Six Degrees of Separation – Irish Style!

Six Degrees of Separation is the brainchild of Kate over at Books Are My Favourite and Best where we all start with the same book and see where our links take us!

Follow the hashtag #6degrees on Twitter to check out everyone else’s chains!

This month’s Six Degrees kicks off with a classic self-help book from the ‘70s called Passages by Gail Sheehy. Sheehy is a good Irish name and as it is Reading Ireland Month, I am going to focus on Irish novels for my chain.

The word ‘passage’ would once have meant only one thing to people in Ireland – the passage to America. In Brooklyn, by Colm Tóibín, Eilis Lacey secures her passage to America and immigrates to Brooklyn where she falls in love with an Italian plumber called Tony. However, when her sister dies and Eilis returns to Ireland for the funeral, she begins to fall for Jim, a boy she has known since childhood. Eilis is faced with a decision – to stay in Ireland and marry Jim, which is what her mother wants, or book her return passage to America and live out her life with Tony.

A love triangle also features in The Ante-Room by Kate O’Brien where intelligent and forthright Agnes Mulqueen is torn between her secret love for her brother-in-law and the advances of a local doctor. The drama plays out over the course of three days while Agnes’ mother is dying and the extended family is gathered at the family home waiting for her to pass.

The definition of an ante-room is ‘a small room, especially a waiting room that leads into a larger, more important room’ and it is in one of these spaces where the main action of Kevin Barry’s novel Night Boat to Tangier plays out. Two ageing Irish gangsters – Charlie and Maurice – trade banter in a Spanish ferry terminal, in this beautifully written two-hander about crime’s toll on the soul. The two men are keeping watch at the ferry terminal for Charlie’s daughter Dilly, who hasn’t been seen for three years.

From one runaway daughter to another, William Trevor’s The Story of Lucy Gault. The Gault family leads a life of privilege in early 1920s Ireland, but the threat of arson leads nine-year-old Lucy’s parents to leave Ireland for England. However, eight-year-old Lucy Gault, in love with her home, cannot understand that the Gault’s have to leave and she runs away. By a series of awful coincidences, she is thought to have died. Trevor depicts a life shadowed by a fateful childhood decision, with a thoughtful tenderness.

Emma Donoghue’s The Pull of the Stars is also set against the backdrop of the War of Independence. In an Ireland doubly ravaged by war and the 1918 influenza pandemic, Nurse Julia Power works at an understaffed hospital in the city centre, where expectant mothers who have come down with the terrible new Flu are quarantined together. Donoghue tells the story of Julia, Dr Kathleen Lynn and a young volunteer helper Bridie, over the course of three dramatic days.

From one pandemic to another, Catherine Ryan Howard’s Dublin Literary Award longlisted thriller 56 Days follows a couple who move in together during lockdown following the outbreak of Covid-19. Ciara and Oliver meet in a supermarket queue in Dublin and start dating the same week COVID-19 reaches Irish shores. When lockdown threatens to keep them apart, Oliver suggests they move in together. Ciara sees a unique opportunity for a relationship to flourish without the scrutiny of family and friends. Oliver sees a chance to hide who – and what – he really is.

There you have it, from Brooklyn to Tangier, the War of Independence to Covid-19, these are my six degrees of separation by Irish authors for March.

Ireland Month Irish Literature Six Degrees

Cathy746books View All →

I am a 40 something book buying addict trying to reduce the backlog one book at a time!

28 Comments Leave a comment

  1. There’s plenty to tempt me on this chain, Cathy. The only one I’ve read is Brooklyn. I’ve read Donoghue’s Slammerkin, which I loved, so The Pull of the Stars appeals. I also like the sound of Night Boat to Tangier and 56 Days.


  2. These all sound worth adding to my over-burdened TBR. I did like Brooklyn very much and thought the movie was well done too. I have avoided Donoghue because her first book sounded so appalling (although people swore they liked it). Maybe there is time to read this one before Reading Ireland Month is over!


  3. Neat first link to Brooklyn, Cathy, love it. There are others here I know and would like to read. I’m interested to read pandemic novels, but a thriller wouldn’t be my first choice.


  4. I love your ‘passage to America’ link! Brooklyn is the only book in your chain that I’ve read, but I will probably read the Emma Donoghue at some point as I’ve enjoyed some of her other books.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. This is a good Six Degrees, highlighting Irish books. Most of these I have not heard of and some sound very depressing. The Pull of the Stars appeals because I am interested in how the 1918 Flu affected people and different countries.


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