A variety of Irish-influenced and Irish-themed books will make their charmed appearances as Irish authors take over the literary world for St. Patrick's Day. For those readers who happen to be a wee bit Irish, or for those who are simply fascinated by Irish literature, these are four of the best.
Fans of priest/author Andrew M. Greeley's Irish mysteries will be delighted with his latest: Irish Eyes: A Nuala Anne McGrail Novel. In the new installment, the beautiful and fey Nuala Anne McGrail and her devoted husband, Dermot, have welcomed a wondrous baby girl into the family. Followers of Nuala and Dermot's story from previous books will not be surprised to find that the wee lil' babe, Nelliecoyne, is as fey as her mother. It's little Nellie's vision of an ancient shipwreck off the shores of Lake Michigan that plunges her adventure-seeking parents into a search for buried treasure and the solving of a century-old mystery.
There are several side stories in Irish Eyes, all of which gel delightfully. In one subplot, Nuala Anne enjoying great success with her singing career is suffering ongoing personal and professional attacks by local arts critic Nick Farmer, who holds a vicious grudge against her novelist husband, Dermot. Farmer is out to ruin her budding career and has even threatened to institute proceedings to have her baby taken away. Fleeing Farmer's constant ranting, the family escapes to a vacation house along the shores of Lake Michigan. It's in the rented lake house that Nuala and Nelliecoyne sense strange vibrations from a place where a ship bearing members of the Ancient Order of Hiberians sank over a hundred years before.
In typical Nuala Anne style, she and Dermot set out to solve the mystery of the shipwreck. Along the way they discover that a mysterious couple who'd survived the shipwreck once lived in their lake home. In trying to discover what happened to that family, they investigte a nearby suburb, which turns out to have Irish revolutionary ties, which leads them back to Nick Farmer, who now has the Balkan Mafia looking for Nuala and Dermot with intentions to rub them out. Whew! Greeley has a remarkable way of tying all the loose ends together to create a memorable story. Along the way, he throws in commentary on racism, intolerance, and a short lesson on the Bill of Rights. Irish Eyes is an appealing installment in the ongoing story of Nuala Anne and, even if you haven't read the previous novels, you can pick right up on Nuala and Dermot's adventures. Once you get to know these two engaging people, you'll find yourself wanting more. Call it the charm of the Irish.
Another new release with Irish attitude is the breathtaking love story of a young woman's betrayal, Water, Carry Me. A haunting portrait of the amazing beauty and inexcusable violence of a divided Ireland surrounds the story line of Thomas Moran's latest novel. In what is destined to become his most acclaimed work, Moran expertly transports his readers to the weather-weary harbor towns of southern Ireland. In this rather dark tale, Una Moss is a bright young medical student struggling for independence from the world of her family's secret loyalties. Aidan Ferrel is the man who wins her love, the mesmerizing stranger she chooses to trust. Water, Carry Me is the beguiling story of love pitted against political passion. It's also the journal of a young woman's journey from innocence to betrayal, set against a background of the heartache and despair that often defines the landscape of her beloved Ireland.
New York Observer editor/columnist Terry Golway offers insight into some of Ireland's renowned leaders and legends in For the Cause of Liberty: A Thousand Years of Ireland's Heroes. From High King Brian Boru to Jonathan Swift, from Michael Collins to present-day leaders Gerry Adams and Jean Kennedy Smith, Golway covers the breadth and span of Irish history through fascinating vignettes of the ancient land's rebels and patriots, poets and kings. Golway gives a vivid account of the thrilling history of Ireland and its people. Particularly fascinating are the stories of the brave legion of women who helped shape the country's history. Golway recounts the story of Countess Constance Markievicz (nee Constance Gore-Booth of County Sligo), who, as a lieutenant, was the highest ranking woman in the Irish Citizen Army and an active soldieress who was arrested in connection with the Dublin rebellion of 1798. Also profiled is Bernadette Devlin, the youngest woman elected to the House of Commons, whose heroic battles in the fledgling Irish civil rights movement are awe-inspiring. Golway also examines present-day ambassador Jean Kennedy Smith's ceaseless efforts at obtaining peace in the divided land. For the Cause of Liberty includes dozens of black-and-white photographs and artistic renderings of Ireland's celebrated champions, and will be an invaluable reference source for those interested in the prominent and influential people who make up the rich history of the Emerald Isle.
Alice Leccese Powers gathers samplings from some of Ireland's most beloved writers and poets in her anthology Ireland in Mind. This collection covers three centuries of fiction, poetry, and essays that expound on the beauty, glory, and fascination with the land of the leprechauns. From the comic terror of Frank McCourt's First Communion to the raucous pagan festival Muriel Reykeyers attended in County Kerry during the 1930s, from playwright Oscar Wilde's descriptive family letters to poet Oliver Goldsmith's heart-wrenching verse, this anthology offers a varied look at a mysterious and ancient culture. For those who are traveling to Ireland or those whose hearts have never left its eternally green shores, Ireland in Mind will provide a delightful journey back to the Auld Sod.
Sharon Galligar Chance is a book reviewer and freelance writer from Wichita Falls, Texas.