Elizabeth: Writer’s Tears


Whiskey for Serious Writers?

Ireland has a rich literary history that stretches back to 800 A.D. to the Book of Kells, one of the most beautifully illuminated manuscripts in the world. The city of Dublin, which is very proud of its own literary heritage, was designated a City of Literature by UNESCO in 2010, joining previous designees Edinburgh, Scotland, Melbourne, Australia, and Iowa City, Iowa.

The Visit Dublin tourism site has a whole page dedicated to Literary Dublin tours and attractions.  For those with literary inclinations there is the James Joyce Center, Oscar Wilde’s house, the birthplaces of Bram Stoker and George Bernard Shaw, and statues of James Joyce, Oscar Wilde, and Oliver Goldsmith scattered throughout the city. All men, I couldn’t help but notice. There are also milk and cookie storytelling sessions for families with children, and literary pub crawls for grownups.

The city also boasts a specialty museum that features the lives and works of those writers who have made significant contributions to Irish literature or the literature of Dublin.  It has manuscripts, pictures, letters, and other items from male writers like James Joyce, Samuel Beckett, George Bernard Shaw, Bram Stoker, and Oscar Wilde, as well as female writers like Maria Edgeworth (a significant figure in the evolution of the novel in Europe), dramatist and folklorist Lady Gregory, short-story writer and novelist Mary Lavin, poet Mary Tighe, novelist and playwright Kate O’Brien, and short-story and journalist Maeve Brennan.

It is a Serious Museum, featuring Serious Writers, and not a little depressing. Probably because there is not a single romance writer in the bunch.

After my visit to the museum, I made a Serious Effort to uncover some Irish romance writers during the rest of my trip to balance things out. I thought surely I’d have success at Hodges Figgis, the mother of all Dublin bookstores with books on every conceivable subject, spread over three huge floors.


Unfortunately, this is what their romance section looked like. Three shelves front and back, with about 200 books in total. Sad, really. Surprising too, since in Ireland, just like here, book purchasing and library lending statistics show the romance genre is going strong. It’s enough to drive a person to drink. Thank goodness for all the whiskey.

Ireland does, in fact, have a number of romance writers, including Claudia Carroll, Abby Green, Trish Wylie, Lynne Graham (author of over 60 romance novels), and Elizabeth Hoy (author of over 70 romance novels) to name a few. Perhaps they could go in their own museum, along with other popular female Irish writers like Maeve Binchy (her death  was mourned as the passing of Ireland’s best-loved and most recognizable writer), Patricia Scanlan (in Ireland alone she has to date sold over one million copies of her books), Cathy Kelly (one of the most successful female authors to come out of Ireland since Maeve Binchy), and Cecelia Aherne (her first novel at age 21 was P.S., I Love You).

That would be “don’t miss” attraction on my list.

Do you have any favorite Irish authors or favorite books set in Ireland? I’m still in an Ireland frame of mind, so I’m looking for suggestions.


15 thoughts on “Elizabeth: Writer’s Tears

  1. I can’t speak to Irish authors, but I can to the whiskey. Like your “Writer’s Tears” bottle, I, too, have a mini-bottle of Jack Daniels on my desk, right under my monitor. I’ve put a sticker on it — “For Emergencies Only.” I haven’t had an emergency yet, but you never know when one might strike, and one must ALWAYS be prepared!

    • Justine – Say to say my whiskey bottle is just for show. I’ve never acquired a taste for it, despite my best efforts at the Jameson factory in Dublin. I picked up the “Writer’s Tears” in the local whiskey shop there just because I was taken by the name. I’m afraid my “For Emergencies Only” stash is Kit-Kat bars.

  2. “Trinity”, by Leon Uris, was a well-written novel about Ireland around the time of the founding of Sinn Féin. I can’t vouch for how accurate it is, and the author isn’t even close to being Irish, but I remember enjoying the book.

  3. I haven’t read any Irish romance writers apart from Maeve Binchy, but I love Dervla Murphy’s travel writing. Most of them give her unique take on far-flung places from Tibet to Madagascar, but she also wrote one about her homeland called simply ‘Ireland.’ I haven’t read it, but if it’s anything like her other books it would be well worth a read.

    • Thanks Jill – Dervla sounds like a really interesting person. Now the big question is, do I start with “Ireland” or “Full Tilt (Ireland to India with a Bicycle)”?

      • I’ve read “Full Tilt” (ages ago) and really enjoyed it. That’s a typical Dervla travel/adventure book – it’s a great title because that’s exactly how she is – goes for it with no holding back. “Ireland” seems to be a collaboration between Dervla and a photographer – apparently the images of Ireland are outstanding as well as the writing, and I know you enjoy photography so … tough choice!

  4. (-: In the negative corner, my family was just dissing one of the sequels to Gone With the Wind. Scarlett O’Hara goes back to Ireland to find her roots (because that’s what they did in the 19th century? Lordy, what an anachronism.) and then I forget what all happens because it was very forgettable. Thank goodness.

    On the positive side, Angela’s Ashes was only tangentially Irish, but fabulous.

    I can’t think of any Irish romances, but there do seem to be a lot of redheads of Irish temper who move to America to seek their fortunes . . . .I guess I’m more aware of it as a meme than as specific books . . . . It’s a meme I like, generally.

    • Michaeline – I can’t think of any Irish romances either, but I’m sure I’ve read some in the past. Wikipedia only has 9 writers listed under “Irish romantic fiction writers.” I’m thinking there have to be a few more than that. Guess I’ll have to keep searching.

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