My Near-Obsession with Irish Literature

I love to read and I like many different genres of writing. I am extremely fond of urban fantasy as well as historical fiction and literary fiction. But I have found that I am becoming almost obsessed with Irish literature. A few years ago, Kennys Bookshop of Galway, Ireland had a booth (or entire room to be exact) set up at Milwaukee's Irishfest and I made a point of purchasing a book. The book was Seek the Fair Land by Walter Macken. I finished it the same weekend and searched futilely for the next in the series. To my disappointment, it wasn't readily available in the U.S.

Last year at Irishfest I was fortunate enough to meet Des Kenny and bought a copy of his book Kenny's Choice:101 Irish Books You Must Read. I also signed up for Kennys bookclub. This is a bit different than what one might expect because Des chooses all the books for you. You give him a bit of information about what types of books you like and he chooses what he thinks might appeal to you. He also chooses books that might be a little different than what you usually read, but that he thinks would be a good choice for you. You have the right to return any book you do not like, but Des has great taste in books. I have been delighted with the books he has sent me. I have received two shipments so far and have loved all the books I have read up to this point. I have tried to spread the books out over the months between shipments. If you are up for a reading adventure and are interested in Irish writers, you might consider signing up for this wonderful service.

The first book I read from this bookclub was All names have been changed by Claire Kilroy. I was pleasantly surprised to receive a signed copy of this book.
From the book jacket: All Names Have Been Changed is set in Dublin in the mid-1980's - a city in the grip of recession and a heroin epidemic. Narrated by Declan, the only boy of a tight-knit writing group at Trinity College, it tells of their fascination with the formidably talented but troubled writer Glynn, and the darkly exhilarating journey this leads them on.

Brilliantly exploring the shifting group dynamic, and offering a unique insight into the pursuit of the creative life - with all its energy and demons, its moments of artistic elation and defeat - this is a novel of considerable verve. Following earlier forays into the worlds of art restoration and classical music, it is further evidence of Claire Kilroy's natural gift for narrative, atmosphere and character.

My view: This is a stark, grim story. The picture painted of Dublin during this period is dark and depressing. The views into this writing group that are provided to the reader are interesting and intriguing and a little difficult to read sometimes. There is a sadness throughout the story. There is a longing that the members of the writing group seem to believe will be alleviated somehow by an association with Glynn the famous or infamous Irish writer who is running the class. The entire group, including Glynn, enters a downward spiral for much of the book, but there is a glimpse of hope by the end that they have learned something from their experience and grown as people and/or writers.


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