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As it is Reading Ireland Month, I decided to choose Irish novels in this month’s chain, with the exception of the opener, which is The End of the Affair by Graham Greene.
This month’s chain starts with Graham Greene’s moving novel of a doomed love triangle, The End of the Affair.
Graham Greene once famously said that his favourite living novelist was Belfast-born Brian Moore. Brian Moore’s Cold Heaven made a big impact on me when I read it in my late-teens. It tells the story of a woman who – on the verge of leaving her husband for another man – believes she has experienced a miracle.
Lisa McInerney’s The Blood Miracles is the second book in her Cork trilogy featuring lovable teenager Ryan, who first appeared in The Glorious Heresies. Here he becomes embroiled in both a massive drug deal and an inadvisable relationship with the girlfriend of his local mob boss. Ryan is not your typical druggie teen and is set apart by his love of music and regular piano recitals.
Piano recitals also feature in Bernard MacLaverty’s masterful Grace Notes, which presents a portrait of a woman composer and the complex interplay between her life and her art. Catherine McKenna is a new mother and a musician trying to make her mark in a male—dominated field, who must face up to her past as she prepares for the funeral of her estranged father.
The preparations for a funeral are also at the centre of Anne Enright’s Booker Prize-winning The Gathering. Its title refers to the funeral of Liam Hegarty, an alcoholic who has taken his own life in Brighton. His mother and eight of the nine surviving Hegarty children gather in Dublin for his wake. The novel’s narrator is 39-year-old Veronica – the sibling who was closest to Liam – who looks through her family’s troubled history to try to make sense of his death.
Another woman writer who has won the Booker Prize is Anna Burns, whose strange and intriguing novel Milkman tells the story of a young woman who is forced into a relationship with an older man during the Troubles in Northern Ireland.
An older man also enters into a coercive relationship with a younger woman in William Trevor’s Felicia’s Journey. Felicia is unmarried, pregnant, and penniless. She steals away from a small Irish town and drifts through the industrial English Midlands, searching for the boyfriend who left her. Instead she meets up with the fat, fiftyish, unfailingly reasonable Mr. Hilditch, whose offer to help her masks something much more insidious and dangerous.
From the end of an affair to the start of a strange relationship, these are my six Irish degrees of separation for this month. Have you read any of my choices?
I am a 40 something book buying addict trying to reduce the backlog one book at a time!