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10 Irish Novels of Landscape, Space and Place

Ireland is the setting of innumerable novels. Our rich history and luscious landscapes have drawn the attention of many contemporary writers. Here, we take a look at some Irish novels that are not only set in Ireland, but whose sense of space and place, and descriptions of landscape have a pervasive impact on the narrative. 

1. The Spinning Heart (Lilliput Press) by Donal Ryan

Donal Ryan’s The Spinning Heart captures the language and spirit of a post-crash Ireland. The novel centres around one small town in Ireland and depicts the national state through the lens of this town. 

2. Her Kind (Penguin Ireland) by Niamh Boyce

Her Kind is a retelling of the Kilkenny witch trials. Boyce constructs clear descriptions of the town and the surrounding woods, and skillfully weaves the historical with symbolic landscape.

3. The Blocks (New Binary Press) by Karl Parkinson

In The Blocks, Parkinson explores and depicts a regional dialect of inner-city Dublin. The novel is written phonetically in the dialect and the narrative is built around experiences of growing up in the inner city tower blocks of Dublin.

4. The Good Son (Salt) by Paul McVeigh – representing geopolitical tension and strife

The Good Son is a coming of age story based in Northern Ireland during the Troubles. McVeigh explores the unique experience of growing up in the geopolitical landscape of the troubles by rooting the novel in a selection of memorable and significant places.

5. City of Bohane (Penguin) by Kevin Barry 

Barry’s City of Bohane is based in the town of Bohane in the West of Ireland forty years in the future. In this novel, the landscape of Ireland inspires and anchors the speculative in fiction.

6. A Second Life (Viking Books) by Dermot Bolger. 

Bolger’s A Second Life is a journey through archives and memory. The political landscape is prominent throughout the novel, and is inextricably tied to the novel’s setting.

7. As You Were (Penguin) by Elaine Feeney

Feeney’s As You Were may not be an obvious choice for this list but the novel centres around spaces and places of importance to the narrator. The hospital, the view from her hospital bed and the family home are of critical importance to the narrative of this novel.

8. A Quiet Tide (New Island) by Marianne Lee

A Quiet Tide is a tale featuring the tangled roots of family which are connected to spaces and places. This piece of historical fiction cleverly weaves historical fact with locations that the author is familiar with.

9. You (New Island) by Nuala Ní Chonchúir

You is set on the banks of the River Liffey. This semi-urban setting provides a poignant lens through which the ten year old protagonist explores life with her mother and two brothers.

10. The Dead House (O’Brien Press) by Billy O’Callaghan 

The Dead House is a modern ghost story set in a ruined cottage. The cottage reveals its secrets when it is disturbed. This riveting novel is a masterful use of landscape, space and place to explore human connection.

Join us at Departures by Dublin Book Festival this July to listen to a selection of Irish writers discuss the influence of landscape, space and place on their work. Volume I: County Wicklow airs on 6th July at dublinbookfestival.com.