By Lisa Marie Griffith
Want to know what you can do with a history degree? The answer may well be write a historic novel! There certainly seems to be a ready market for them in Ireland. Bord Gais are sponsoring the vote for the best Irish book of the decade and with the overall shortlist consisting of 50 books a quick glance shows that history seems to be doing quite well. There are three history books nominated: Ed Moloney’s The Secret History of the IRA, Des Elkin’s The Stolen Village and Diarmaid Ferriter’s Judging Dev. There is also one history/folklore in Tim Robinson’s Conemara: Listening to the wind. Twentieth century memoirs have done even better with 6 books nominated including Bill Cullen’s Penny Apples, Roy Keane’s Keane, Hugo Hamilton’s The Speckeld People, John McGahern’s Memoir, Paul McGrath’s Back from the Brink, and Alice Taylor’s The Parish. Historic novels are heavily represented in the list showing that there is a good audience in Ireland for the genre. There are ten in the list including: William Trevor’s The story of Lucy Gault, Joseph O’Connor’s Star of the Sea, Ronan Bennett’s Havoc in its third year, Christine Dwyer’s Tatty, (ok I know the next one is a bit of a push as it is a ‘re-imagining’ but there is some historical content) Colm Tobin’s The Master and Brooklyn, Sebastian Barry’s A long way and The Secret Scripture, John Boyne’s The Boy in the Striped Pyjamas and Siobhan Dowd’s Bog Child. The overall list is very broad and also features children’s books, current affairs, fiction and romantic fiction. All things considered and with 20 dealing with some aspect of the past we have done quite well! You can see the rest of the list and vote for your favourite book here.
The list got me thinking however about what Irish history books of the last decade were left out. A brief examination of the list shows that the books had have been published before 2010, to have content that relates to Ireland, be written by an Irish author and to have had an impact on the Irish book scene. After asking around, here are just four I felt could have easily been added to the list: Clair Wills, That Neutral Island, Brian Fleming, The Vatican Pimpernel, John Horne (ed.) Our war and Micheal O’Siochru’s God’s Executioner. Any other suggestions?