Friday Five: Books with Irish Characters 

Happy St. Patrick’s day! 

Oh, I love this feast day! A few years ago I wrote this blog post (on a totally different blog) about my favorite quotes from Irish authors, and this year I decided to highlight some of my favorite books with Irish themes or characters.

Irish characters are some of my favorite, not only because I see my heritage in them, but mostly because through all their struggles and hardships, the Irish always find joy in whatever they do. 

Irish themes are similar. They express pain and loss, but also joy and hope. 
1. The Bantry Bay Series by Hilda Van Stockum

This series was my favorite as a child, and I think it helped stir my love of travel and adventure. These books, The Cottage at Bantry Bay, Francie on the Run, and Pegeen, are so much fun. They are about a poor family in Bantry Bay, Ireland, and mainly follow the mischief of the young twins, Francie and Liam. 
These books take you all over Ireland and bring in the culture, folklore, and characteristics of the land and the people of the wonderful island. I highly recommend this one to be read aloud with your family, or even alone, if you want a spark of Irish magic. 

2. A Tree Grows in Brooklyn by Betty Smith 

Francie Nolan is a child of an Irish-American man and a Austrian-American woman. Her Father brings his culture into their lives through his lively spirit and his joy. Frankie’s fondest memories of her father revolve around his songs–his Irish ballads he would sing as he came home and again as she sat with him in their small apartment. 

This book is an amazing story of a family living in Brooklyn in hard times. I recommend this book to anyone, and I even think this book should be read at all different stages of life, because the themes and messages can be reached by all. (Disclaimer: you may be singing Irish songs, especially Molly Malone, for weeks after reading this novel.)

3. Ireland by Frank Delaney

This book is lovely. It follows a storyteller who wanders around Ireland and trades stories for a meal and a bed for the night. Each chapter in the book switches from being about the teller and the story he is telling. In doing so the reader is able to become attached to a character all while hearing a dozen folktails from Ireland.

Again I recommend this story to anyone. It’s a little slow at time, but due to the way it’s set up, you can pick it up whenever, read a couple chapters, and be content. 

4. Dubliners by James Joyce

This collection of short stories brings to life the ordinary people of Dublin town. There is nothing extraordinary about these stories, but that is what makes them so precious. As someone who has only spent a short time in Dublin, it is so special to be transported into the homes of the Irish people whom I have longed to be apart of my whole life. 

5. Angela’s Ashes by Frank McCourt 

This book is talked about so much, you almost think it’s overrated. Well, I think it is and it isn’t. I think it is in the sense that I don’t think it’s one of the most important books of the 20th century, as some may claim, but I think it’s not because it really is a good book. It is heartbreaking and gut-wrenching, and at times I had to put it down because it was too hard to read, but at other times the story was so compelling that I had to keep reading. I put it on this list because, like I stated before, even in all the suffering that happens in this book, there is an underlying sense of hope and joy, which is so characteristically Irish. 

*Bonus: my favorite Irish movie

The Secret of Roan Inish

Growing up I thought everyone knew this movie, but in high school and college, much to my dismay, I found out no one knew this movie. 

This book takes place mainly on the western coast of Ireland, but also out on the Island of Roan Inish. The story follows a young girl, Fiona, as she tries to get her family to move back to their home on Roan Inish. This movie has humor, folklore, beautiful scenery, and lovely Irish charm. It’s definitely a great one to get from your library this St. Patrick’s Day weekend 🙂 


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