Historical novel set mainly in Asia, London and USA
Ten great books set in Dublin
9th June 2021
Dublin is the latest destination in our ‘Ten great books set in…’ series. Ten great books set in Dublin. The city, capital of the Republic of Ireland, is on the country’s east coast at the mouth of the River Liffey. Its historic buildings include Dublin Castle, dating to the 13th century, and imposing St Patrick’s Cathedral, founded in 1191. City parks include landscaped St Stephen’s Green and huge Phoenix Park, containing Dublin Zoo. The National Museum of Ireland explores Irish heritage and culture.
Here are ten books set in this friendly, accessible city that will help bring Dublin to life for the reader, whether you’re thinking about visiting, sitting in the Brazen Head right now, or just sipping a pint of the black stuff by the fire at home.
James Joyce’s Dubliners is an enthralling collection of modernist short stories which create a vivid picture of the day-to-day experience of Dublin life.
Joyce’s first major work, written when he was only twenty-five, brought his city to the world for the first time. His stories are rooted in the rich detail of Dublin life, portraying ordinary, often defeated lives with unflinching realism. From ‘The Sisters’, a vivid portrait of childhood faith and guilt, to ‘Araby’, a timeless evocation of the inexplicable yearnings of adolescence, to ‘The Dead’, in which Gabriel Conroy is gradually brought to a painful epiphany regarding the nature of his existence, Joyce draws a realistic and memorable cast of Dubliners together in an powerful exploration of overarching themes. Writing of social decline, sexual desire and exploitation, corruption and personal failure, he creates a brilliantly compelling, unique vision of the world and of human experience.
James Joyce (1882-1941), the eldest of ten children, was born in Dublin, but exiled himself to Paris at twenty as a rebellion against his upbringing. He only returned to Ireland briefly from the continent but Dublin was at heart of his greatest works, Ulysses and Finnegans Wake. He lived in poverty until the last ten years of his life and was plagued by near blindness and the grief of his daughter’s mental illness.
The house is on Montpelier Parade: just across town, but it might as well be a different world. Working on the garden with his father one Saturday, Sonny is full of curiosity. Then the back door eases open and she comes down the path towards him. Vera.
Chance meetings become shy arrangements, and soon Sonny is in love for the first time. Casting off his lonely life of dreams and quiet violence for this new, intoxicating encounter, he longs to know Vera, even to save her. But what is it that Vera isn’t telling him?
Unfolding in the sea-bright, rain-soaked Dublin of early spring, Montpelier Parade is a beautiful, cinematic novel about desire, longing, grief, hope and the things that remain unspoken. It is about how deeply we can connect with one another, and the choices we must also make alone.
Ireland’s music has known few better times, with bands like U2 and the Pogues adopting a global yet somehow parochial presence. But there’s more to the country than multimedia stage shows and stumbling drunkards with bad teeth.
Mic Moroney, longtime Dublin resident and music journalist for “The Irish Times”, is no stranger to the Celtic capital, and in “Waking Up In Dublin”, he takes the reader on a walk around his city to discover its musical heritage, unearthing authentic folk music in local bars, braving the clubs on the legendary Temple Street and even visiting the recording studio where U2 cut their first album.
Aimed at all lovers of Gaelic culture and music, this is an insider’s guide to the cultural underbelly of this famous city.
Is it possible to tell the story of a generation and a city through the history of a restaurant? Ella Brady thinks so. She wants to film a documentary about Quentins that will capture the spirit of Dublin from the 1970s to the present day. After all, the restaurant saw the people of a city become more confident in everything from their lifestyles to the food that they chose to eat. And Quentins has a thousand stories to tell.
But as Ella uncovers more of what has gone on at Quentins, she begins to wonder whether some secrets should be kept that way.
‘A writers’ tour of Dublin … a gem of a travel guide’
Meet the Dubliners – from the famous and infamous to the famously fictional – as over fifty of the very best writers on Dublin get under the skin of an unforgettable city.
Anne Enright reveals the poetry in the Dublin soul
Elizabeth Bowen stays at the Shelbourne
Brian Laior is swept along by Bloomsday
Joseph O’Connor takes a wry look at Dublin man
Iris Murdoch evokes the Easter Rising
J. P. Donleavy shows us student Dublin
Conversations with Friends by Sally Rooney
Frances is twenty-one years old, cool-headed and observant. A student in Dublin and an aspiring writer, at night she performs spoken word with her best friend Bobbi, who used to be her girlfriend.
When they are interviewed and then befriended by Melissa, a well-known journalist who is married to Nick, an actor, they enter a world of beautiful houses, raucous dinner parties and holidays in Provence, beginning a complex ménage-à-quatre.
But when Frances and Nick get unexpectedly closer, the sharply witty and emotion-averse Frances is forced to honestly confront her own vulnerabilities for the first time.
The Good Mother by Sinead Moriarty
Kate has been through the fire with her three children …
Having been left devastated and homeless after her husband’s affair and the break-up of their family, somehow she has pulled through. Though times are still tough, she’s beginning to see the start of a new life.
But when twelve-year-old Jesssica is diagnosed with cancer, Kate’s resilience is put to the ultimate test. She has an eighteen-year-old son consumed with hatred of his father, a seven-year-old who is bewildered and acting up and an ex-husband who won’t face up to his responsibilities. And in the middle of it a beloved child who is trying to be brave but is getting sicker by the day.
Kate knows she must put to one side her own fear and heartbreak and do right by her children, particularly Jessica. But maybe doing the right thing means doing the unthinkable?
At Swim-two-birds by Flann O’Brien
Flann O’Brien’s innovative metafictional work, whose unruly characters strike out their own paths in life to the frustration of their author, At Swim-Two-Birds is a brilliant impressionistic jumble of ideas, mythology and nonsense published in Penguin Modern Classics.
Flann O’Brien’s first novel tells the story of a young, indolent undergraduate, who lives with his curmudgeonly uncle in Dubin and spends far too much time drinking with his friends. When not drunk or in bed he likes to invent wild stories peoples with hilarious and unlikely characters – but somehow his creations won’t do what he wants them to. A dazzling work of farce, satire, folklore and absurdity that gives full rein to its author’s dancing intellect and Celtic wit, At Swim-Two-Birds is both a brilliant comic send-up of Irish literature and culture, and a portrayal of Dublin to compare with Joyce’s Ulysses.
Broken Harbour by Tana French
In Broken Harbour, a ghost estate outside Dublin – half-built, half-inhabited, half-abandoned – two children and their father are dead. The mother is on her way to intensive care. Scorcher Kennedy is given the case because he is the Murder squad’s star detective. At first he and his rookie partner, Richie, think this is a simple one: Pat Spain was a casualty of the recession, so he killed his children, tried to kill his wife Jenny, and finished off with himself. But there are too many inexplicable details and the evidence is pointing in two directions at once.
Scorcher’s personal life is tugging for his attention. Seeing the case on the news has sent his sister Dina off the rails again, and she’s resurrecting something that Scorcher thought he had tightly under control: what happened to their family, one summer at Broken Harbour, back when they were children. The neat compartments of his life are breaking down, and the sudden tangle of work and family is putting both at risk…
Little Criminals by Gene Kerrigan
Justin and Angela Kennedy have money, love, children and a limitless future. Jo-Jo Mackendrick is a pillar of Dublin gangland society: a man determined that nothing will endanger his hard-earned supremacy. Into their lives come Frankie Crowe, an ambitious criminal tired of risking his life for small change. Kidnap could be the first step on his climb to a better life, and he knows just the kind of dangerou men to make it happen…
Which other books set firmly in Dublin would you add to this list, I wonder? Add them in the Comments below!
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