Wednesday 12 October 2011

An Irish Reading Challenge

I am taking a break from the book cull (it’s hard work shifting books about) to consider the Irish Reading Challenge 2011 posted by CarrieK at  Ireland Reading Challenge on and since a gentle ramble around Ireland is just what’s needed to unwind, I have decided to join in.

There are three levels, for two, four or six books (Shamrock, Luck o’ the Irish or Kiss the Blarney Stone) and you can read anything you want – fiction or non-fiction, poetry or prose. The only rule is there must be an Irish connection: to qualify for the challenge books must be written by an Irish author, set in Ireland, or about Ireland. I’ve come to this more than a little late, because it ends on November 30, which isn’t far away, but re-reads are allowed and I’ve actually done some Irish reading this year, so I’m going to brave and aim for four books – unless I’m allowed to include the two I’ve already read (and blogged) without knowing about the challenge, so if I’m allowed to race through them again that would make it six!
The Grianan of Ailech, in Donegal - we used to picnic here.
Even if that’s cheating, I think I’ll race through them again, as a kind of introduction. I’ll start with Sebastian Barry’s The  Secret Scriptures, which I read  in August last year, then looked at again earlier this year when I was studying ‘created tradition’ in Ireland as part of an OU course, because the Irish Civil War setting helped bring the period to life. Then, in May I celebrated St Brendan’s Day by reading The Brendan Voyage, Tim Severin’s account of sailing across the Atlantic in a leather boat, to prove St Brendan and his fellow Irish monks could have reached America in the 6th century,

As far as the challenge itself goes, I’m currently re-reading James Joyce’s Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man, and on the waiting to be read pile is A Sentimental Journey, by Laurence Sterne, so there seems to be a certain synchronicity here, which is strengthened by my next choice. Another of my OU assignments was on Seamus Heaney’s The Burial at Thebes (his version of Sophocles’ Antigone). Since then I’ve meant to read his poetry, because I’m not that familiar with his work, although I like what little I have read.  So tomorrow I’m off to the library to hunt out a collection of his poems. And while I’m there I’ll see if I can find a copy of  The Best of Myles, by Flann O’Brien, another author whose work I don’t know all that well,  but I do know he is very, very funny, and the most amazing wordsmith. 

It may sound daunting to read to such a tight deadline, but I’d love to do this because my grandparents moved from England to Ireland and when I was young we spent holidays there, up on the Inishowen Peninsula in County Donegal. Maybe I’ll try and create an Irish atmosphere by baking barm brack or soda bread, and asking The Man of the House to sing and play Irish folk songs and jigs.

By the way, many thanks to Margaret for posting a link to the challenge on her blog at .
Me on an Irish beach many years ago.


  1. I'm so glad that you're joining us! And it is definitely not cheating to count the Irish books you already read this year - the challenge started January 1st, so anything from that point on counts toward your goal. :)

  2. Thank you Carrie. I'll blog on each as I go along - every Wednesday perhaps.