Anne Enright : Lyrical Words from The Green Road

I could almost be in Dublin right now. It’s 13 degrees and in the freezing rain I bike up to the beautiful Piano venue on Armagh Street, for the last event of the WORD Christchurch Autumn Season. Anne Enright, first Laureate for Irish Fiction, is here to talk about her book The Green Road.

Cover of The Green Road Winner of Irish Novel of the Year, The Green Road is a family saga, reminiscent of Jack Kerouac’s ‘Great American Novel,’ The Town and the City. Is this Enright’s Great Irish Novel? Well she did get her prize…

Family, says Enright, are a common focus in many of her novels. The Gathering, winner of the Man Booker Prize in 2007, is about a family of nine who reunite for a funeral. Other common themes are the drinking father, the difficult mother, and the death of a parent or sibling.

There’s nothing brings a family together like a good funeral.

Often splitting her stories between characters before gathering the threads back together, Enright insightfully examines different perspectives of a common experience or issue.

The Forgotten Waltz, (a lyrical story about a love affair), is more introverted. Both lyrical and ironically funny, it follows Gina as she navigates her way through an affair, and the death of her mother. Apparently it has long been illegal in Irish culture to talk in the first person: “It’s not about you…!”

Enright is part of a new canon of Irish writers who “write what they like”. She discovered women writers were overlooked in Ireland, and figured no-one would read her… so wrote for her own pleasure.

The landscape is a strong character too. Quietly dominating the prose at times, foreshadowing perhaps a storm to come in story:

“The sky was full of weather.” (The Green Road).

Enright felt she could not write about it at first but remembered a connection with the cliffs around County Clare.

Anne Enright looking like she’s about to say something (Photo by Ali Ng)

Enright is the first to say that she doesn’t want to be “abouty”. She means that she doesn’t want each book to be about the same theme, though issues do inspire her. The drinking father persona of Ireland, the difficult mother…

When asked what inspired the story for The Forgotten Waltz, I was blindsided by her answer: the economic boom and bust of Ireland… the dishonesty and financial fallout of the affair being a vehicle for Irish investment in a failing property market… So there you go.

Enright‘s narrative voice charms the reader from the first paragraph. After a week of reading The Forgotten Waltz, my mind was speaking in brogue. So it was a pleasure to hear her read Hannah’s trip along the Green road with her Da, and the dramatic scene around Holy Thursday dinner.

Her observations of human experience have been described as an unblinking eye. I see it more as winking. Like the Catholic Church, (nurturing, but subversive, ‘you can’t get out of it” she says,) her work is poignant, with the humour that comes along with the dramas of life.

Further information

Stream some traditional Irish music for St Patrick’s Day

Irish Music in London PubsIrish Rebellion AlbumIrish Songs of Resistance Irish Folk Songs and BalladsIrish Traditional SongsTraditional Music of IrelandIrish popular dancesIrish Folk Songs for WomenIrish Dance Music

Together We Read Worlds Apart

World’s Apart Together We Read allows readers across Australia and New Zealand to borrow the eBook Worlds Apart simultaneously for free.

For a two-week period beginning today, you can borrow the eBook Worlds Apart by Ber Carroll. There will be no waiting for this popular modern family story.

Worlds Apart is about two women, cousins and best friends, who are worlds apart and one secret that changes everything. As two women desperately try to find their place in this world in Ireland and Australia, a shocking family secret comes to light, and nothing will ever be the same again. Ber Carroll’s novel is a story about modern-day women, their relationships, family dynamics, conflicts and ambitions.

Together We Read is facilitated by the OverDrive platform for eBooks and eAudiobooks.


Cold climate knitting

Wow, we have some great knitting titles from the Scottish highlands and islands, and Scandinavia at our libraries.

Other titles:


Our Zinio for Libraries collection includes several knitting eMagazines that you can download for free and keep. PressReader has knitting magazines that you can view online. You will need your library card number and PIN/password.

The dark underbelly of the Irish tiger

Irish crime is considered the latest big thing in publishing circles and on its way to match the Scandinavians.  This development has been fomented by the rapid social change and increasingly serious and widespread crime in Ireland, something which has been blamed on the Irish Tiger phenomenon.

It is a lot less easy to quantify than Scandinavian crime, being much more varied in style and content. It stretches from cosy crime to the sort of tough (and violent) noir that I associate with best-selling American crime authors.

The biggest names in Irish noir are Declan Hughes, Ken Bruen and Neville Stuart.

  • Declan Hughes has been compared to Raymond Chandler, Elmore Leonard and Donald Westlake, and admits to being influenced by all of them. His PI Ed Loy, both comic and dark,  fits well into the classic noir tradition.
  • Ken Bruen features a hard living detective called Jack Taylor. He is known for both his gritty stories and his poetic language.
  • Stuart Neville’s  first book “The Twelve” about hard man and ex-IRA killer Gerry Fegan was hailed – both as crime of the hard boiled variety, and as literature.

CoverThere are also some pretty good police procedurals. Some of the best known are:

  • Tana French, a multi-award winning writer of books which combined police procedural and psychological suspense.
  • Brian McGilloway whose skillful writing is full of social ambiguity and a cast of characters who are the part of the inherited history of a troubled society.
  • Gene Kerrigan, whose characters are often honest Garda at war with a corrupt system. His stories tend to be as much a portrayal of contemporary Ireland as they are crime stories.

And then there’s Benjamin Black, actually Booker prize winner John Banville. His well-reviewed series features a consultant pathologist in the Dublin City morgue. Quirke is a hard drinking loner, more at home with corpses than living people, but is driven to find out the truth.

What these books have in common is that they treat Ireland as such an integral part of their stories that they give a view into a modern Ireland with which many of us would not be familiar. In this they perhaps mimic the appeal of the Scandinavians, introducing us a to a new and yet familiar social milieu.

There is quite a lot of cosy Irish crime as well, some of it very witty and all of it good reading, but it tends to be more generic and won’t tell you as much about either the Irish, or Ireland.

You’ll find all of these and more in our booklist of Irish crime.

If you’re looking for some new crime authors give them a go and have some happy St Patrick’s Day reading.

Find My Past Ireland: discover your Irish naughtiness!

Find My Past Ireland is an online tool to help you flesh out the Irish branches on your family tree. They have just released the Irish Prison Registers (1790-1924), a register that contains more than 3.5 million entries, covering all types of custodial institutions. logo

Most records include details such as physical description, next of kin, and information about the crime and sentence.  What was once a source of shame is now a clue in your hunt for your past – and the juicy bits at that…  This is an easy way to find out if you have  jailbirds nesting in your family tree!

Don’t forget we also have Find My Past UK and Find My Past  AU  for our family history detectives  and a variety of other family history resources. (Please note that you can only use Find My Past resources inside community libraries.)

Explore at will!

Find my past Ireland: Find Your Irish roots

Screenshot“Being Irish, he had an abiding sense of tragedy, which sustained him through temporary periods of joy” – W. B. Yeats

Many New Zealanders have Irish blood flowing through their veins.  For those who want to find out more about their Irish ancestral roots then we have Find My Past Ireland.This resource includes:

  • The Landed Estates Court records: details of over 500,000 tenants on Irish estates;
  • Griffith’s Valuation: information about households from the Famine and up until the start of the civil registration in 1864;
  • Indexes to Irish wills dating from 1270 – 1858;
  • Over 400,000 gravestones and church memorials;
  • Emigration and military records;
  • Over 250,000 obituaries and other newspaper notices from all over Ireland.

This complements information you will find on Find My Past UK and Find My Past Australia.

Our license with the distributors mean access is only available in libraries and not from home.

There are many other useful  family history resources available within libraries and also from home with your library card number and PIN through the Source!