With St. Patrick's Day around the corner, Ellen Heltzel, Book Critic and Author of the book guide, "Between the Covers," found five great Irish-inspired books:
- "Heart and Soul," by Maeve Binchy. She's probably the most popular Irish writer around these days, a novelist with heart (as the title of her latest book suggests). A previous book, "Tara Road," was an Oprah pick; her short story "How About You" ws just turned into a movie. In her new novel, she puts readers in a -- yes -- HEART clinic to explore the lives of its patients and staff, and to show the old and new Ireland connect.
- "Shannon," by Frank Delaney. Another popular author (he's a bestseller in Ireland), this Irish-born American author completes a trilogy of novels with this story about a chaplain who after World War I is sent to his ancestral home, Ireland, to recover from shell shock -- and to keep from spilling the beans about corruption in the archdiocese of Boston.
- "The Secret Scripture," by Barry Sebastian. This novel jumps from the point of view of an elderly woman who has spent most of her adult life in a mental hospital to the psychiatrist who suspects her commitment was unjust. A finalist for Britain's most prestigious literary prize last year, it focuses on the early years of the Irish republic (after WWI). It shows how politics trumped principle and the immense power of the Catholic Church.
- "The Gathering," by Anne Enright. This novel did, indeed, win that famous literary prize, the Man Booker, in 2007. It has been equated to James Joyce's "Dubliners" for Enright's ability to cut to the heart of the ties that bind and break members of the same family. In this case, a woman named Veronica tells the story of her clan, her marriage and her brother's death -- and the secret that set the stage for tragedy.
- "A Pint of Plain: Tradition, Change and the Fate of the Irish Pub," by Bill Barich. If the family dramas and church power struggles are just too much, turn to this new nonfiction work -- the story of the Irish pub as a vanishing breed and bellwether of change in modern Ireland. Barich is an American who lives in Dublin and writes for The New Yorker, so he knows how to translate the Emerald Isle for an audience on this side of the pond.
For more information about Ellen Heltzel and her book, check out this website.