Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Frank Delaney's Ireland

I've encountered Frank Delaney a lot lately on various other book blogs, mostly due to his most recent books, and so when I saw his first novel, Ireland, at the library it practically jumped off the shelf at me. Ever since I visited Dublin in 2009 with my daughter and learned that my mother's family was originally from Cashel, I've been wanting to read more about Ireland. I frankly couldn't have picked a better way to start.

Ireland presents a series of framed stories--that is, the premise of the book is that we follow Rowan O'Mara as he grows from a boy of nine to a young man of about 23, and we hear the stories, myths, and legends of Ireland as he does, mostly from an old itinerant storyteller who captures his imagination and pulls him into learning the history of Ireland himself.

Here's how Ireland begins...

Beneath all the histories of Ireland, from the present day, through her long troubled relationship with England and back to the earliest times, there has always been another, less obvious reporter speaking - the oral tradition, Ireland's vernacular narrative, telling the country's tale to her people in stories handed down since God was a boy.

Listening to Delaney read his own work was wonderful--according to his website, he is not only a writer but a "broadcaster, BBC host and Booker Prize Judge," all of which give the recording a richness and depth that I'm not sure another reader could've quite managed.

Much as I enjoyed the framework of Rowan's personal journey, the stories of Ireland are what really captured my own imagination. Starting with Newgrange, which I visited when I was in Dublin, and prehistory, the stories span the high kings of Tara, medieval times (the story about the origins of the Book of Kells was particularly touching), and the centuries of trouble with the English (stories about the Penal Laws and the Easter Rebellion, for example). Overall, I think my favorite was about the man who could handle Handel--it started a bit slow and I was skeptical that it would work, but then I got swept into the friendship that evolved between a working man and the great composer and how they ended up enriching each other's lives--a story of friendship at its finest

Next up in my Irish-oriented reading is Edna O'Brien's Saints and Sinners, another audio version, and then I'm planning on diving into another of Delaney's, probably Tipperary.

However, I just discovered that Delaney has a new series of short stories called The Storytellers, that are designed for e-readers, and I can get a free copy of each story with my Prime subscription on Amazon. How can I resist, especially since the first in the series is titled The Druid?


  1. Great! thanks for your review. I think I will recommend this one to my daughter and son-in-law who visited Dublin last year.

  2. I listened to this on audio too and found it just perfectly matched with the storytelling nature of the story. I still haven't read or listened to anything else by him. Those short stories sound promising.

  3. Oh, my - this really does sound like one best "read" on audio! I love when authors read their own books anyway because they know just the inflection that intended.

  4. May I also suggest the Irish Country Doctor series - I am reading them now and really enjoying them. To date there are - I think - four books. So far they are set in 1964-65, but there is one that goes back a generation in flashback. The contemporary stories are filled with lots of Irish (and medical) lore.


  5. Welcome to the Ireland Challenge! And what a great book to kick off your challenge reading - I love all of Delaney's books I've read so far, but this one remains my favorite. :)

  6. I won Tipperary from Carrie from the challenge last year. I have to read it still - I've been on my science fiction rampage right now, so it's on my shelf to be read shortly. I really enjoyed your review of Ireland by him.

    I too recently discovered where some of my ancestors came from, Mountmellick in County Laois (formerly Queen's Co). I've never been to Ireland, though I hope to go sometime in the next few years. This is a good challenge to discover Ireland's literature, isn't it?