I am so at home in Dublin, more than any other city, that I feel it has always been familiar to me. It took me years to see through its soft charm to its bitter prickly kernel - which I quite like too.

Patricia Craig

Once Upon A Time

Marina Warner’s reimagining of a near magical transformation

Lowly Things, Homely Folk

From the four-poster to the settle bed, the dresser set with delph to the chair made from tree stumps, Irish country houses were filled with a variety of now unfamiliar artifacts, lowly things perhaps, but imbued in Claudia Kinmouth’s scholarly treatment with pungency and romance.

A Mission to Unite

Deeply Catholic, though also feminist and liberal, President Mary McAleese built bridges between the denominations. Her commitment was impressive and her story is an inspiring one, even if its large cast of popes, cardinals, bishops, priests and nuns sometimes overwhelms.

The Seamus Heaney Experience

On a jaunt to Ayrshire, Seamus Heaney came upon the Robert Burns Visitor Experience. When friends joked that there might soon be a Heaney Experience he suggested ‘a few churns and a confession box’. Roy Foster’s impressive new study provides an alternative route into that experience.

Silver Linings

Michele Roberts, the acclaimed author of twenty-five books, was rather put out when her new novel was rejected. For a year, she wrote a diary as an exercise in recuperation. The result is more joyous than jaundiced, something bright and exhilarating wrested from discomposure and dismay.

Not So Equal

They lived in squares, painted in circles and loved in triangles

Standing Up for Justice

Mary Ann McCracken, sister of the executed 1798 leader Henry Joy, was an advanced thinker, a dedicated philanthropist and a model of composure, dignity and firmness. Long surviving her brother, she could be seen on Belfast docks aged 88 handing out anti-slavery pamphlets.

Beating the odds

Edna O’Brien has been accused by some less perceptive critics of always writing about victims. But as she has insisted, and as is abundantly clear in her compelling new novel, she writes particularly of victims who survive, who pull through. She is celebrating resilience.

Catching Up

For decades, Northern Ireland politics meant little more than the struggle between Protestants and Catholics, unionists and nationalists. Since the guns have gone silent it has become clear that a new transformation is taking place, and it’s not the one the paramilitaries fought and killed for.

On the Side of the Angels

Polly Devlin was raised in rural Tyrone, on the shores of Lough Neagh. But at twenty she was wafted into British high society by way of a job with ‘Vogue’. Her latest, splendidly written collection, treads judiciously between candour and reticence in what adds up to a kind of oblique autobiography.