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  • Joel Cunningham 1:00 pm on 2019/11/21 Permalink
    Tags: 1919: the year that changed america, , arthur size, , baron wenchkeim's homecoming, , , , great slate, lászló krasznahorkai, martin w. sandler, National Book Award, , , , the yellow house,   

    Announcing the Winners of the 2019 National Book Awards 

    When the journalist and writer Sarah M. Broom decided to tell the story of her family—of the home her then-19-year-old mother bought in New Orleans East at the age of 19; the house where she raised twelve children, including Sarah; the house that was was destroyed by Hurricane Katrina in 2006—in her searing memoir The Yellow House, she knew there was value in sharing their intimate, personal story with the world. She knew it was worth the risk.

    “My family understands, I think, the value of having these stories in a book,” she said. “I think they know that in a way this will outlast them and be something that the next generations can draw on to understand where they came from.”

    That pronouncement took on an air of prophecy last night, as Broom took home the 2019 National Book Award for Nonfiction, ensuring the already widely acclaimed work will find its way into the hands of many more readers. The Broom family’s story will live on.

    This fall, we’ve been following along with the 2019 National Book Awards, from the announcement of the fascinating longlists in September to last month’s unveiling of the formidable shortlists. At a ceremony last night in New York City, the awards were finally handed out in each of five categories—Young People’s Literature, Translated Literature, Poetry, Nonfiction, and Fiction. Taken together, the winners are a powerful collection of books, from authors whose work, from prose to poetry, feels utterly vital to the landscape of American letters in 2019.

    Here is the complete list of winners. Explore the other nominated works here.

    Winner for Fiction

    Trust Exercise, by Susan Choi
    An Indie Next pick named to 11 best book lists in 2018, Trust Exercise is set in the 1980s at a highly competitive suburban performing arts high school, Trust Exercise will incite heated discussions about fiction and truth, friendships and loyalties, and will leave readers with wiser understandings of the true capacities of adolescents and the powers and responsibilities of adults.

     

    Winner for Nonfiction

    The Yellow Houseby Sarah M. Broom
    A book of great ambition, Sarah M. Broom’s The Yellow House tells a hundred years of her family and their relationship to home in a neglected area of one of America’s most mythologized cities. This is the story of a mother’s struggle against a house’s entropy, and that of a prodigal daughter who left home only to reckon with the pull that home exerts, even after the Yellow House was wiped off the map after Hurricane Katrina. The Yellow House expands the map of New Orleans to include the stories of its lesser known natives, guided deftly by one of its native daughters, to demonstrate how enduring drives of clan, pride, and familial love resist and defy erasure. Located in the gap between the “Big Easy” of tourist guides and the New Orleans in which Broom was raised, The Yellow House is a brilliant memoir of place, class, race, the seeping rot of inequality, and the internalized shame that often follows.

    Winner for Poetry

    Sight Lines, by Arthur Sze
    From the current phenomenon of drawing calligraphy with water in public parks in China to Thomas Jefferson laying out dinosaur bones on the White House floor, from the last sighting of the axolotl to a man who stops building plutonium triggers, Sight Lines moves through space and time and brings the disparate and divergent into stunning and meaningful focus. In this new work, Arthur Sze employs a wide range of voices—from lichen on a ceiling to a man behind on his rent—and his mythic imagination continually evokes how humans are endangering the planet; yet, balancing rigor with passion, he seizes the significant and luminous and transforms these moments into riveting and enduring poetry.

    Winner for Translated Literature

    Baron Wenckheim’s Homecoming, by László Krasznahorkai, translated by Ottilie Mulzet
    Set in contemporary times, Baron Wenckheim’s Homecoming tells the story of a Prince Myshkin–like figure, Baron Béla Wenckheim, who returns at the end of his life to his provincial Hungarian hometown. Having escaped from his many casino debts in Buenos Aires, where he was living in exile, he longs to be reunited with his high-school sweetheart Marika. Confusions abound, and what follows is an endless storm of gossip, con men, and local politicians, vividly evoking the small town’s alternately drab and absurd existence. All along, the Professor—a world-famous natural scientist who studies mosses and inhabits a bizarre Zen-like shack in a desolate area outside of town—offers long rants and disquisitions on his attempts to immunize himself from thought. Spectacular actions are staged as death and the abyss loom over the unsuspecting townfolk.

    Winner for Young People’s Literature

    1919: The Year That Changed America, by Martin W. Sandler
    1919 was a momentous year, as Sandler documents in this fascinating overview of events ranging from Boston’s Great Molasses Flood, to laborers protesting working conditions, to women’s gaining the right to vote. Sandler breathes life into each event, gives it context, and examines its impact on modern day politics and culture; connections to immigration, the Black Lives Matter movement, and climate change will particularly resonate with young readers. A meticulous and breathtaking look at history’s influence on the present day.

    Congratulations to the winners! Explore all all of the nominees here.

    The post Announcing the Winners of the 2019 National Book Awards appeared first on Barnes & Noble Reads.

     
  • BN Editors 1:00 pm on 2019/11/21 Permalink
    Tags: , after the flood, , , , , national book award for nonfiction, , the yellow house   

    Breaking the Frame: Sarah Broom Unearths Her Family’s Story in Her National Book Award-Winning Memoir The Yellow House 

    Last night, journalist and author Sarah M. Broom took home the 2019 National Book Award for Nonfiction for her memoir The Yellow House, an emotional and revelatory chronicle of her family home in New Orleans, where her mother raised 12 children before it was destroyed by Hurricane Katrina in 2006. In it, their story becomes a sort of biography of the city itself—a place that was flooded with problems, from racial division, to poverty, to government corruption, long before the waters rose.

    Below, we present a profile of the author and her book by Amy Gall, originally published in September 2019.

    For author Sarah Broom, the expression “home is where the heart is” works not just as a truism, but as an understatement. “I was haunted by the house I grew up in from the moment I left it to go to college in 1997. I’m interested in place and what it means to be tethered to place, and through the years, I kept taking notes on the physical house itself without knowing what I was going to say about it. And then in 2006 after Katrina hit and the house was demolished by the city, the story changed for me. Because rather than write about this physical place that I can cast my longing and interrogations on, there was no place. Then I was writing about absence and that process blew open a world for me.”

    That blown-open world would eventually become Broom’s stunning debut memoir The Yellow House. It tells the story of the shotgun home Broom’s mother bought in New Orleans East at the age of 19 and where she raised twelve children, Broom being the youngest, until the house was destroyed by Hurricane Katrina.

    In order to construct this meticulous narrative, Broom, who had spent much of her adult life running away from the city of her birth, moved back to New Orleans in 2011 and spent the year doing extensive interviews with her family. It was an act that was at times cathartic but also gave rise to its own difficulties when the resulting stories began to get published. “An excerpt from the book ran in The New Yorker in 2015 and the magazine is meticulous about fact checking, so they called my siblings to ask them if what they said was true and my siblings were like, ‘Sigh. Here she goes again.’ It’s very hard to be written about. My family understands, I think, the value of having these stories in a book and I think they know that in a way this will outlast them and be something that the next generations can draw on to understand where they came from. But in the moment, that’s not the thing you’re thinking about when you’re feeling exposed and vulnerable.”

    The true power of The Yellow House emerges in the way Broom takes these highly personal stories and stitches them into a larger narrative about New Orleans itself, a city that has been plagued by racism, capitalist greed, and government corruption since long before Hurricane Katrina brought all of these issues to the nation’s attention. “I spent a lot of time thinking about the dysfunction of New Orleans. In a way, it made me feel closer to the city, like I was claiming it in the way that Joan Didion writes about making a place your own. But then I was also turning it on its back and looking at its soft underbelly and saying, what kind of place is this that made me and noticing that there are some icky things under there. But those icky things were part of what it means to tell a full story. The whole section about the French Quarter, for instance, is a game of taking what people know about New Orleans and saying, ‘How do I exploit that knowledge and push it to the edge of itself? How do I go into the myths of America like: it’s a meritocracy, and, if you buy a house it will lead you to wealth, and then blow them up?’ ”

    Broom got her start in journalism, earning her degree from the University of California, Berkeley, where she worked with Cynthia Gorney, “an old school journalist from the Washington Post.” The investigative rigor Broom honed there fed a project that wound up expanding outside the limits of a typical memoir. “I was trying to make something a little beyond the frame, because it was personal but that was just one layer, and even the personal was a lot of investigative reporting. If my uncle said to me, ‘In 1920 we were living on Saint Joseph Street by the rice mill,’ I wouldn’t just write, ‘Uncle Joe said they lived on Saint Joseph Street.’ I’d find the name of the rice mill, figure out where the train tracks were, figure out from census records how long they were there, and then construct a story from that fact. I used the thing he said to build a kind of world, and that’s an extra layer of journalistic work. I spent a lot of time in public libraries, cemetery libraries, driving to Raceland where my father is from. I basically lived on the fifth floor, which is called the Louisiana Division, of the main library in New Orleans and the University of New Orleans archive. But there needed to be all these layers of investigation because the book for me was like a concentric circle, just expanding and getting broader and broader.”

    Broom took particular pains to illustrate how inadequate healthcare, access to education and employment and “environmental racism” trap black families like hers in cycles of poverty and violence. She uses those broader themes to return powerfully to the memories of childhood shame she carried, growing up in a home that, even before Katrina, had fallen into a state of disrepair. “There was a moment in the book where I say something about how I learned to define myself by the place I’m from and the trick in the work of shame I think, is rather than allow you the clarity of mind to say, what the fuck is wrong with this system? What the fuck is wrong with this world? You take it on as yours. Now, as a thinking, interrogative person, that shame feels ridiculous to me.”

    Sometimes the heaviness of the work would stop Broom in her tracks, but inspiration could also come from unexpected places. “It was very hard, because you’re sucked into this world. For a long time I didn’t talk to my siblings in real life, because I was writing them and I was listening to them and it was just a lot, all their stories and their fears and ideas. At some point I was going so insane with this story and it seemed too unwieldy and I couldn’t gather it together and I remember standing up in my office, and going to the wall where I would do charcoal drawings every morning as a kind of exercise and just writing ‘Show Up’ and underneath that ‘Stay.’ And that became the thing that I did. I didn’t overthink it and say ‘This is so hard.’ I just showed up and stayed.”

    After spending so much time documenting the loss of her childhood house, one might expect that Broom would be hesitant about owning a home, especially in New Orleans. But an unexpected discovery piqued the author’s interest. “When my book went into production, my friend sent me a listing for this little yellow shotgun house. I never wanted a yellow house. I was not a person trying to replace my childhood home. But it was the cutest little house and I became obsessed with it. The house is only about 650 square feet, so I can’t really host big gatherings there. Only about four people can fit in there at once. But buying it was a moment where I was just thinking about myself and my own needs. And when you’re from a large family, that doesn’t happen that often. So, the house is special for me in that way.”

    This new yellow house has a history just as interesting as its predecessor, and may even inspire her next book. “The house is supposedly from 1811 and was originally owned by a free woman of color. I’d like to write about it someday. Who knows? The rest of my life might just be looking up addresses and saying what’s the history of this place?”

    The Yellow House is available now. Explore all the winners of the 2019 National Book Awards here.

    The post Breaking the Frame: Sarah Broom Unearths Her Family’s Story in Her National Book Award-Winning Memoir <i>The Yellow House</i> appeared first on Barnes & Noble Reads.

     
  • Molly Schoemann-McCann 4:00 pm on 2019/09/19 Permalink
    Tags: , , burn the place: a memoir, go ahead in the rain: notes to a tribe called quest, race for profit: how banks and the real estate industry undermined black homeownership, say nothing: a true story of murder and memory in northern ireland, solitary, the end of the myth: from the frontier to the border wall in the mind of america, the heartbeat of wounded knee: native america from 1890 to the present, the yellow house, thick: and other essays, what you have heard is true: a memoir of witness and resistance   

    Announcing the Longlist for the 2019 National Book Award for Nonfiction 

    Throughout this week, the longlists for the 2019 National Book Awards are being announced, with the selection of finalists in each of five categories—Young People’s LiteratureTranslated LiteraturePoetry, Fiction and Nonfiction—to follow. This morning, we present the longlist for the category of Nonfiction. Additional longlists will be announced each day.

    From an homage to the rap group A Tribe Called Quest, to an analysis of the continuing evolution of the concept of the American Frontier, to the harrowing story of a man who served four decades in solitary confinement, the books included in the longlist for the National Book Award for nonfiction are filled with close examinations of overlooked periods of history and unforgettable—and deeply personal—stories. Even readers who don’t typically read nonfiction will be spellbound by any of the ten picks below.

    Go Ahead in the Rain: Notes to A Tribe Called Quest, by Hanif Abdurraqib
    How does one pay homage to A Tribe Called Quest? The seminal rap group brought jazz into the genre, resurrecting timeless rhythms to create masterpieces such as The Low End Theory and Midnight Marauders. Seventeen years after their last album, they resurrected themselves with an intense, socially conscious record, We Got It from Here . . . Thank You 4 Your Service, which arrived when fans needed it most, in the aftermath of the 2016 election. Poet and essayist Hanif Abdurraqib digs into the group’s history and draws from his own experience to reflect on how its distinctive sound resonated among fans like himself. The result is as ambitious and genre-bending as the rap group itself.

    The Yellow House, by Sarah M. Broom
    A book of great ambition, Sarah M. Broom’s The Yellow House tells a hundred years of her family and their relationship to home in a neglected area of one of America’s most mythologized cities. This is the story of a mother’s struggle against a house’s entropy, and that of a prodigal daughter who left home only to reckon with the pull that home exerts, even after the Yellow House was wiped off the map after Hurricane Katrina. The Yellow House expands the map of New Orleans to include the stories of its lesser known natives, guided deftly by one of its native daughters, to demonstrate how enduring drives of clan, pride, and familial love resist and defy erasure. Located in the gap between the “Big Easy” of tourist guides and the New Orleans in which Broom was raised, The Yellow House is a brilliant memoir of place, class, race, the seeping rot of inequality, and the internalized shame that often follows.

    Thick: And Other Essays, by Tressie McMillan Cottom
    In eight highly praised treatises on beauty, media, money, and more, Tressie McMillan Cottom—award-winning professor and acclaimed author of Lower Ed—is unapologetically “thick”: deemed “thick where I should have been thin, more where I should have been less,” McMillan Cottom refuses to shy away from blending the personal with the political, from bringing her full self and voice to the fore of her analytical work. Thick “transforms narrative moments into analyses of whiteness, black misogyny, and status-signaling as means of survival for black women” ( Los Angeles Review of Books ) with “writing that is as deft as it is amusing” (Darnell L. Moore).

    What You Have Heard is True: A Memoir of Witness and Resistance, by Carolyn Forché
    She is twenty-seven when the mysterious stranger appears on her doorstep. The relative of a friend, he is a charming polymath with a mind as seemingly disordered as it is brilliant. She’s heard rumors from her friend about who he might be: a lone wolf, a communist, a CIA operative, a sharpshooter, a revolutionary, a small coffee farmer, but according to her, no one seemed to know for certain. He has driven from El Salvador to invite Forché to visit and learn about his country. Captivated for reasons she doesn’t fully understand, she accepts and becomes enmeshed in something beyond her comprehension. Pursued by death squads and sheltering in safe houses, the two forge a rich friendship, as she attempts to make sense of what she’s experiencing and establish a moral foothold amidst profound suffering. This is the powerful story of a poet’s experience in a country on the verge of war, and a journey toward social conscience in a perilous time.

    The End of the Myth: From the Frontier to the Border Wall in the Mind of America, by Greg Grandin
    Ever since this nation’s inception, the idea of an open and ever-expanding frontier has been central to American identity. Symbolizing a future of endless promise, it was the foundation of the United States’ belief in itself as an exceptional nation—democratic, individualistic, forward-looking. Today, though, America has a new symbol: the border wall. In The End of the Myth, acclaimed historian Greg Grandin explores the meaning of the frontier throughout the full sweep of U.S. history—from the American Revolution to the War of 1898, the New Deal to the election of 2016.

    Say Nothing: A True Story of Murder and Memory in Northern Ireland, by Patrick Radden Keefe
    In December 1972, Jean McConville, a thirty-eight-year-old mother of ten, was dragged from her Belfast home by masked intruders, her children clinging to her legs. They never saw her again. Her abduction was one of the most notorious episodes of the vicious conflict known as The Troubles. Patrick Radden Keefe’s mesmerizing book on the bitter conflict in Northern Ireland and its aftermath uses the McConville case as a starting point for the tale of a society wracked by a violent guerrilla war, a war whose consequences have never been reckoned with.

    Burn the Place: A Memoir, by Iliana Regan
    Burn the Place is a galvanizing memoir that chronicles Iliana Regan’s journey from foraging on the family farm to running her Michelin-starred restaurant, Elizabeth. Regan grew up the youngest of four headstrong girls on a small farm in Northwest Indiana. Regan has had this intense, almost otherworldly connection with food and the earth it comes from since her childhood, but connecting with people has always been more difficult. She was a little girl who longed to be a boy, gay in an intolerant community, an alcoholic before she turned twenty, and a woman in an industry dominated by men—she often felt she “wasn’t made for this world,” and as far as she could tell, the world tended to agree. But as she learned to cook in her childhood farmhouse, got her first restaurant job at age fifteen, taught herself cutting-edge cuisine while running a “new gatherer” underground supper club, and worked her way from front-of-house staff to running her own kitchen, Regan found that food could help her navigate the strangeness of the world around her.

    Race for Profit: How Banks and the Real Estate Industry Undermined Black Homeownership, by Keeanga-Yamahtta Taylor
    By the late 1960s and early 1970s, reeling from a wave of urban uprisings, politicians finally worked to end the practice of redlining. Reasoning that the turbulence could be calmed by turning Black city-dwellers into homeowners, they passed the Housing and Urban Development Act of 1968, and set about establishing policies to induce mortgage lenders and the real estate industry to treat Black homebuyers equally. The disaster that ensued revealed that racist exclusion had not been eradicated, but rather transmuted into a new phenomenon of predatory inclusionRace for Profit uncovers how exploitative real estate practices continued well after housing discrimination was banned. The same racist structures and individuals remained intact after redlining’s end, and close relationships between regulators and the industry created incentives to ignore improprieties.

    The Heartbeat of Wounded Knee: Native America from 1890 to the Present, by David Treuer
    Dee Brown’s 1970 Bury My Heart at Wounded Knee was the first truly popular book of Indian history ever published. But it promulgated the impression that American Indian history essentially ended with the 1890 massacre at Wounded Knee—that not only did one hundred fifty Sioux die at the hands of the U. S. Cavalry but Native civilization did as well. Growing up Ojibwe on a reservation in Minnesota, training as an anthropologist, and researching Native life past and present for his nonfiction and novels, David Treuer has uncovered a different narrative. Because they did not disappear—and not despite but rather because of their intense struggles to preserve their language, their traditions, their families, and their very existence—the story of American Indians since the end of the nineteenth century to the present is one of unprecedented resourcefulness and reinvention. Our B&N Podcast interview with Treuer is here.

    Solitary, by Albert Woodfox with Leslie George
    Solitary is the unforgettable life story of a man who served more than four decades in solitary confinement—in a 6-foot by 9-foot cell, 23 hours a day, in notorious Angola prison in Louisiana—all for a crime he did not commit. That Albert Woodfox survived was, in itself, a feat of extraordinary endurance against the violence and deprivation he faced daily. That he was able to emerge whole from his odyssey within America’s prison and judicial systems is a triumph of the human spirit, and makes his book a clarion call to reform the inhumanity of solitary confinement in the U.S. and around the world.

    The 2019 National Book Award winners will be announced on November 20.

    The post Announcing the Longlist for the 2019 National Book Award for Nonfiction appeared first on Barnes & Noble Reads.

     
  • Jeff Somers 4:00 pm on 2019/03/11 Permalink
    Tags: an irish country doctor, anne enright, armchair travel, , , chestnut street, , , frank delaney, galway bay, , , , , , , mary pat kelly, , , patricia falvey, patrick taylor, , smile roddy doyle, the daighters of ireland, the green road, , , the yellow house, , unraveling oliver: a novel   

    A Literary Tour of Ireland for St. Patrick’s Day 

    As with every cultural holiday, St. Patrick’s Day often gets diluted and boiled down to its trappings—the green beer, the folk songs, the parades. And while everyone loves a good green beer, there’s so much more to Ireland in terms of history, culture—and literature. Some of the greatest writers, living and otherwise, are Irish, so this year let’s make a pledge to prep for March 17th by taking a deep dive into books coming out of the Emerald Isle. We’ll kick things off with this list of 12 must-read books by Irish authors, running the gamut from literary fiction to thrillers with a few stops in-between.

    Chestnut Street, by Maeve Binchy
    Published after the author’s death in 2012, this collection of short stories collects work Binchy produced over the course of her career, and thus offers not just a ground-level glimpse of Irish life and culture but an overview of Binchy’s writing style itself. The stories focus on ordinary people dealing with the ordinary, epic problems that everyone has. Husbands leave their wives and discover they’re still not happy. People struggle with jealousy, with heartbreak, with professional and personal failure. These stories—set in a single Dublin neighborhood, by and large—offer a fascinating glimpse into the lives of its residents.

    Ireland, by Frank Delaney
    Delaney, a celebrated broadcaster and writer, offers up the history of Ireland framed as a series of fascinating stories told by a traveling Storyteller who visits nine-year old Ronan O’Mara in 1951. Trading stories for a bed and a meal, the Storyteller captivates Ronan—and the reader—with his tales of Irish Kings and warriors, until a story Ronan’s mother deems blasphemous sees him expelled from the house. Ronan goes in search of the Storyteller, and slowly evolves into a Storyteller himself, traveling Ireland and passing the stories on to a new generation. It’s a delightful book that acts as a stealth education on Ireland and its people.

    Smile, by Roddy Doyle
    Irish authors know how to spin a story like no one else. Booker Prize-winner Doyle returns with a fascinating character study that follows Victor Forde, a past-his-prime radio commentator who returns to his dingy hometown after separating from his celebrity chef wife. Abandoning his determination to make friends and do some writing, Forde drinks his sorrows away at Donnelly’s pub, spending time with the locals and then tottering off to work on a project he never quite gets started. One night at Donnelly’s, Forde encounters an old schoolmate, Fitzpatrick, a man he doesn’t remember from his violent years at St. Martin’s Christian Brothers School. Fitzpatrick forces Forde to revisit those dark childhood years, unraveling a decades-old mystery and memories of sexual abuse, and slowly becomes the man’s unlikely best friend, as Doyle builds to an ending both unexpected and inevitable.

    The Green Road, by Anne Enright
    Booker Prize-winning Enright was also the first Laureate for Irish Fiction, and this book tells the story of siblings dominated—and driven away—by their dramatic, excitable mother. Enright’s story is Irish, but she smartly sends the four Madigan children out into the world, where the language subtly loses its brogue and Enright can explore what it means to be Irish in the same larger context that people deal with in real life. The result is a marvelous story about family, about culture, and about those who choose to head out into the world and those who choose to stay close to home, and what those decisions cost each of them.

    The Yellow House, by Patricia Falvey
    Falvey, who was born in Northern Ireland but moved to America when she was twenty, left a high-powered job at PricewaterhouseCoopers to write her first novel—and you’ll be glad she did. The violence that plagued Northern Ireland throughout the 20th century is a vital part of Irish history, and Falvey frames it with a story about a determined young woman struggling to hold onto what’s hers in the midst of war both local and global, ultimately finding herself torn between two very different men. It’s as fiery and romantic as you want your Irish stories to be, and offers a perspective on the bloody sectarian violence that has defined much of recent history in the area, making this a moving and powerful read.

    The Irish Princess, by Karen Harper
    Harper offers up a gorgeous, lush story set in the 16th century. If you love historical narratives from outside perspectives, you will love the story of Elizabeth Fitzgerald, a girl born to Irish royalty…and a girl who knew the wrath of Henry VIII almost as much as his wives. The King imprisons her father, destroying her family, and she must seek allegiances and avoid enemies in the perilous English court of the aging king, seeing firsthand the fate of his wives and the intelligence and spirit of the young princesses, Mary and (future queen) Elizabeth.

    Galway Bay, by Mary Pat Kelly
    While the Great Irish Starvation might not seem like a particularly lush historical period for fiction, Kelly tells the story of her own family through that lens to spectacular effect. Beginning with Honora Keeley in 1839, who meets her future husband Michael Kelly swimming in Galway Bay, the story takes them through years of failed crops and bare survival before the momentous decision to take the trip to America to make a new life. Kelly’s chronicle of her own ancestors’ struggles and triumphs paints a masterful picture of a culture, a family, and an America in constant transition.

    The Daughters of Ireland, by Santa Montefiore
    A sequel to Montefiore’s The Girl in the Castle, this novel stands on its own and tells the story of Celia Deverill, who takes possession of the ruined Deverill Castle in 1925. She spends years lovingly refurbishing and repairing the place, only to see her family’s fortune destroyed in the crash of 1929—and her father and brother lost as well. Worse, she’s set upon by a blackmailer who tells her that her father’s fortune wasn’t exactly on the up-and-up, and Celia decides that she must clear her father’s name and rebuild her life using only her own energies. An ancient castle? A determined woman? This is the stuff of great stories, and Montefiore earns her bestselling status with a story of Ireland that will make you want a tour of the castles immediately.

    Unraveling Oliver: A Novel, by Liz Nugent
    Just in case you thought Ireland was all about gorgeous landscapes, romance, and the local pub, Nugent offers up this sprawling puzzle of a book. This is the story of Oliver Ryan, a successful children’s author in Dublin with a seemingly happy home life who one evening assaults his wife Alice, nearly killing her. But it’s also the story of everyone in Oliver’s life, past and present, who offer their stories about the man, weaving in and out of his own recollections. Bit by bit Oliver is exposed and the cause of his moment of violence is pieced together. Nugent brilliantly offers up stories that at first seem entertaining but unnecessary, then slowly links them more and more deeply until they click into place as essential clues. Dark and twisty, Nugent’s debut novel is urgent and violent and reminds us that we can walk away from our traumas, but we can never escape them.

    The Princes of Ireland, by Edward Rutherfurd
    An epic historical saga of the entirety of Irish history from Ireland in A.D. pre-Christian society through the founding of the Free Irish State, this novel follows fictional families through eras of Irish triumph and travails, starting with a romance in the 5th century that leads to tragedy and twisting and winding its way through time, stopping to note the arrival of Saint Patrick, the Viking attacks, the conquest by England, and the hanging of Silken Thomas in 1537. Threading history through the personal stories of people real and imagined, Rutherford paints a memorable picture of what Ireland was, is, and could be, making this an absolute joy to read, whether it’s St. Patrick’s Day or not.

    An Irish Country Doctor, by Patrick Taylor
    Taylor based this (and other books in his Irish Country series) on his own journals and notes from his youth, and the end result is a delight. Set in the 1960s in rural Ireland, freshly graduated Barry Laverty takes an apprenticeship with a small-town doctor (‛tiny’ is probably a better word than ‛small,’ actually) whose methods seem odd, but who slowly impresses Barry with his wisdom and dedication even as Barry gets sucked into the myriad local dramas and gossips that make small towns everywhere—but perhaps especially in Ireland—so interesting. This is the sort of book you sink into and get lost in, the sort of book that makes you want to book a trip to the Irish countryside immediately, and thus the ideal book to read in the month of March.

    Brooklyn, by Colm Tóibín
    Since the film adaptation of Brooklyn was nominated for an Oscar, more people than ever before know Tóibín’s name—and that is a very good thing. His status as a living link to Irish history is unparalleled: his grandfather was arrested during the 1916 Easter Rising, and his father was a member of the IRA. Tóibín’s work often explores Irish characters moving into unfamiliar cultures, which allows him to explore both with a deep intelligence and perceptive style that elevates his works above what are often fairly simple plots. He has commented that he grew up in a house with a “great deal of silence” and that his work “comes out of silence.” Ponder those statements while you’re reading some of the best writing of the modern age this St. Patrick’s Day.

    The post A Literary Tour of Ireland for St. Patrick’s Day appeared first on Barnes & Noble Reads.

     
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