A comparative survey of the history of Catalonia, in its relations with Spain, and Scotland, in its relations with the United Kingdom, is erudite and eloquent, yet it fails to provide a balanced or convincing account of the recent rise of nationalist movements in either territory.
A comprehensive new history of Ireland’s largest hospital gives an account of its medieval beginnings and development through a period when the sick, who were also very often the poor, represented a category who should be cared for, but who were also often perceived as a threat.
The ‘Dracula’ author’s penultimate novel, published in 1909, is a rollicking tale of adventure, an excursion into science fiction which presciently foresees the future development of aerial warfare, an exercise in political utopianism and a vampire story which turns out to have no vampire.
A major archaeological study in 1930s Ireland carried out detailed measurement of a wide range of features from a representative sample of the population, with a particular focus on the shape and size of the Irish skull and its relationship to prevailing theories of racial descent and intellectual ability.
To write comic fiction in a context where everything seems risible, to orchestrate chaos in the necessary fashion, you have to be incredibly smart, in the sense of that term as both verb and adjective. To be smart, your words also have to smart; to give pleasure, you must also bring pain.
Anna Burns’s Booker success drew attention to fiction about the Troubles. What irked a little, says one writer, was the ignorance of the literary establishment, as if no one had written on the topic before. Much of that writing was done in genre fiction, which may be why they were unaware of it.
Religious belief has the power to define, but also to divide peoples. While it can be seen as in some respects a retrogressive force, there is no basis for the secularist view that it is on the way out. As Régis Debray put it, ‘we can no more disinvent religion than we can the atom bomb’.
In 1922, the 50-year-old Katherine Everett was despatched to see if anything could be saved from her godmother, Lady Ardilaun’s, property Macroom House. The story of her journey, the last 70 miles of it by bicycle, serves as a counterpoint to the blustery narratives of Ernie O’Malley and Tom Barry.
The characters in a 1946 collection of Mary Lavin’s stories, now republished, are cramped by the pressure to be respectable, to be of account in a narrow world, heavy with judgement. Power relations are overturned, usually irrevocably, between colleagues, siblings, husband and wife.