Summary and book reviews of Ireland by Frank Delaney

Ireland

A Novel

by Frank Delaney

Ireland by Frank Delaney X
Ireland by Frank Delaney
  • Critics' Opinion:

    Readers' Opinion:

  • First Published:
    Feb 2005, 576 pages
    Paperback:
    Feb 2006, 672 pages

  • Rate this book


Book Reviewed by:
BookBrowse Review Team
Buy This Book

About this Book

Book Summary

From a land famous for storytelling comes an epic novel that captures the intimate, passionate texture of the Irish spirit.

From a land famous for storytelling comes an "absolute masterpiece" -- an epic novel of Ireland that captures the intimate, passionate texture of the Irish spirit.

One wintry evening in 1951, an itinerant storyteller -- a Seanchai, the very last practitioner of a fabled tradition extending back hundreds of years -- arrives unannounced at a house in the Irish countryside. In exchange for a bed and a warm meal, he invites his hosts and some of their neighbors to join him by the fireside, and begins to tell formative stories of Ireland's history. One of his listeners, a nine-year-old boy, grows so entranced by the story-telling that, when the old man leaves abruptly under mysterious circumstances, the boy devotes himself to finding him again.

Ronan's search for the Storyteller becomes both a journey of self-discovery and an immersion into the sometimes-conflicting histories of his native land. As the long-unspoken secrets of his own family begin to reveal themselves, he becomes increasingly single-minded in pursuit of the old man, who he fears may already be dead. But Ronan's personal path also leads him deeper and deeper into the history and mythology of Ireland itself, in all its drama, intrigue, and heroism.

Ireland travels through the centuries, interweaving Ronan's quest for the Storyteller with a richly evocative unfolding of the great moments in Irish history, ranging from the savage grip of the Ice Age to the green and troubled land of tourist brochures and political unrest. Along the way, we meet foolish kings and innocent monks, fabled saints and great works of art, shrewd Norman raiders, strong tribal leaders, poets, politicians, and lovers. Each illuminates the magic of Ireland and the eternal connection of its people to the land.

A sweeping novel of huge ambition, Ireland is the beautifully told story of a remarkable nation. From the epic sweep of its telling to the precision of its characters -- great and small, tragic and comic -- it rings with the truth of a writer passionate about his country and in full command of his craft.

Author's Note

Beneath all the histories of Ireland, from the present day, through her long troubled relationship with England and back to the earliest times, there has always been another, less obvious reporter speaking - the oral tradition, Ireland's vernacular narrative, telling the country's tale to her people in stories handed down since God was a boy.

This fireside voice took great care to say that imagination and emotion play their parts in every history and therefore, to understand the Irish, mere facts can never be enough; this is a country that reprocesses itself through the mills of its imagination.

But we all do that, we merge our myths with our facts according to our feelings, we tell ourselves our own story. And no matter what we are told, we choose what we believe. All 'truths' are only 'our' truths, because we too bring to the 'facts' our feelings, our experiences, our wishes. Thus, storytelling - from wherever it comes - forms a layer in the foundation of the world; and glinting in it we see the trace elements of every tribe on earth.

Wonderfully, it was the boy who saw him first. He glanced out of his bedroom window, then looked again and harder -- and dared to hope. No, it was not a trick of the light; a tall figure in a ragged black coat and a ruined old hat was walking down the darkening hillside; and he was heading toward the house.

The stranger's face was chalk-white with exhaustion, and he stumbled on the rough ground, his hands held out before him like a sleepwalker's. He looked like a scarecrow deserting his post. High grasses soaked his cracked boots and drenched his coat hems. A mist like a silver veil floated above the ground, broke at his knees, and reassembled itself in his wake. In this twilight fog, mysterious shapes appeared and dematerialized, so that the pale walker was never sure he had seen merely the branches of trees or the arms of mythic dancers come to greet him. Closer in, the dark shadows of the tree trunks twisted into harsh and threatening faces.

Across the fields he saw ...

Please be aware that this discussion guide may contain spoilers!
Introduction

One evening in 1951, an itinerant storyteller -- a Seanchai, the very last practitioner of a tradition extending back hundreds and hundreds of years -- arrives unannounced at a house in the Irish countryside for an evening of storytelling. One of his listeners, a nine-year-old boy, grows so entranced by the storytelling that, when the old man leaves abruptly under mysterious circumstances, the boy devotes himself to finding him again.

Storyteller extraordinaire Frank Delaney takes his readers on an epic journey through the history of Ireland, stopping along the way to evoke the dramatic events and personalities so critical to shaping the Irish experience. This is ...
Membership Advantages
  • Reviews
  • "Beyond the Book" backstories
  • Free books to read and review (US only)
  • Find books by time period, setting & theme
  • Read-alike suggestions by book and author
  • Book club discussions
  • and much more!
  • Just $10 for 3 months or $35 for a year
  • More about membership!

Reviews

BookBrowse Review

BookBrowse

Delaney mixes myth, magic and history in a book that displays his obvious love for Ireland. The tales told by the storyteller work as a body but can also be enjoyed individually, while Ronan's coming of age story provides a continuous thread.   (Reviewed by BookBrowse Review Team).

Full Review (244 words).

This review is available to non-members for a limited time. For full access, become a member today.

Media Reviews

The Guardian (UK)
If you're a lover of Irish myths and history, there are rich pickings here.

Publishers Weekly
Past and present weave together as Delaney entwines the lives of the Storyteller and Ronan in this rich and satisfying book.

Library Journal - Susan Clifford Braun
Starred Review. An accomplished historian and novelist, Delaney deftly weaves the story of a people and a country with a poignant coming-of-age tale; fans of Edward Rutherford's historical sagas will love it.

Kirkus Reviews
Delaney steers clear of mawkishness and seems much less interested in calling attention to himself than in emphasizing the importance of the oral tradition to Irish memory and writing.....Reminiscent of the best of James Michener in scope and sheer crowd-pleasing potential.

Booklist - Ellen Loughran
.... newcomers to Irish history will relish the rich stories based on real and imagined characters, while readers familiar with tales of the old sod will plow through the stories to find out what happens with the O'Maras....will appeal to readers of family sagas and popular historical fiction.

Reader Reviews

Ashley

Must Read
This book is a must read. The stories of Irish history are amazing. The story line of Ronan is a definite page turner.

Write your own review!

Membership Advantages
  • Reviews
  • "Beyond the Book" backstories
  • Free books to read and review (US only)
  • Find books by time period, setting & theme
  • Read-alike suggestions by book and author
  • Book club discussions
  • and much more!
  • Just $10 for 3 months or $35 for a year
  • More about membership!

Beyond the Book

Broadcaster and writer, Frank Delaney is the author of at least sixteen books, both fiction (such as The Sins of the Mothers - 1992) and non-fiction (such as James Joyce's Odyssey and The Legends of the Celts) - but this is his first book to be published in the USA.

Interesting links:

  • Delaney's full bibliography at the excellent FantasticFiction.
  • The first story that the Seanchai tells is about the Megalithic tomb at Newgrange, Ireland, which is even older than Stonehenge - it's worth a look!
  • ...

This "beyond the book" feature is available to non-members for a limited time. Join today for full access.

Membership Advantages
  • Reviews
  • "Beyond the Book" backstories
  • Free books to read and review (US only)
  • Find books by time period, setting & theme
  • Read-alike suggestions by book and author
  • Book club discussions
  • and much more!
  • Just $10 for 3 months or $35 for a year
  • More about membership!

Readalikes

Readalikes Full readalike results are for members only

More books by Frank Delaney

If you liked Ireland, try these:

  • The Black Snow jacket

    The Black Snow

    by Paul Lynch

    Published 2015

    About this book

    More books by this author

    The startling new novel from a brilliant young Irish novelist on the rise, who "has a sensational gift for a sentence" (Colum McCann).

  • The Walking People jacket

    The Walking People

    by Mary Beth Keane

    Published 2010

    About this book

    More books by this author

    Greta Cahill never believed she would leave her village in the west of Ireland until she found herself on a ship bound for New York. Fifty years later, when the Ireland of her memory bears little resemblance to that of present day, she fears that it is still possible to lose all when she discovers that her children—with the best of intentions...

Non-members are limited to two results. Become a member
Search Readalikes again
How we choose readalikes
Membership Advantages
  • Reviews
  • "Beyond the Book" backstories
  • Free books to read and review (US only)
  • Find books by time period, setting & theme
  • Read-alike suggestions by book and author
  • Book club discussions
  • and much more!
  • Just $10 for 3 months or $35 for a year
  • More about membership!

Editor's Choice

  • Book Jacket: Confessions of an Innocent Man
    Confessions of an Innocent Man
    by David R. Dow
    It is circumstance that carries the wave that sweeps trendy Houston restaurateur Rafael Zhettah to ...
  • Book Jacket: Memories of the Future
    Memories of the Future
    by Siri Hustvedt
    I've never kept a journal, but my mother has written in hers for years, the annual volumes she's ...
  • Book Jacket: Professor Chandra Follows His Bliss
    Professor Chandra Follows His Bliss
    by Rajeev Balasubramanyam
    Rajeev Balasubramanyam encapsulates the theme of Professor Chandra Follows his Bliss in its first ...
  • Book Jacket: The Workshop and the World
    The Workshop and the World
    by Robert P. Crease
    The longest glacier in France, the Mer de Glace, is losing roughly 12 feet of ice height each year. ...

Readers Recommend

  • Book Jacket

    Greek to Me
    by Mary Norris

    The Comma Queen returns with a buoyant book about language, love, and the wine-dark sea.
    Reader Reviews

  • Book Jacket

    When We Left Cuba
    by Chanel Cleeton

    An exhilarating historical novel from the author of Next Year in Havana, a Reese Witherspoon Book Club pick.
    Reader Reviews

Book Club
Book Jacket
Fly Girls
by Keith O'Brien

How five daring women defied all odds and made aviation history.

About the book
Join the discussion!
Book Club Giveaway!
Win Ecstasy

Win copies to share with friends or your book club!

Ecstasy reveals the true Alma Mahler: composer, author, daughter, mother, wife, lover, and muse.

Enter

Word Play

Solve this clue:

A B Penny A T U

and be entered to win..

Books that     
entertain,
     engage

 & enlighten

Visitors can view some of BookBrowse for free. Full access is for members only.

Join Today!

Your guide toexceptional          books

BookBrowse seeks out and recommends the best in contemporary fiction and nonfiction—books that not only engage and entertain but also deepen our understanding of ourselves and the world around us.