The Irish Women Writers Edition
By Amanda Addison
Ah, March. Saint Patrick’s Day is fast approaching and bringing with it green beer and leprechaun hats. Bless the Irish. Of course the Irish just aren’t wonderful for giving us all another reason to be drunk. They have also produced some of the best writers in the world such as James Joyce, W.B. Yeats, and Oscar Wilde. But where are the women writers?
Not all great Irish writers are men. In fact, some of my favorite Irish writers are women and even though their writing is just as superb, they tend to not make all the WASPish book lists. Therefore, in honor of St. Patty’s day and with a nod to Women’s History Month I bring you bookgasmic Irish women writers:
Elizabeth Bowen: Elizabeth Bowen once commented on the BBC, “... a novel survives because of its basic truthfulness, its having within it something general and universal, and a quality of imaginative perception which applies just as much now as it did in the fifty or hundred or two hundred years since the novel came to life.” Bowen wrote novels that fit this very description; they are fueled by complex characters dealing with issues and problems in everyday life, but at the same time they address the enormity of humanity. War, love, family, alienation, and deception are all prominent themes in her novels. Elizabeth Bowen’s novels include The Death of the Heart and The Last September.
Maria Edgeworth: Although born in England, Maria lived most of her life in Ireland after her father’s second marriage. Her novel Castle Rackrent is considered the first novel in the vein of historical fiction. She was actively writing until her death in 1849 and her books are available, for free, at Project Gutenberg.
Molly Keane: According to Virago Press, Molly Keane is the female version of Evelyn Waugh. Her novels center on Irish life and are brimming with wit and infused with satire. Although she used a penname during her early writing career her novels are published by Virgao Press with her proper name. Keane’s most popular novels are Good Behaviour and Time After Time.
Iris Murdoch: Iris Murdoch is one of my favorite authors. If a cocktail of existentialism, Angela Carter, anti-heroic characters, and sensuous prose sounds like something you could get drunk on then Iris Murdoch is the writer for you. My favorite Murdoch novel is The Good Apprentice: murder, sex, séances, and an odd house filled with even odder women makes for a novel that simply cannot be put down. A prolific writer, Murdoch wrote over twenty novels and her novel The Sea, The Sea won the Booker prize in 1978.