Wrapping up my Ireland Reading Challenge 2011

Although I only read four books for it I did enjoy the Ireland Reading challenge, hosted by Carrie at Books & Movies, very much, not least because it introduced me to two authors who I think will become firm favourites. They couldn’t be more different.

Alan Glynn’s Winterland is a fast-paced tale of family and politics set against the backdrop of a very modern Ireland, almost at the exact point at which the country’s current economic and political woes began. I read the book at the beginning of the year but its characters and clever construction have stayed with me ever since. I recently purchased Glynn’s latest novel Bloodland which I aim to read early in the new year.

Cora Harrison’s Scales of Retribution is a slower paced tale which takes place 500 years earlier, though it is still a fiercely Irish story which incorporates a whodunnit into an exploration of Gaelic law and its superiority over English common law.

I also read Ken Bruen’s Priest which was outstanding. It loosely uses the conventions of the genre to explore recent changes in Irish society, especially the changing relationship between the Catholic church and Irish people. Of course I’ll keep reading Bruen too but I had discovered him last year (late to the party, I know) so don’t count him as a discovery of this particular challenge.

I enjoyed Jane Casey’s The Burning too but as the only one of the four books to be set outside the country it doesn’t have the same sense of Irishness as the others. It’s full of suspense though and has some well developed characters.

I do actually have a fifth book which I was going to read for the challenge. It’s Aifric Campbell‘s The Loss Adjustor but I don’t think I’ll get to it in what’s left of this year. I liked the sound of it though (even though I’m not sure it’s crime fiction at all) so I’ll read it next year even without the motivation of a challenge.

One of the things I found most noticeable when looking for books to read for this challenge was the relative dearth of female Irish crime writers. Although not absolute about it I have been trying to achieve a vaguely even gender balance in my reading and so was particularly struck by the gender disparity, especially when compared with other countries with an emerging crime fiction scene (e.g. Sweden, Australia, Scotland).

I’ve read both Tana French and Alex Barclay before and if I’m being honest neither would make it to my list of favourite authors so I was keen to try out some new writers for this challenge. I was not exactly burdened by choice, especially not of current female writers. The Irish Book Awards had a crime fiction category this year which shortlisted 5 books (scroll to the bottom of the link), of which 1 and a half were written  by women (Casey Hill is the pseudonym for a husband & wife team).  Declan Burke, champion of Irish crime fiction, lists 21 books published this year as eligible for his Crime Always Pays Novel of the Year Award and only 4 and a half of these are by women (Casey Hill appears here too). In fact of 101 authors listed as Irish crime writers on Burke’s site I think only 19 are women (I did check all the people with initials or gender neutral names but I could have gotten a couple wrong).

I’m not really making any  point or claiming any great insight on this issue and would welcome any thoughts from people in the know. I wonder for example whether there are loads of Irish women trying to get their crime fiction published or whether Irish women aren’t bothering to write the genre at all?

This entry was posted in Alan Glynn, book review, Cora Harrison, Ireland Reading Challenge 2011, Jane Casey, Ken Bruen, memes and challenges. Bookmark the permalink.

5 Responses to Wrapping up my Ireland Reading Challenge 2011

  1. Margot Kinberg says:

    Bernadette – Interesting question about Irish female crime writers. I hadn’t thought deeply about it, but you’ve made me wonder (always a dangerous thing to do 😉 ). Well-done on completing your challenge, and I’m glad you found some new authors to really like as well. I’ve already put that Cora Harrison on my TBR thanks to you…


  2. Good question. But the only female writers I have read are Tana French and Jane Casey.

    Have you checked EuroCrime?


  3. janebbooks says:

    Bernadette – you have missed Arlene Hunt. Hunt lives in Dublin, is 38 years old, and has
    written seven crime novels. She is one of three females in the anthology REQUIEMS FOR THE DEPARTED, short stories by contemporary Irish crime writers involving Irish mythology. Her
    SLIAH BAN story is based on Queen Maeve of Connaught and her attempt to get THE BROWN BULL OF COOLEY for breeding. Hunt’s contemporary story is hilarious…she tries to get a stud to breed her horse Sliah Ban from her husband of twenty years who has left her for a “flaccid limp
    drip” of a woman.

    The other two females are Una McCormack and T. A. Moore. Neither write Irish crime.


  4. Marg says:

    In light of the focus on Australian women writers in recent month, it’s interesting to turn the spotlight and see if other countries are doing it better or worse than we are! There certainly seems to be something of a gender gap in your example!


  5. Pingback: 2011: The Challenges | Reactions to Reading

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