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April 11, 2017

An Irish Author, 3 Irish-Set Stories and an Ireland Travel Guide

by Susan Roberts

Today I am going to review a few books set in Ireland. Ireland is somewhere that I wanted to visit my whole life and when I finally got there, it was all that I'd imagined and more. Now I'm trying to figure out how to get back there again. Have you ever been to Ireland or visited somewhere that you've read about or dreamed about visiting? I'd love to hear your travel dreams in the comments below.

Amazon affiliate links are used in this post.

Circle of Friends
May 2007; Dell; 9780385341738
ebook & print (608 pages)
women's fiction
Circle of Friends by Maeve Binchy

You can't talk about Irish authors and not start with Maeve Binchy, who is, in my opinion, one of the best.  This is my favorite book by her, written about half way through her writing career.  She died in 2012 and her talent is greatly missed.

It began with Benny Hogan and Eve Malone, growing up, inseparable, in the village of Knockglen. Benny—the only child, yearning to break free from her adoring parents...Eve—the orphaned offspring of a convent handyman and a rebellious blueblood, abandoned by her mother's wealthy family to be raised by nuns. Eve and Benny—they knew the sins and secrets behind every villager's lace curtains...except their own.

It widened at Dublin, at the university where Benny and Eve met beautiful Nan Mahlon and Jack Foley, a doctor's handsome son. But heartbreak and betrayal would bring the worlds of Knockglen and Dublin into explosive collision. Long-hidden lies would emerge to test the meaning of love and the strength of ties held within the fragile gold bands of a...Circle Of Friends.

Buy Circle of Friends at Amazon

Galway Bay
February 2009; Grand Central Publishing
9780446579001; ebook & print (551 pages)
historical fiction
Galway Bay by Mary Pat Kelly

In a hidden Ireland where fishermen and tenant farmers find solace in their ancient faith, songs, stories, and communal celebrations, young Honora Keeley and Michael Kelly wed and start a family. Because they and their countrymen must sell both their catch and their crops to pay exorbitant rents, potatoes have become their only staple food.

But when blight destroys the potatoes three times in four years, a callous government and uncaring landlords turn a natural disaster into The Great Starvation that will kill one million. Honora and Michael vow their children will live. The family joins two million other Irish refugees--victims saving themselves--in the emigration from Ireland.

Danger and hardship await them in America. Honora, her unconventional sister Máire, and their seven sons help transform Chicago from a frontier town to the "City of the Century." The boys go on to fight in the Civil War and enlist in the cause of Ireland's freedom.

Spanning six generations and filled with joy, sadness, and heroism, GALWAYBAY sheds brilliant light on the ancestors of today's forty-four million Irish Americans--and is a universal story you will never forget.

Buy Galway Bay at Amazon

The Magdalen Girls
December 2016; Kensington
978-1496706126; ebook, audio, print (304 pages)
The Magdalen Girls by V.S. Alexander

Dublin, 1962. Within the gated grounds of the convent of The Sisters of the Holy Redemption lies one of the city’s Magdalen Laundries. Once places of refuge, the laundries have evolved into grim workhouses. Some inmates are “fallen” women—unwed mothers, prostitutes, or petty criminals. Most are ordinary girls whose only sin lies in being too pretty, too independent, or tempting the wrong man. Among them is sixteen-year-old Teagan Tiernan, sent by her family when her beauty provokes a lustful revelation from a young priest.

Teagan soon befriends Nora Craven, a new arrival who thought nothing could be worse than living in a squalid tenement flat. Stripped of their freedom and dignity, the girls are given new names and denied contact with the outside world. The Mother Superior, Sister Anne, who has secrets of her own, inflicts cruel, dehumanizing punishments—but always in the name of love. Finally, Nora and Teagan find an ally in the reclusive Lea, who helps them endure—and plot an escape. But as they will discover, the outside world has dangers too, especially for young women with soiled reputations.

Told with candor, compassion, and vivid historical detail, The Magdalen Girls is a masterfully written novel of life within the era’s notorious institutions—and an inspiring story of friendship, hope, and unyielding courage.

Buy The Magdalen Girls from Amazon

Rick Steves Ireland
December 2016; 9781631214417;
ebook & print (545 pages)
travel guide
When you get ready to take that trip to Ireland, I suggest that you use a Rick Steves guidebook.  It's the best guidebook that I've found that gives you good value hotels and restaurants plus information for fun places that the bigger guidebooks don't cover.

Susan Roberts lives in North Carolina when she isn't traveling.  She and her husband enjoy traveling, gardening and spending time with their grandson.  Susan reads almost anything (and the piles of books in her house prove that) but her favorite genres are Southern fiction, women's fiction, and thrillers. Susan is a top 1% Goodreads Reviewer. You can connect with Susan on Facebook.

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  1. I love Binchy's stories too. Hard to pick a favorite, though I'm very partial to Quentins about a Dublin eatery and the group that runs it. I last went to Ireland in 1990--high time to get back there. I bet Rick Steves has lots of awesome recommendations for places I haven't yet seen.

    1. Thanks for stopping by, Laurel. I agree, it was was tough to pick a favorite Maeve Binchy book because they are all so wonderful. When you plan that trip to Ireland, give Rick's books a look.

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  3. I would love to see Ireland! I had dreamed of seeing London and Edinburgh, which I got to do a few years ago, and of course I'd love to go back. There's so much history there, so much to do.

    A to Z Challenge: The Name is Ida. Aunty Ida

    Isa-Lee Wolf

    A Bit 2 Read

    1. Thanks for stopping by. I love London and Edinburgh but Dublin is still my favorite probably because most of my family emigrated from there in the 1800s.

  4. I went to Ireland when I was 13, and can't wait to go back some day. It's a beautiful place! Thanks for the book list--I added them to my TBR!

    Operation Awesome

    1. Thanks for stopping by. All of these books were great plus all of Maeve Binchy's books are fantastic.

  5. I've only been in Dublin, which was literary and wonderful! I look forward to going back and seeing some of the Irish countryside =)

    I is for If #AtoZChallenge  -

    1. Thanks for stopping by. Dublin is a fantastic city to visit and the Irish countryside is beautiful - especially near Galway.