Irish and Irish American Lives in Historical Fiction


irish1Brooklyn: a novel / Colm Tóibín

Colm Tóibín’s sixth novel, Brooklyn, is set in Brooklyn and Ireland in the early 1950s, when one young woman, Eilis Lacey, crosses the ocean to make a new life for herself.

The Canal Bridge : a novel of Ireland, love, and the First World War / Tom Phelan

After suffering the horrors of World War I, two friends return to a changed Ireland, as the effects of the war make them violent participants in the Irish struggle for freedom from Britain.

Charming Billy / Alice McDermott

A young woman, cousin to the late Billy Lynch who has just died of alcoholism, traces the story of his lost love, discovering her own father’s role in trying to keep Billy from being hurt by the truth about Eva, and contemplating the effect her father’s lie had on the rest of the family.

Forever: a novel / Pete Hamill

Cormac O’Connor, who arrives in New York City from Ireland in 1741, has been given the gift of immortality–but only on the condition that he never leaves the island of Manhattan. Through his eyes, this magical epic follows the city’s transformation from a burgeoning settlement to the thriving metropolis of the present day. But this is also Cormac’s story as he explores the mysteries of time and immortality, death and loss, sex and love.

Ghost Moth / Michèle Forbes

As tensions rise between the Catholic Republicans and the Protestant Loyalists in 1969 Belfast, Katherine, a former actress who is gravely ill, and George, a firefighter, keep secrets from each other in order to save their marriage.

The Given Day / Dennis Lehane

An epic tale set at the end of World War I follows the experiences of a family whose lives mirror the political unrest of an America caught between its well-patterned past and an unpredictable future. Police officer Danny Coughlin, the latest in a long line of cops, is a fresh face on the force and anxious to impress his father. Thus, he agrees to go undercover to infiltrate a group of anarchists involved in labor strikes. As Danny penetrates this underground world, however, he befriends people such as a beautiful Irish immigrant and a black servant-turned-criminal who force him to re-evaluate his beliefs.

Ironweed / a novel by William Kennedy

This tale, set during the Depression, tells about Francis Phelan and other inhabitants of skid row in Albany, New York. Ironweed, winner of the Pulitzer Prize, is the best-known of William Kennedy’s three Albany-based novels. Francis Phelan, ex-ballplayer, part-time gravedigger, full-time drunk, has hit bottom. Years ago he left Albany in a hurry after killing a scab during a trolley workers’ strike; he ran away again after accidentally – and fatally – dropping his infant son. Now, in 1938, Francis is back in town, roaming the old familiar streets with his hobo pal, Helen, trying to make peace with the ghosts of the past and the present. Chronicles the final wanderings of a one-time ballplayer turned down-and-out murderer.

Love and Summer / William Trevor

Living an unfulfilling existence at the side of a tragic husband, shy orphan Ellie Dillahan begins an affair that forces her to choose between an uncertain future with the man she loves and the desolate life she has built for herself.

The Matchmaker of Kenmare: a novel of Ireland / Frank Delaney

When matchmaker Kate Begley’s husband, U.S. intelligence officer Charles Miller disappears, she enlists Ben MacCarthy’s help in finding him. They travel to France and Germany, where they stumble across the German army about to launch its last-gasp assault in the Ardennes and end up questioning the wisdom of remaining neutral in the face of overwhelming evil.

Mrs. Engels / Gavin McCrea

From the bathing huts of Ramsgate to the hovels of Soho, from a surreptitious life in Manchester to a notorious one on the handsome new parade that is London’s Regents Park Road, we follow Lizzie and the Engels household as it struggles to match its communist principles with its hunger for the high life. At the heart of all the revolutionary tumult stands the woman who will one day become Mrs. Engels, as compelling and charismatic a figure as ever walked the streets of Victorian England, or its novels. In giving her new life, Gavin McCrea earns his place in the pantheon of great debutant novelists.

The Outside Boy / Jeanine Cummins

Christy Hurley, a young gypsy in 1950s Ireland, is treated as an outsider after his father tries to settle in a single town and the boy finds himself questioning who he is and where he belongs after discovering a family secret.

Redemption Falls / Joseph O’Connor

Having escaped the Irish famine only to face America’s Civil War, Eliza sets out on a mysterious cross-country quest, while a poetess denies other suitors to take up with a mercurial revolutionary, and a rebel guerilla sets out on a brutal rampage across the West.

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Just In – March 2017


Perfect Little World / Kevin Wilson

When Isabelle Poole meets Dr. Preston Grind, she’s fresh out of high school, pregnant with her art teacher’s baby, and totally on her own. Izzy knows she can be a good mother but without any money or relatives to help, she’s left searching. Dr. Grind, an awkwardly charming child psychologist, has spent his life studying family, even after tragedy struck his own. Now, with the help of an eccentric billionaire, he has the chance to create a “perfect little world”–to study what would happen when ten children are raised collectively, without knowing who their biological parents are. He calls it the Infinite Family Project and he wants Izzy and her son to join. This attempt at a utopian ideal starts off promising, but soon the gentle equilibrium among the families disintegrates: unspoken resentments between the couples begin to fester; the project’s funding becomes tenuous; and Izzy’s growing feelings for Dr. Grind make her question her participation in this strange experiment in the first place.

Little Deaths: a novel / Emma Flint

It’s 1965 in a tight-knit working-class neighborhood in Queens, New York, and Ruth Malone–a single mother who works long hours as a cocktail waitress–wakes to discover her two small children, Frankie Jr. and Cindy, have gone missing. Later that day, Cindy’s body is found in a derelict lot a half mile from her home, strangled. Ten days later, Frankie Jr.’s decomposing body is found. Immediately, all fingers point to Ruth. As police investigate the murders, the detritus of Ruth’s life is exposed. Seen through the eyes of the cops, the empty bourbon bottles and provocative clothing which litter her apartment, the piles of letters from countless men and Ruth’s little black book of phone numbers, make her a drunk, a loose woman–and therefore a bad mother. The lead detective, a strict Catholic who believes women belong in the home, leaps to the obvious conclusion: facing divorce and a custody battle, Malone took her children’s lives. Pete Wonicke is a rookie tabloid reporter who finagles an assignment to cover the murders. Determined to make his name in the paper, he begins digging into the case.

Transit / Rachel Cusk

In the wake of family collapse, a writer and her two young sons move to London. The process of upheaval is the catalyst for a number of transitions–personal, moral, artistic, practical–as she endeavors to construct a new reality for herself and her children. In the city she is made to confront aspects of living she has, until now, avoided, and to consider questions of vulnerability and power, death and renewal, in what becomes her struggle to reattach herself to, and believe in, life.

A Book of American Martyrs / Joyce Carol Oates

When evangelical Luther Dunphy assassinates abortion doctor Augustus Vorhees, the two grieving families find their lives intricately linked.

The Next / Stephanie Gangi

Turning away from the loved ones she believes disappointed her before succumbing to breast cancer, Joanna DeAngelis becomes a ghost bent on revenge against her ex and is eventually forced to reevaluate her life choices and the qualities of a proper death.

My Husband’s Wife / Jane Corry

When young lawyer Lily marries Ed, she’s determined to make a fresh start, to leave the secrets of the past behind. But then she takes on her first murder case and meets Joe, convicted murderer whom Lily is strangely drawn to. For whom she will soon be willing to risk almost anything. But Lily is not the only one with secrets. Her next-door neighbor Carla may be only nine, but she has already learned that secrets are powerful things. That they can get her whatever she wants. When Lily finds Carla on her doorstep sixteen years later, a chain of events is set in motion that can end only one way.

The Fifth Petal: a novel / Brunonia Barry

When a teenage boy dies suspiciously on Halloween, chief of police John Rafferty suspects it may be linked to the triple homicide twenty-five years earlier involving three descendants of Salem Witch Trial victims.