediately. Three hours later he was having the blood transfusion that saved his life.

Gould, who was a former trial lawyer in California, enjoys the symbolism. All his American blood was replaced by Irish blood, which is taking matters to a bit of an extreme. 

Marrying Karen Duffy, an Irish American girl from Washington Heights, was the transformative event in Gould’s life. Both had been married before to people within their own faith traditions, both subsequently divorced and took a long time to decide they belonged together, but eventually they did.

Because of that union Gould eventually discovered the other great love of his life, Ireland. Visit after visit brought him closer to the elusive character of the Irish themselves, and this memoir is a vivid and clearly heartfelt celebration of the land and its people.

iUniverse.com, $22.95.


On the Run
Colm O’Gaora

When Colm O’Gaora’s mother was young there were still people living in her locality that had an excellent memory of the Year of the French. O’Gara’s father was a sailor as a young man and remembered hearing of Lincoln’s death whilst stopping at Cape Verde. 

O’Gaora himself was fated to live in interesting times, writing one of the most vivid accounts of the Irish War of Independence in the Irish language. This remarkable new book is a translation into English of his classic telling. 

O’Gaora was an important figure in the development of republicanism and the Irish Republican Brotherhood (IRB) in the west of Ireland. In the early 1920s that meant living your life on the run from British forces. This turbulent era of Irish history leaps to life in a memoir that is deservedly reprinted year after year.

Dufour, $26.95.

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