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.

Pauline Hall

Comings and Goings

The ‘isolated and outlandish’ domain of the doomed Big House gentry

A Marlowe from Mayo

In the rural Ireland of the 1920s memories of the War of Independence and Civil War are still strong. The Garda Síochána stands at the forefront of efforts to normalise life in a traumatised society, yet they too, both as individuals and as a force, have problems winning trust.

A Moment of Slackness

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.

Skimming the Cream off the Orphans’ Milk

Gerald O’Donovan left the priesthood due to strained relations with his conservative and philistine bishop. In his novel about the fortunes of the provincial middle class Curtin sisters, he indicts late Victorian Catholic values, warped by the privileging of religious vocations over marriage.

Their Own Medicine

Matthew Pearl’s 2003 bestseller ‘The Dante Club’ is set at the close of the American Civil War when Boston is shaken by a series of gruesome murders which seem to replicate the ‘contrapasso’ punishments of Dante’s ‘Inferno’. A group of eminent scholars must track down the killer.

A Terrible Thing

Iris Murdoch’s Easter 1916 novel ‘The Red and the Green’ (1965) expresses some of her own early Marxist and feminist attitudes, as when a character asserts that ‘being a woman is like being Irish. Everyone says you’re important and nice, but you take second place all the same’.

A Cooling Cinder

A fictional portrait of Dublin in the years leading up to the Great War and 1916 is brimming with ideas and has a great deal of historical interest, even if its author’s ill-digested anger at his enemies and overschematic approach to characterisation may reduce the artistry.

Awkward Voices

A new biographical study focuses on four nationalist intellectuals who at first seemed to support the Easter Rising and the War of Independence but afterwards questioned if it had been worthwhile: Eimar O’Duffy, PS O’Hegarty, George Russell (AE) and Desmond Ryan.

Kiss, Kiss, Bang, Bang

The first of a series of essays on fictions inspired by the 1916 Easter Rising looks at a work by Raymond Queneau, a French disciple of Joyce whose total experience of Ireland, he has admitted was a short stopover at Shannon Airport on the way to the United States.