Looking for an interesting subject for your mid-term paper? Why not honor Irish culture by writing about an Irish author? We are featuring classic and contemporary books from writers who have left an indelible mark on the literary world. These award-winning novelists, poets, playwrights, and screenwriters—all of whom hail from the Emerald Isle—each have their unique storytelling and writing styles. Here are the outstanding writers and their most popular works.
Well known for her bestselling novels, Conversations with Friends and Normal People, Sally Rooney is also a poet and screenwriter. She adapted Normal People for a 12-part television series. The story follows characters Marianne and Connell through their secret high school affair. The three-year saga explores the entrapping conventions of intimacy, gender normative roles, and the individual’s capability to grow over time. Rooney has won awards for her books that focus on young-adult relationships often complicated by romance and friendship. When asked which literary medium she prefers most, the Irish writer said, “As a reader I try to love all the literary forms equally, but I probably read novels most often.” Rooney’s third novel, Beautiful World, Where Are You, a coming-of-age story about two young lovers, will be published in 2021.
Emma Donoghue is a prolific Irish-Canadian writer best known for her books on female sexuality and Irish nationality. One of her bestselling novels, The Pull of the Stars, is about three women—a nurse midwife, volunteer, and doctor—in a quarantined maternity ward during the Great Flu pandemic of 1918. Donoghue reveals how gender roles and expectations placed on women in war-ravaged Dublin cause and exacerbate their suffering. Her other bestselling novel, Room, focuses instead on the complex relationship between a mother and her son and their unshakable bond while in captivity. The novel was a finalist for the “Man Booker Prize” and Donoghue wrote the screenplay for the adapted film. The versatile author commented on the challenge of adapting a book to the screen saying that “…the paradox is, in film, that sometimes a line can be most powerful if it’s the only one spoken in a scene.” Her other international bestselling works include The Wonder, Akin, and The Lotterys Plus One.
Colm Tóibín is an award-winning novelist best known for books focused on his Irish roots. In his novel Brooklyn, the author tells the coming-of-age tale about a young immigrant woman living in the 1950’s, torn between her new life in America and her small, ancestral hometown of Enniscorthy, Ireland. The book was adapted to film and nominated for an Academy Award. Another of Toibin’s books, Nora Webster, takes place in Ireland and tells of a widow struggling to support her four children financially while still reeling from the death of her husband. Toibin’s others include The Master, The Testament of Mary, and House of Names. When asked about his inspiration, he explained that an unexpected idea or image forms into a sentence in his mind that “…moves into rhythm when you least expect it. …In other words, it’s like a melody.” The author is also a playwright, journalist, essayist, poet, and professor.
Maeve Binchy was an accomplished Irish author of numerous best-selling books. One of her most popular, Circle of Friends, focuses on two close friends, Benny Hogan and Eve Malone, who face many challenges growing up in a small Irish village. The best-selling novel was also adapted to film. Tara Road is another popular read and movie adaptation. The story follows two women—one American and one Irish— who both embark on journeys of self-discovery after swapping houses. When asked how she felt about her books being adapted to screen, Binchy replied, “One little sentence in a film script says and shows it all. And I am literally in awe of the detail they go to in order to get the places looking just right, and the detail accurate.” The author was also an accomplished playwright and columnist and former schoolteacher.
Samuel Beckett was an Irish novelist, poet, literary translator, playwright, and theater director who wrote tragically absurd dark-comedy in the modernist genre. He studied Italian and French at Trinity College in Dublin and then spent the rest of his adult life in France, where he wrote in French and English. Legendary writer James Joyce worked with and influenced Beckett in his early career. Waiting for Godot is one of Beckett’s most important plays. Coined as “Absurdist Theatre,” its unconventional style with meaningless dialogue disoriented audiences. This new genre had a monumental impact on the theater world for subsequent generations. Beckett’s other most enduring works include: Endgame, Dante and the Lobster, Krapp’s Last Tape, Molloy, Nohow, Malone Dies, and The Unnamable. He won a Nobel Prize in Literature in 1969.
James Joyce is one Ireland’s most beloved writers. The world-renowned author is celebrated for his life’s work every year on Bloomsday, June 16, in Dublin. The Irish novelist, teacher, and poet was an influential force in the modernist avant-garde movement. His most important novel, Ulysses, chronicles the experience of three main characters through the course of one day (June 16, 1904), in Dublin, and is loosely based on Homer’s The Odyssey. His other monumental works include: Dubliners, Finnegans Wake, and A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man.
William Butler Yeats
William Butler Yeats was a poet and dramatist who helped found the Abbey Theatre. A staunch supporter of Irish independence from England, he often created Irish heroes and heroines in his writings and served as a Senator for the Irish Free State. Yeats’ most important poems include “The Second Coming,” “The Lake Isle of Innisfree,” and “Leda and the Swan.” Yeats was awarded the Nobel Prize in Literature in 1923.