For those of you who dreaded English at school and stayed as far away from it when they arrived in college, but realised during lockdown that reading was actually fun – or for those who spend hundreds of hours chasing bargain in Chapters each month to satisfy your reading cravings – here is the reading list you’ve been waiting for.
- Irish Fiction
The Invisible Worm, by Jennifer Johnston
After the funeral of her abusive father, Laura recalls her traumatic childhood marked by the death of her mother. In her countryside mansion, the woman questions her past and her present in a dramatic and moving narrative. The lyricism of the prose will transport you and the story will certainly mark you forever. The protagonist’s introspection also resonates with Ireland’s search for its identity during the second half of the 20th century.
- American Fiction
Love, by Toni Morrison
A tale of women bonds bigger than life set in late 20th century America, a country still deeply scarred by the Civil War and segregation. Morrison explores the powerful bonds of women who discover life, love, identity, sexuality, and betrayal together. The novel contains classic Morrisonian tropes – disrupted and non-chronological narrative alternating between different voices and point of view, the impact of childhood trauma, the ever-lasting strength of female friendship. This is a novel that never fails to surprise and disturb you, a novel that stays with you weeks after you’ve finished it.
- Irish non-fiction
On Another Man’s Wound, by Earnie O’Malley
The memoir of O’Malley, a soldier who participated in the 1916 Easter Rising and who was one of the early members of the IRA. Forget everything you thought you knew about the Easter Rising and let yourself be transported in O’Malley poetic prose. Whether you chose to read it with a historicist state of mind, or just want to enjoy beautifully written but still informative prose, this memoir has it all. Deeply moving, sometimes shocking, it puts into perspective the often controversial narrative of the Easter Rising and gives an insight into the daily life of an irish soldier in the late 1910s.
- French Fiction (translated)
The Carousel of Desire, by Eric-Emmanuel Schmitt
This book is quite big, but every page is a delight. It follows different characters, all living in the Place d’Arezzo in Brussel, who all receive the same anonymous love letter one morning. While they try to figure out who sent it, their sentimental and emotional life unfolds, for better or for worse. Different personalities, different relationships, but all extremely moving, this novel is a love letter to human relationships as a whole and definitely worth a read.
- Carribean Fiction
Wide Sargasso Sea, by Jean Rhys
Now, we’ve all read Jane Eyre for the leaving cert., and whether we liked it or not, most of us wondered about the famous madwoman in the attic. Well, in this novel, Jean Rhys imagines the life and past of Antoinette. Set in the Caribbean in the 1830s, this novel is a sort of prequel to Jane Eyre, imagined with a post-colonialist and feminist eye. Amongst amazing landscape descriptions, Antoinette finally gets the character development she deserved. It is definitely worth reading, with or without Jane Eyre.