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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