Great Irish Writers

Maggie O’Farrell’s Book Bag: 5 Favorite Irish Writers

Maggie O’Farrell’s new novel, Instructions for a Heatwave, is the story of a family that comes together in the middle of an unbearable summer to search for their father, who has gone missing. O’Farrell, who’s Irish but was raised in England, has always delighted in exploring the themes of heritage and family. Here she celebrates five of her favorite Irish writers.

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Joyce, Yeats, O’Casey notwithstanding, these are my favorite Irish writers:

Molly Keane

I have read and re-read Molly Keane more, I think, than any other writer. Nobody else can touch her as a satirist, tragedian, and dissector of human behavior. I love all her books, but Good Behaviour and Loving and Giving are the ones I return to most.

Colum McCann

When I first read Colum McCann’s This Side of Brightness in the late 1990s, it blew me away. He marries the lyrical economy of a poet with the broad viewpoint of the born novelist and, what’s more, he gets better and better with each book.

Edna O’Brien

I grew up reading the novels of Edna O’Brien, smuggled out of my mother’s bookcase under cover of night. She taught me more about adulthood and the mysterious pull of your background than anything else I’d ever read. I have her new memoir on my nightstand and I can’t wait to start it.

William Trevor

I’d be hard pressed to choose my favorite William Trevor book but I do find myself returning to The Story of Lucy Gault. It is an exquisite, perfect, unbearably painful novel; his short stories are small masterpieces, too.

Roddy Doyle

Roddy Doyle possesses breathtaking breadth: he can do demotic comedy, family arguments, historical sweep, political analysis, and gloriously silly kids’ fiction. I’m not quite sure how he pulls it off.

If I had space, I’d also mention Colm Tóibín, Paul Durcan, Bernard McLaverty, Anne Enright, and Paul Murray.