GPL Blog

St. Patrick’s Day Reads

Happy St. Patrick’s Day! Some of you will be going out to enjoy some green beverages and others will eat corned beef for dinner. Either way, it’s the perfect time to enjoy some Irish-themed reads! Grab these titles for your St. Patty’s enjoyment!

Normal People by Sally Rooney is a favorite among GPL patrons, and for a good reason. It tells the story of Connell and Marianne, who pretend not to know each other at school. He’s popular and well-adjusted, star of the school soccer team while she is lonely, proud, and intensely private. But when Connell comes to pick his mother up from her housekeeping job at Marianne’s house, a strange and indelible connection grows between the two teenages—one they are determined to conceal.

A year later, they’re both studying at Trinity College in Dublin. Marianne has found her feet in a new social world while Connell hangs at the sidelines, shy and uncertain. Throughout their years in college, Marianne and Connell circle one another, straying toward other people and possibilities but always magnetically, irresistibly drawn back together. Then as she veers into self-destruction and he begins to search for meaning elsewhere, each must confront how far they are willing to go to save the other.

If you’re a nonfiction lover, Say Nothing: A True Story of Murder and Memory in Northern Ireland by Patrick Radden Keefe is a great read. It’s a mesmerizing book on the bitter conflict in Northern Ireland and its aftermath, using the case of Jean McConville as a starting point for the tale of a society wracked by a guerilla war, a war whose consequences have never been reckoned with. The brutal violence seared by not only people like the McConville children, but also the I.R.A. members embittered by a peace that fell far short of the goal of a united Ireland, and left them wondering whether the killings they committed were not justified acts of war, but simple murders.

If you’ve read Say Nothing and want a little more Irish history, check out How the Irish Saved Civilization: The Untold Story of Ireland’s Heroic Role from the Fall of Rome to the Rise of Medieval Europe. In this delightful and illuminating look into a crucial but little-known “hinge” of history, Thomas Cahill takes us to the “island of saints and scholars,” the Ireland of St. Patrick and the Book ofKells. Here, far from the barbarian despoliation of the continent, monks and scribes laboriously, lovingly, even playfully preserved the west’s written treasures. With the return of stability in Europe, these Irish scholars were instrumental in spreading learning. Thus the Irish not only were conservators of civilization, but became shapers of the medieval mind, putting their unique stamp on western culture.

If all that sounds a little heavy, maybe The Harp of Kings by Juliet Marillier is more up your alley. The young adult fantasy tells the story of eighteen-year-old Liobhan, a powerful singer and an expert whistle player. Her brother has a voice to melt the hardest heart, and a rare talent on the harp. But Liobhan’s burning ambition is to join the elite warrior band on Swan Island. She and her brother train there to compete for places, and find themselves joining a mission while still candidates. Their unusual blend of skills makes them ideal for this particular job, which requires going undercover as traveling minstrels. For Swan Island trains both warriors and spies.