My Favourite Irish Authors

Happy St Patrick’s Day! I thought today would be a perfect opportunity to highlight some of my favourite Irish authors, some of whom I’ve probably already mentioned before.

After the Silence by Louise O’Neill

By now I’m sure I’ve mentioned Louise O’Neill’s work numerous times, but there was no way I could put together a list of titles by Irish authors and not include her. Although I would recommend any of her novels, I’ve chosen to include After the Silence in this list, as her most recent release.

After the Silence takes place on a small Irish island, twenty years after the unsolved murder of Nessa Crowley. A documentary team arrive to investigate the mystery around her death and everyone struggles to keep the past in the past.

Exciting Times by Naoise Dolan

If you hadn’t heard of Naoise Dolan before, then you probably have now. Her breakout novel, Exciting Times, was recently longlisted for the Women’s Prize for Fiction, and it’s easy to see why.¬†Exciting Times¬†is modern love story, filled with social commentary and written with a razor sharp wit.

Ava is a young TEFL teacher in Hong Kong and is torn between her relationship with emotionally distant Julian and Edith, who listens but makes her feel too much. Will she be able to move beyond seeing relationships as a power game? See my full review here.

Conversations with Friends by Sally Rooney

Sally Rooney experienced an overwhelming amount of success last year, after the popularity of the BBC adaptation of her novel, Normal People. However, you may have missed her earlier novel, Conversations with Friends. It is a highly intelligent novel about to ex-girlfriends who become entangled with a wealthy married couple. If you love Normal People, then definitely check this out.

Grown Ups by Marian Keyes

The queen of Irish fiction, Marian Keyes, has a wealth a work to pick from, but it’s her most recent novel that I’ve chosen to include. I listened to the audiobook of Grown Ups last summer and thoroughly enjoyed it. Keyes manages to tackle hugely important issues, such as eating disorders, whilst maintaining a light-hearted feel to her book.

Let me know who your favourite authors and titles are, I’m always looking for more recommendations! And follow this blog for updates every time I post.

October 2020 Round Up

It’s the end of another month and despite the chaos of moving house and starting a new job, I’ve still managed to squeeze some reading in so please enjoy and happy Halloween!

Before the Coffee Gets Cold: Tales from the Cafe

  • Author: Toshikazu Kawaguchi
  • Publisher: Picador, 2020
  • Summary: Following on from Kawaguchi’s debut novel, this delightful sequel returns the reader to a little cafe in Tokyo that can transport customers back in time and explores how we’d go to see the ones we love.
  • Rating: 4/5

The Other Mother (Audiobook)

  • Author: Jen Brister
  • Publisher: Penguin Books
  • Summary: Stand-up comedian, Jen Brister, recounts the trials and tribulations of raising twin boys as a same-sex couple, and being the ‘other’ mother.
  • Rating: 3/5

After the Silence

  • Author: Louise O’Neill
  • Publisher: Riverrun, Quercus, 2020
  • Summary: The infamous murder of the Crowley Girl has been talked about on Inisrun for the past years, but now a pair of Australians have arrived to make a documentary on the case and old wounds start to reopen.
  • Rating: 5/5

The Silent Patient

  • Author: Alex Michaelides
  • Publisher: Orion, 2019
  • Summary: Alicia was living what seemed to be a perfect life until the day she shot her husband 6 years ago and no one knows why. And she hasn’t spoken a word since.
  • Rating: 3/5

Exciting Times

Naoise Dolan

I’d been seeing this book everywhere and the cover is so beautiful that I decided to read it as part of the 2020 reading rush and I have a lot of mixed feelings about it. Ava is a 22 year old TEFL teacher in Hong Kong when she meets Julian, a rich English banker who likes to spend money on her and lets her move into his guest room. Then Julian goes to London and Ava meets Edith, who actually listens when she talks and openly cares about her. But when Julian announces he will be returning to the apartment in Hong Kong, Ava’s two worlds collide.

On the one hand, this novel captures what it is to be young and not know who you are or what you want with a healthy dash of social commentary thrown in, but on the other there were many instances where I was just deeply frustrated with Ava, the protagonist.

In this witty, debut novel, Ava views relationships as a power struggle, frequently proclaiming herself to be ‘good at men.’ In her mind, relationships are an emotionless transaction of other, often more material, goods (such as luxurious and deeply expensive apartments). She sees her relationship with Julian as a bizarre competition of who can seem the most disinterested in the other while they live together and have sex. Yet she also makes it her primary goal to get him to admit to having deeper feelings for her. In contrast, Ava relaxes around Edith and learns to trust in Edith’s feelings for her (even if she fails to understand the reason for them). It is Ava’s continued obsession with Julian after having met Edith that is so frustrating, because she is so clearly much happier with Edith (which she acknowledges multiple times).

However, Ava’s character is best summed up by a line in the book itself when Edith says to Ava ‘I don’t think you’re interested in having a nice life’ and this is often how Ava’s choices seem. She obsesses over what her thoughts and feelings say about her identity but never appears to question why she behaves in ways that she fundamentally disagrees with or stop her from being happy. She makes every action into a political statement but is never satisfied with the statements being made. My developing frustration with Ava as a result of this is likely why I felt a slight relief at Edith’s section of the book because someone finally calls Ava on her determination to be unhappy.

Overall, my enjoyment of the story but growing frustration at Ava’s character led to some mixed feelings about the novel. Although it is still a poignantly written assessment of class and sex and if you are fan of Sally Rooney then you will love Naoise Dolan and should absolutely read Exciting Times.