Friday, December 7, 2012

HT Recommends: Novels Set in Ireland

MaryKate writes:
"I've been an avid reader of HF for quite a few years and most of my reading has been about England. I'm a self-proclaimed anglophile, but now I would like to become an...Ireland-ophile? Do you or any of your readers have recs for Irish historical fiction from any time period? I've read Colm Toibin's Brooklyn (which is about a girl who comes to America from Ireland, and that type of novel is fine too) and most of Maeve Binchy's fiction. I'm sure I've read other things, but nothing that sticks out. If anyone could help me out I would be very appreciative!"
Ireland is a popular setting for historical fiction--particularly 19th and 20th century Ireland--so there's plenty out there to recommend.

When a reader is looking for historical fiction set in a specific place, one of the first things I check is if Edward Rutherfurd has written any novels about that place. His two-volume Dublin Saga (The Princes of Ireland and The Rebels of Ireland) follows Irish history from the pagan era through the early twentieth century in approximately 1600 pages. With a scope this broad, some of the coverage is a bit superficial, but if it's Irish history and lore that you're looking for, Rutherfurd's novels will satisfy.

If you enjoy Maeve Binchy, you might also enjoy Patricia Falvey, who writes historical novels set in early- to mid-20th century Northern Ireland. Her novels focus on the struggles of young women during wartime. The Yellow House, her first novel, is set during World War I, and The Linen Queen, her second novel, is set during World War II.

Morgan Llywelyn has written numerous novels set in Ireland, but she is (arguably) best known for her Irish Century series, a five-volume chronicle of Irish history during the twentieth century. The focus is on the Irish struggle for independence, but the story is told through the eyes of fictional characters.

Frank Delaney's epic novel Ireland is grounded in the mid-twentieth century, but stories from Irish history are interwoven throughout the narrative, which focuses on a young man in search of an itinerant storyteller who visited his home.

Finally, Mary Pat Kelly's 2011 novel Galway Bay is another epic novel of Irish history, tracing a family from the 19th century potato famine through their emigration to the United States, where they struggle to make it in a new country. Kelly's richly-detailed treatment of the immigrant experience and folkloric storytelling give voice to the millions who emigrated during the famine.

Do you have other recommendations for MaryKate? If so, please post them in the comments!


  1. Hi there, here are some more suggestions for books and authors:
    Susan Howatch's Cashelmara
    The Story of Lucy Gault by William Trevor
    A Star Called Henry by Roddy Doyle
    The Star of the Sea by Joseph O'Connor
    Cora Harrison
    Jennifer Johnston
    Sebastian Barry
    Walter Macken
    Across the Bitter Sea by Eilis Dillon
    Year of the French by Thomas Flanagan
    The Whitest Flower by Brendan Graham
    The Troubles by J G Farrell

    Hope that helps!

  2. There's also Juliet Marillier...her Sevenwaters series is set in early medieval Ireland. But it does have a lot of fantasy elements (Druid magic and so forth), so it may not exactly fit the criteria.

  3. "Filght of the Doves" by Walter Macen, also "Janey Mack, Me Shirt is black" by Eamonn Mac Thomais and "Strumpet City " by James Plunkett.

  4. This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

  5. Thank you for all of your help everyone!

  6. I love reading about books that take place in different times and places, in fact I just finished reading one that took place during ancient Egyptian times titled, "Shadow of the Sun" by Merrie P. Wycoff. I haven't read a book that takes place in Ireland yet, but would love to. Thank you to all who made such great book recommendations.