Recently, my sister and I were trying to remember classic novels we read in primary school. Most of them, were classic Irish books written by Irish writers. I dont think I have ever talked about Irish books on my blog before. I think I need to change that. I have another idea for a blog post related to Irish books or Irish writing, which Ill post in the next week or so. But for now, lets delve into my childhood and look at some Irish books that I read when I was young.
Drumshee Chronicles by Cora Harrison (Titanic and Murder Strikes Back)
I remember these vividly. It was a series of books, written by Cora Harrison, which are historical novels for children which tell the history of Ireland through two millennia. These stories talk about the Celts, monks, Vikings and the Normans, the 1798 revolution, the Great Famine etc. My favourite books from the series, or the ones I remember most, are Murder Strikes Back and Titanic Voyage.
Titanic Voyage Synopsis: Kitty loves everything about the magnificent Titanic – its splendour, wearing her beautiful gold necklace at the ceilis, meeting other passengers, including handsome John. She began to get quite fond of the two children in her care, Robert and Tabitha. She did not even once think of her grandmother’s words as she left Drumshee:
‘That necklace must never leave Drumshee, or bad luck will follow.”
And then disaster strikes. As the Titanic starts to sink and the terrified passengers begin to panic, Kitty realises that Robert and Tabitha are missing.
Murder Strikes Back: In fifth century Ireland, Christianity was new and strange, and Cetterick, the priest, had been cruel and arrogant and had made many enemies.
But which one of those enemies hated him enough to kill him?
Was it the unfortunate slave boy?
The jealous druid?
The goldsmith in fear for his life?
The wife whom Cetterick had abandoned?
The farmer cheated of his land?
And what about the beautiful Mara? What was she doing outside the chapel?
Once again murder strikes at Drumshee, and once again Ita and her fellow students at Drumshee law school set out to solve the mystery.
The novels provide interesting history lessons of Ireland’s past through fictional stories. If you are interested in Irish history, maybe try out these books. I might do a review on them down the line. I havent read them since I was a child so I want to see if they hold up today.
Synopsis: Sinéad Keane is a lonely young girl growing up in the west of Ireland in the early 1900s. Her mother died tragically in a drowning accident seventeen years earlier. She was pregnant with Sinéad at the time. Whenever Sinéad enquires about the tragic event no one is willing to talk to her about it, least of all her father.
Who is the mysterious stranger from England? Will Sinéad’s friend Danny survive the war that’s raging in Europe? Why does the sea have such a pull on Sinéad’s emotions and feelings?
I am unsure whether I read this or not. I know my sister loved this book when we were young. She talked to me about all of the time. A very haunting story, and ties with Irish mythology really well. So if wanted to know a little more on the myths of Ireland, check out this book.
Fallen Star by Joan O’ Neill
Synopsis: In 1950s Ireland, Sixteen year old Stella’s innocent childhood is shattered when charismatic Charlie comes into her life. Where Stella’s family struggle to make ends meet, Charlie can have anything he wants, and that includes Stella, who is rapidly falling for him. Then Stella discovers she is pregnant. Suddenly Charlie is gone, and Stella is left with only the bracelet he gave her. Stella’s devoutly religious mother, horrifed by the scandal, sends her errant daughter to a Magdalene Laundry convent, miles from home, where in return for daily and rigorous and endless chores, Stella will be able to have her baby in secret. The convent is bleak and austere, the nuns themselves cruel and lacking compassion. When Stella’s baby girl is born, it will be taken from her for adoption, the only answer is to run away with her child. But Stella didn’t expect the struggle and pain of being a single mother – with her family turning against her, who can she rely on for help. Out of the blue, comes support and love from an unexpected quarter, to finally make Stella’s story a happy one.
This is more of a young adult novel, but I remember it vividly from my childhood. This is a lot darker than the other books, as this takes a leaf out of our history. As you may not know, Ireland had Magdalene Laundries around the country for years. Their purpose was to take “fallen” women into their convents and subject them to hard labour, to repent their sins. These women would be deemed too promiscuous and tainted to live in society. Mostly, they were women who got pregnant out of wedlock, which was a big no-no in the old days of Ireland. So any woman who was raped, or just had sex, or even seemed interested in sex, were sent to the laundries. All mothers who gave birth in the laundries were separated from their children and never saw them again. This book captures that really well. The nuns in the laundries never gave them information, and treated the women terribly. It is a shameful part of our history, as I think the last laundry closed in 1996. If you want to learn more about this topic, there are some documentaries on the topic or you can watch the Magdalene Sisters movie. Its very good.
Irish Legends for Children by Yvonne Carroll
Synopsis: A delightful collection of traditional Irish legends including much-loved favourites such as ‘Oisin’, ‘The Brown Bull of Cooley’ and ‘The Giant from Scotland’.
This book was in every classroom in my primary school. It told the classic tales of Irish myth such as ‘The Children of Lir’ or ‘Deidre of Sorrows’. Its a great way for us Irish kids, to understand our roots and learn about the classic Irish stories of old. Maybe Ill tell some of those stories on my blog. I love the Irish legends. They are so fascinating and very tied with the country of Ireland. Makes me appreciate where I come from. I’m considering writing a novel tied with the Irish legends. Dont know yet. We shall see.
Under the Hawthorn Tree and Wildflower Girl by Marita Conlon-McKenna
Synopsis: The story of Under the Hawthorn Tree is about three brave young children, Eily who is twelve, Michael who is ten and Peggy who is seven, who try to survive during the time of the famine in the 1840’s. The book tells of their courage while making their journey to Castletaggart to find their great aunts, Nano and Lena, where they would be safe and have food.
Wildflower Girl is the second book in the Children of the Famine trilogy. At seven, Peggy made a dangerous journey through Ireland during the Great Famine. Now thirteen, she goes on another challenging journey, across the Atlantic to America.
Marita Conlon-McKenna was a huge part of my childhood. She wrote many children’s books, but the ones I remember most was Under the Hawthorn Tree and Wildflower Girl. They are part of the trilogy, Children of the Famine. Most of you might not know the story of the Great Famine in Ireland. The Great Famine (An Gorta Mór) was a period of mass starvation, disease, and emigration in Ireland between 1845 and 1849. It caused great devastation to Ireland, many died of starvation, of diseases on ships etc. Many left Ireland to survive the famine, never to return. Therefore, it was fascinating that McKenna incorporated this part of Irish history into her novels. This provides Irish children an easier outlet to learn about their history, without learning all of the facts.
That is all I have for today. I liked looking over the old Irish books I read when I was a child. I havent really talked about where I come from, except for when I wrote about my new project. I have a couple of posts planned relating to Irish writing, author, or even Irish tales. I found writing this post a joy, so I hope to do more like this soon. Hope to see you in the next post x