By Ronda Simmons
St. Patrick’s Day Reading Suggestions Because Being in a Crowded Bar Might Not be a Good Idea During a Pandemic
The pandemic is forcing another stay-at-home celebration, but that doesn’t mean we can’t celebrate St. Patrick’s Day in style. Besides cooking our favorite Irish foods, drinking Irish beer, and watching Irish programming, we can honor great Irish literary traditions by reading books written by some of her best authors.
Here are my top literary suggestions to honor St. Patrick’s Day:
- A Week in Winter by Maeve Binchy. If you’ve ever read anything by Ms. Binchy, you’ll know exactly what you’re getting in the last book she wrote before her death in 2012. It’s warm, soothing, and as cozy as a cup of tea by the fire on a rainy day. It tells the tale of a young woman who returns to her small coastal hometown to open a bed and breakfast. We learn the secrets and desires of each of the guests who stay there. The American movie star is trying to go incognito. The heir to a Swedish accounting firm who dreams of being a musician. A nurse who ends up taking a vacation with her boyfriend’s horrid mother. If you are searching for heartwarming, this is the book for you.
- If you would prefer a thriller, try In the Woods by Tana French, the first in her Dublin Murder Squad Series. This story is set in a small Dublin suburb in 1984 when three children do not return from hiking in the woods. When the police arrive, they find only one of the children, terrorized, wearing blood-filled sneakers, and unable to recall anything. Twenty years later, the boy is now a detective on the Dublin Murder Squad who keeps his past a secret. A twelve-year-old girl is found murdered in the same woods, and he finds himself investigating a case horrifyingly similar to the unsolved one he experienced as a child. Each book in French’s Dublin Murder Squad Series is narrated by a character from a previous book. Ms. French is brilliantly able to change the voice, narrative, and perspective of each main character.
- The Dubliners by James Joyce. This book is a short story collection that absolutely brings early 20th century Dublin to life. If you have ever attempted to read his novels Ulysses and Finnegan’s Wake, you’ll find these stories infinitely more accessible. These aren’t action-packed stories. Joyce was fascinated by character epiphanies but often does nothing about it. A young boy at the funeral of a priest who had committed suicide. A young girl who tries to leave home but can’t. A mother who ruins her daughter’s life with her incessant meddling. The Dead, about a married couple who genuinely love each other but cannot seem to connect. The Dead, by the way, has been called the greatest short story ever written.
- A Girl Is a Half-Formed Thing by Eimear McBride. This book shouldn’t work. None of the characters have names, and the setting isn’t defined other than we know it’s set somewhere in Ireland, but it does. This isn’t an easy book to read. It is written as a stream of consciousness in such a way that you’ll really need to slow down to begin to understand it. It centers around a young woman dealing with an abusive mother and a brother with a brain tumor. She’s sexually abused by an uncle, which leads her down a really nasty path. Not for the faint of heart, but if you dare go there, this book will haunt you.
- The Glorious Heresies is a crime novel oozing with dark humor that begins with an elderly woman accidentally killing an intruder with a sacred stone. The rest of the black comedy follows a series of misadventures as characters deal with the body, prostitutes have religious conversions, and a drug-dealing 15-year-old attempts to clean up his act. This book is full of filthy language and is as raw and raunchy as it can be. I loved every page.