Spell the Month in Books | March Irish Readathon Edition

The Book Depository reached out to us this year for The Irish Readathon to offer 10% off selected Irish books until March 15th 2021. Use code TIR10 and check out the books here.

Normally with this tag, I chat about books I’ve read that begin with letters of the month but in honour of The Irish Readathon, I’m going to chat about Irish books instead. They may be books I’ve read or books that have piqued my interest. Either way, I hope you enjoy the list and maybe find something new to read.

This post contains affiliate links. If you make a purchase from these links, I may earn a commission. This does not affect my review.

M – Making It Up As I Go Along by Marian Keyes

I love Marian Keyes. Her books are always such a joy to read and this collection of essays is no different. They are fun, easy to read and totally relatable. Perfect for reading a little something when you go out for a quiet solo cup of coffee.

Synopsis: Welcome to the magnificent Making It Up as I Go Along – aka the World According to Marian Keyes™ – A bold, brilliant book bursting with Marian’s hilarious and heartfelt observations on modern life, love and much, much else besides.

Such as? you are determined to ask.

Well, how about her guide to breaking up with your hairdresser? Or the warning she has for us all after a particularly traumatic fling with fake tan. There’s the pure and bounteous joy of the nail varnish museum. Not to mention the very best lies to tell if you find yourself on an Arctic cruise. She has words of advice for those fast approaching fifty. And she’s here to tell you the secret secret truth about writers – well, this one anyway.

You’ll be wincing in recognition and scratching your head in incredulity, but like Marian herself you won’t be able to stop laughing at the sheer delightful absurdity that is modern life – because each and every one of us is clearly making it up as we go along.

A – Anseo by Una-Minh Kavanagh

Some Irish people have the deluded idea that Irish people aren’t racist. I’m not sure where they’re getting this idea from cause it’s not true. There is plenty racism as the event that Kavanagh endured can attest to. I’m so glad she was able to talk about the subject and not let it sour her love of Ireland and the Irish culture. It’s a perspective more people need to see.

Synopsis: A contemporary and gorgeous memoir of adoption from Vietnam to Kerry, the love of her small family and the power of the Irish language to overcome loss, racism and online trolls.

In 2013, Úna-Minh Kavanagh was spat upon and racially abused in Dublin’s city centre, an incident that was widely shared in the media and online. In the days that followed, Úna-Minh had only one niggling regret: that she had not responded in her first language, Irish.

Úna-Minh was adopted as a newborn from Hanoi, Vietnam, in 1991 by a single woman from Kerry. Six weeks later she arrived in her new home of Ireland. Raised in a loving home by her teacher mother and retired Garda grandfather, Úna-Minh was instilled with a multi-faceted sense of Irish identity. In her first book, Úna-Minh writes honestly about how the racist attack on Parnell Street was a catalyst for her to live through Irish in a twenty-first century way: online, globalised, in activism and feminism. And she talks frankly and humorously about tackling trolls, flirting abroad, gaming and her passion for creating accessible content in Irish.

Sprinkled throughout with funny and relatable Frása an Lae (phrase of the day), this is the heart-warming and important story of a diverse and contemporary Irish life.

R – Republic of Shame by Caelainn Hogan

Ireland has a dark and dirty past when it comes to the Catholic church. The horrors the church has made people endure is absolutely disgusting and I doubt they will ever acknowledge or apologise for it all. But we know and we’ll tell everyone. This book explores the mother and baby homes and Magdalene laundries which were basically prisons for women where they had their babies stolen and were forced to work in laundries.

Synopsis: Until alarmingly recently, the Catholic Church, acting in concert with the Irish state, operated a network of institutions for the concealment, punishment and exploitation of ‘fallen women’. In the Magdalene laundries, girls and women were incarcerated and condemned to servitude. And in the mother-and-baby homes, women who had become pregnant out of wedlock were hidden from view, and in most cases their babies were adopted – sometimes illegally.

Mortality rates in these institutions were shockingly high, and the discovery of a mass infant grave at the mother-and-baby home in Tuam made news all over the world. The Irish state has commissioned investigations. But the workings of the institutions and of the culture that underpinned it – a shame-industrial complex – have long been cloaked in secrecy and silence. For countless people, a search for answers continues.

Caelainn Hogan – a brilliant young journalist, born in an Ireland that was only just starting to free itself from the worst excesses of Catholic morality – has been talking to the survivors of the institutions, to members of the religious orders that ran them, and to priests and bishops. She has visited the sites of the institutions, and studied Church and state documents that have much to reveal about how they operated. Reporting and writing with great curiosity, tenacity and insight, she has produced a startling and often moving account of how an entire society colluded in this repressive system, and of the damage done to survivors and their families. Republic of Shame is an astounding portrait of a deeply bizarre culture of control.

C – Circle of Friends by Maeve Binchy

I read this in secondary school as part of my junior certificate curriculum so it’s been quite a while since I read it! I can’t remember too much of it other than it being a bit dramatic but enjoyable with nice touches of old Ireland. An adaptation was released in 1995 starring Minnie Driver, Chris O’Donnell, Colin Firth and Alan Cumming.

Synopsis: Big, generous-hearted Benny and the elfin Eve Malone have been best friends growing up in sleepy Knockglen. Their one thought is to get to Dublin, to university and to freedom…

On their first day at University College, Dublin, the inseparable pair are thrown together with fellow students Nan Mahon, beautiful but selfish, and handsome Jack Foley. But trouble is brewing for Benny and Eve’s new circle of friends, and before long, they find passion, tragedy – and the independence they yearned for.

H – Home Stretch by Graham Norton

It’s absolutely ridiculous that I haven’t read any of Graham Norton’s books yet! I love his show and have bought two books but just haven’t gotten around to reading them. I particularly like the sound of Home Stretch because leaving Ireland in the 80’s and 90’s was such a common path for people.

Synopsis: Compelling new novel of stigma and secrecy from Sunday Times bestseller

It is 1987 and a small Irish community is preparing for the wedding of two of its young inhabitants. They’re barely adults, not so long out of school and still part of the same set of friends they’ve grown up with. As the friends head home from the beach that last night before the wedding, there is a car accident. Three survive the crash but three are killed. And the reverberations are felt throughout the small town.

Connor, the young driver of the car, lives. But staying among the angry and the mourning is almost as hard as living with the shame, and so he leaves the only place he knows for another life. Travelling first to Liverpool, then London, by the noughties he has made a home – of sorts – for himself in New York. The city provides shelter and possibility for the displaced, somewhere Connor can forget his past and forge a new life.

But the secrets, the unspoken longings and regrets that have come to haunt those left behind will not be silenced. And before long, Connor will have to meet his past.

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