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Review of Books

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 Helen’s children, especially the eldest and the only boy, John, are each impacted differently by their father’s early death as we watch the effects unfurl into their adult lives. Moore is versed in the mundane, the infinitesimal details of a recognizably human, ordinary existence, which are uplifted by her startlingly visceral prose to be transcendent.

– Kara Rota

($14.95 / 320 pages/ Black Cat, an original paperback imprint of Grove/Atlantic, Inc.)

 

An Irish Country Girl is the fourth in the series by Patrick Taylor, and if the popularity of its predecessors is any indication, it is certainly not the last. For those who have not read An Irish Country Doctor or An Irish Country Village, do not despair: Taylor briefly explains the story of his main characters Doctors Laverty and O’Reilly and the picturesque village of Ballybucklebo in which they reside. An Irish Country Girl leaves Ballybucklebo for Cork to tell the story of Kinky Kincaid, the doctors’ housekeeper and beloved neighborhood fixture. Written as Kinky herself recalling her youth to a circle of eager children, the real treat of the novel is not so much its efficient prose but the focus on storytelling and myth as a part of Irish culture. The children of course are an ideal audience; their innocence allows Kinky to explain her life story and its more fantastic elements (as a child, Kinky discovers she can see bean sidhe or faeries, much to the delight of the imaginative children) plainly and honestly. For returning fans of Taylor, An Irish Country Girl is a lovingly told story of how Kinky Kincaid became the spitfire matriarch of the Ballybucklebo series. Taylor’s style, however, much like his characters, is very inclusive: his mixture of traditional recipes, Irish language and Celtic mythology invites everyone to sit around the fire at Kinky’s feet.             

– Aliah O’Neill

($24.99 / 320 pages / Forge)

 

No stranger to the art of firmly captivating his readers, Alan Glynn delivers a complex thriller in Winterland. His first novel, The Dark Fields, is now being produced by Universal Pictures. Keeping with his cinematic style, Winterland paints a dark picture of contemporary Dublin complete with characters whose mystery seeps into the cracks of Dublin’s murkiest social constructs: deep into the gang culture and up through the political gears of the city.

Opening with the most heart-wrenching night in protagonist Gina’s life, the novel presents the bizarre and tragic coincidence of a son Noel Jr. murdered on the same night his father Noel Sr. dies in what appears to be a car accident. While most accept the coincidence as just that, Gina trails the story, unearthing disturbing clues that prove the events to be anything but happenstance. A page-turner complete with well-formed and dynamic characters, the novel unfolds a complex series of twists that leave the reader unsure who to root for at times. Glynn has succeeded in creating an exciting story of suspense and darkness, sure to keep readers on the edge of their seats guided by Glynn’s fearful tone.

– Tara Dougherty

($25.99 / 320 pages / Minotaur)

Irish Culture

Cork Rock by Mark McAvoy chronicles the Cork music scene as it grew from big bands in the 50s to rock and roll and punk acts in the 60s, 70s, and beyond. At the crux of this story is Rory Gallagher, who got his start touring small Cork clubs and eventually became a guitar god who played with Eric Clapton and almost became a member of the Rolling Stones. Gallagher’s blues-infused guitar licks were an inspiration to young musicians in Cork, who soon had the luxury of playing in a rising club scene.

Using interviews with Gallagher’s family members as well as local club owners and musicians, McAvoy vividly describes the growth and transformation of a music scene that both mirrored the trends of the time and produced a unique sound.

McAvoy devotes the latter half of his book to the birth of punk in Cork, a response to the psychedelic rock that dominated the 60s and early 70s. McAvoy focuses on bands such as Microdisney and Five Go Down to the Sea, but he also gives due to local legends like Sultans of Ping, to produce a comprehensive look at Cork’s musical history.

While Cork Rock is best read by diehard fans of these bands, anyone with a love of rock or punk music from this era will enjoy the first-hand accounts that McAvoy mines from the musicians and locals.              

  – Aliah O’Neill

($27.95 / 256 pages / Mercier Press & Dufour Editions)

 

With the World Irish Dancing Championships fast approaching, Kathleen Flanagan’s Steps in Time: History of Irish Dance in Chicago allows the reader to follow the journey of a small cultural tradition into an organized phenomenon sport. Her focus is on the development of dance in the city of Chicago from its early immigrant roots to the worldwide success of Chicago native Michael Flatley.

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