A Ghost in the Throat, by Doireann Ní Ghríofa

I got this book as a recommendation from the @FictionMatter’s Instagram, one of my favorite readers to follow, and I was really glad I picked it up. From the very first pages of A Ghost in the Throat, I felt like I could identify with Ghríofa and the “female text” that she builds from two woven narratives.

It’s was the first of these narratives that really drew me in from page one – and it happens to be Ghríofa’s own story, a memoir of motherhood, scholarship, obsession, and womanhood. Her compelling voice pulled me in and had me raving about the book to others before I was through with the first chapter.

The second key narrative of the book is actually that of another female writer: Eibhlín Dubh Ní Chonaill, poet and composer of

Caoineadh Airt Uí Laoghaire, a famed traditional Irish lament that captivates Ghríofa to the point of obsession. Admittedly, I was somewhat less taken with this thread in the book, but was intrigued to watch Ghríofa’s fascination with another female writer.

Overall, it was really the themes of womanhood and motherhood that pulled me into this one and will make it memorable for me and I’d really love to see what Ghríofa does next, because her voice is irresistible.

The Granta Book of the Irish Short Story

I’ve had this collection on my shelf for several years and finally picked it up in September. Like most of the Irish literature I’ve read, these stories were dense, subtle, and often very contextual. More than once, I had to look up some local slang that I hadn’t come across before, research a little bit of Irish politics or history, or even search for an analysis of a story whose message was so subtle. On one hand, this makes for a little bit of a tedious read, but, if you’re willing to do the work, it’s very rewarding. I say “very rewarding” for two reasons.

First, I think these are the kind of stories that can make you a better reader. You have to pay close attention and work toward understanding. You have to value the craft of setting, tone, plot, and dialogue to truly appreciate how skilled some of these writers are.

Secondly, doing the work to read these stories is rewarding because, well, they’re good stories! Most are gloomy, eerie, or even sad. But several of them have stuck with me, even just for an image or ambiance that they captured particularly well. I’ve found myself constantly thinking back to them when something (anything! the weather, a fence post, a bicycle) reminds me of a scene from one of these stories.

I’m sad to say that this collection is pretty hard to come by now, so I can’t link to it in my Bookshop page, but it’s still available in select locations and on Amazon.

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