The Glorious Heresies

By Lisa McInerney

Buy this book and in years to come you'll be able to say that you were there right at the beginning of Lisa McInerney's about to be glorious career.

Already hailed as one of Ireland's most distinctive new voices, she's arriving here to the kind of advance press that novelists can only dream of.

The thing is, she's worth all the fuss. The Glorious Heresies is a tale of five lost and lonely misfits scratching out a living in recession hit Ireland, and throughout the debut novel McInerney writes with so much urgency and focus it's like her life depends on it.

This isn't the Ireland of the leafy tourist brochures. It's the hardscrabble one of bleak council estates and their often desperate inhabitants.

Along the way it’s also an expertly guided tour through decades of religious oppression and their reaching consequences. It's also a meditation on poverty, on the single minded pursuit of cash, and what can happen to you in Ireland when you get or lose it.

When Maureen returns to Cork City after a 40-year absence one of her first acts is to murder an intruder who has broken into her kitchen. This is only the start of the epic madness to follow.

Maureen's hardly home a day before she discovers her son Jimmy, the one she gave up for adoption, has grown up to be the most feared gangster in town. It turns out to be a handy development now that she had a body to dispose of.

If this sounds promising to you, and it should, you should buy this book right away. What's remarkable is the skill with which McInerney has crafted her blistering tale.

She knows the sights, sounds, secrets and strange obsessions of Cork and its denizens like the back of her hand and so they leap from her pages. Few Irish debuts have ever been this assured.

Duggan Books, $27

Big Jim Larkin: Hero or Wrecker?

By Emmet O'Connor

“The great appear great because we are on our knees. Let us rise!” the early 20th century Irish labor leader Jim Larkin once wrote. Born in 1874 in the U.K. of Ulster parentage, half his life was spent outside Ireland, but it's there where his legacy was secured.

The first regular Mass-going Communist elected to Dail Eireann (Irish Parliament) in 1927, a year later Larkin was invited by Nikolai Bukharin to speak in the great debate between Trotsky and Stalin.

O'Connor's forensic new study reminds us that Larkin was composed of contradictions, a radical who was paradoxically at home with the clericalism of 1930s Ireland, and an agitator who worked both for and against the Irish labor movement he had helped to transform.

To paraphrase Behan, if the first item on the agenda of every Irish political party is the split, Larkin often exemplified this impulse.

O'Connor argues that Larkin was frequently a divisive figure who helped split his own movement, participating in bitter wars of words with his former comrades that lasted for decades.

A self-described Marxist, Larkin's socialism was often informed by his religious faith, which for many made him a moralist as much as a activist, making him difficult to understand or work with. O'Connor's new biography explores the public and private sides of this enduring and divisive Irish legend.

Dufour, $59

1916 The Rising Handbook

By Lorcan Collins

In 1996 writer and historian Lorcan Collins began to lead what he called the 1916 Rebellion walking tour of Dublin, and along the way he quietly amassed an encyclopedic knowledge of revolutionary Ireland.

That knowledge illuminates every page of 1916 The Rising Handbook, his essential new guide to the uprising. Collins' book is nothing less than a total immersion in the era, introducing us to its principle players and their often conflicting politics.

Along the way Collins also introduces us to the revolutionary woman who fought on the streets or tended to the wounded, and he introduces us to the 16 executed leaders whose deaths would change Irish public opinion.

Collins also makes time to examine how the rebellion inspired agitation outside Dublin in places like Ashbourne, Cork and Galway, giving the Rising its proper national scope.

Planned as a reference book and guide for the general reader, 1916 The Rising Handbook is one of the most comprehensive introductions to the revolution you could ever ask for.

Dufour, $20