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Jennifer Egan's new novel

Review of Books

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Jennifer Egan's new novel

History

    Maurice Fitzpatrick’s book The Boys of St. Columb’s offers a unique look into the history of St. Columb’s College, a Catholic grammar school in Derry, Northern Ireland, and the significance of the 1947 Education Act, which allowed access to free secondary education to all in Northern Ireland.
    Fitzpatrick begins with a short biography of those past pupils interviewed, from Nobel Prize winners (St. Columb’s is one of the few schools that can claim two Nobel Laureates amongst its alumni – John Hume and Seamus Heaney), to musicians and social activists. While each of those interviewed has St. Columb’s in common, the interviews themselves take remarkable turns to different subjects. Author Seamus Deane details the state of Derry at the time of his education and his childhood there, while political activist Eamonn McCann carries the interview from subject to subject ranging from his earliest guerilla activity in Derry to his distaste for the way he was educated at St. Columb’s. Still others, such as poet Seamus Heaney, fondly remember certain teachers who led their paths into various successes.
    The remarkable stories and careers of the men profiled, all rooted in the same school in the same period of time, are intertwined in unexpected and fascinating ways. Their school experiences, much like the Northern Irish world they lived in at the time, are filled with plurality and conflict. Fitzpatrick presents a compelling look into their world, their memories and history as his eight subjects remember it. Available for purchase at http://www.theliffeypress.com/
– Tara Dougherty
(228 p. / The Liffey Press / $25.00)

    William P. Sexton’s Escape From Barbados chronicles the dramatic journey of Sean Tierney, a Limerick swordsman who is captured from his home by Cromwell’s army one night in 1662. Delving into a somewhat neglected area of Irish history, Sexton’s narrative follows Sean as he is taken aboard a slave ship and transported to a plantation in Barbados, just as thousands of Irish were forcibly taken and enslaved during those years. Determined to go home, Sean sets out on a thirty-five-year quest to return to Ireland, encountering many new places and people, which are strange to him. Though he winds up in some dire situations, his “fighting Irish spirit,” as Sexton calls it, always sees him through. His adventure is a fast-paced, easy read.
– Sheila Langan
(105 p. / O’Séasnain / $12.99)

    With a plethora of titles such as An Encyclopedia of Celtic Mythology and Bloody Irish: Great Irish Vampire Stories under his belt, few authors seem more fitting to address the spread of Celtic mythology across North America than Bob Curran. Curran provides a series of Celtic legends and their American counterparts in his new book, Mysterious Celtic Mythology in American Folklore. Told with whimsy and allure, conveyed akin to campfire tales, the book covers all manner of hauntings and forgotten lands, shape shifters and witches, leaving intace their extravagances. Familiar ground is not laboriously tread, keeping the book’s pace fluent and intriguing. Their great variety illustrates Curran’s extensive knowledge.
    Essentially, if you’re craving a fascinating tour through the enigmatic and far-reaching influence of Celtic mythology, this addition to Curran’s bibliography will satisfy, and perhaps deliver a few chills along the way.
 – James Lovett
(296 p. / Pelican / $25.00)

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