Susan Colleen Browne, Author

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Irish Books & Movies

Here's a list of my favorite Irish books and films! They're in no particular order, except for "Top Picks." Contact me with your personal favorites, and I'll post them here!

Irish Books...

Top Pick-Nonfiction: McCarthy's Bar: A Journey of Discovery in the West of Ireland, by Pete McCarthy (St. Martin's Press, 2000). A half-Irish Englishman, McCarthy's motto is "Never Pass a Bar With Your Name On It." Hilarious from start to finish, this memoir ends on a soulful note, and leaves you hungry for more.

Top Pick-Fiction: All novels of Irish author Marian Keyes! Each one is a comic take on the young, Irish (and occasionally mixed-up) Everywoman. Keyes has become a master at combining the lighthearted and dramatic elements in her fiction, especially her three most recent novels: Anybody Out There? (Morrow, 2006). A young Irishwoman goes to New York and finds love. When her life takes a mysterious turn, her kooky, loveable Irish family helps her sort it out. 

This Charming Man (Morrow, 2008) tells the tale of three scrappy Irishwomen and the deceitful politician that links them together. 

The Brightest Star in the Sky (Viking Penguin, 2010), follows a quirky cast of characters you'll love, with a mystical twist.

And don't miss: Watermelon (Morrow, 2003); Lucy Sullivan is Getting Married (Avon, 1999); Rachel's Holiday (Morrow, 2000); Last Chance Saloon (Morrow, 2001); Angels (Morrow, 2002); Sushi for Beginners (Morrow, 2003); and The Other Side of the Story (Morrow, 2004).

Under the Duvet, a collection of Marian Keyes' essays and articles (HarperCollins, 2004). Like Keyes so much you'd read her grocery list? This collection of the Irish author's non-fiction essays and articles showcases her quirky personality, and is easily as addictive as her novels. You'll love the Dublin vernacular.

I just discovered The Wee Christmas Cabin of Carn-na-ween by Ruth Sawyer. It's a picture book set in the time of the Irish Famine of the 1840s. Despite its mournful events, the story is gorgeously illustrated and ultimately life-affirming, enlivened by the magic of the "Good People"... the fairy folk.

Forgotten Skills of Cooking: The time-Honored Ways are the Best -- Over 700 Recipes Show You Why by Darina Allen. Allen is called "The Julia Child of Ireland," and you'll see why when you dive into this wonderful cookbook, full of traditional and modern Irish recipes. Written in Allen's delightful voice, this cookbook includes her definitive Irish Soda Bread recipe...including the advice to cut a deep cross on the loaf before baking, "to let the fairies out"!

Recipes for a Perfect Marriage by Morag Prunty. This isn't a cookbook, but a lovely novel about a young Irish-American woman whose marriage goes downhill. She begins cooking her grandmother's old Irish recipes, and through cooking and memories, comes to find her way back to her husband and happiness. I just loved this book.

Maeve Binchy's novels and short fiction... I love them all, especially Tara Road, a 1999 Oprah Pick; Scarlet Feather, 2000; and Quentins, 2002. Her most recent novels are Whitethorn Woods, set in a small rural Irish town, whose residents are connected through a holy well, and Heart and Soul, a charming Dublin-set tale with several characters from previous novels.

Binchy recently produced a non-fiction work: The Maeve Binchy's Writers' Club, a book of advice, tips, and suggestions for writers of all genres, contributed by Binchy and a host of other well-known Irish writers. Binchy also includes several of her short stories.

In Sunshine or in Shadow: Stories by Irish Women, Edited by Kate Cruise O'Brien and Mary Maher (Delacorte Press, 1998). Short fiction by some of Ireland's most accomplished women authors.

Irish Girls About Town (Downtown Press, 2003). More stories from Irish women writers -- Maeve Binchy and Marian Keyes among them -- but it's fiction on the lighter side.

The Lacemakers of Glenmara (Harper, 2009) by Heather Barbieri. A grieving young American woman finds love, healing and friendship in a small Irish town.

Midlife Irish, by Joe Gannon (Warner, 2003.) Absorbing memoir by a first-generation Irish-American journalist. Gannon travels to Ireland to examine his parents' early lives, and ultimately finds insight into his own.

Are You Somebody, by Nuala O'Faolain her memoir (Henry Holt and Company, 1996) and My Dream of You, her debut novel (Riverhead Books, 2001). Irish journalist O'Faolain pens an unforgettable memoir of her lonely childhood and adult years spent searching for love. Her novel -- which interweaves a story about the Irish famine with her present-day protagonist -- is equally memorable.

Niall Williams' emotional, gorgeous writing goes straight to the heart-my favorites include two novels, Four Letters of Love (Warner, 1998) and As It is in Heaven (Warner, 1999), and the memoir written with his wife, Christine Breen, O Come Ye Back to Ireland: Our First Year in County Clare (Soho Press, 1989).

The Dead, a novella by James Joyce. Demands a second, third…or tenth reading. All I can say is I wouldn't presume to "blurb" a Joyce story!

Angela's Ashes by Frank McCourt (Simon & Schuster, 1996). No Irish book list would be complete without McCourt's memoir of his early life in Limerick, Ireland…You'll laugh and cry at the same time as young Frank survives hunger, deprivation, and abandonment to emigrate to the U.S.

Tis: A Memoir by Frank McCourt (Simon & Schuster, 1999). McCourt’s sequel to “Angela’s Ashes” brings young Frank to a new life in the United States. While ‘Tis lacks much of the charm of the author’s first memoir, and at times, has an almost brutal honesty, the truth of human experience jumps off the pages.

Booking Passage by Thomas Lynch (W.W. Norton & Company, 2005). Lynch, an Irish-American poet (and also, of all things, a funeral director) who lives part-time in County Clare, writes a mix of memoir, poetry, travelogue, and a meditation on Ireland and his Irish forebears. He brings an open-hearted humor to all his topics, with an acquired Irish lilt that makes for hypnotic storytelling.

Irish Movies...

Brooklyn (2015) is my new top pick of Irish movies! Saoirse Ronan is luminous as a young Irish immigrant, torn between two men offering two very different futures.

This is my Father (1999), starring Aidan Quinn and James Caan. Touching and heartbreaking by turns, it's the story of one man's love affair, and his son's search for the father he never knew. A fun cameo appearance by John Cusack, but keep the Kleenex close by.

Leap Year (2009). Super-organized Anna (Amy Adams) butts heads with casual-to-a-fault Declan during their scrappy, plagued-by-"Murphy's Law" journey to Dublin. Fabulous Irish characters and scenery enliven an unexpectedly tender love story.

The Eclipse (2009). Ciaran Hinds gives an impeccable performance as a tormented widower in a dark story that mixes the prosaic -- an Irish literary festival -- with the supernatural. Don't miss Aidan Quinn as a bestselling American author going through a drunken meltdown.

Ondine (2009). When Irish fisherman Colin Farrell hauls in his catch only to find a beautiful young woman in his nets, his young daughter suspects she's a "selkie," a supernatural creature of Irish legend. The acting...especially Stephen Rea as the world-weary village priest...and Irish locations in County Cork are standouts in this "reality-fairy tale."

In America (2004), starring Paddy Considine and Samantha Morton. Director Jim Sheridan's heartrending, semi-autobiographical account of an Irish family moving to New York. The family's two daughters, real-life sisters Emma and Sarah Bolger, will steal what's left of your heart. Don't miss Sheridan's commentary in the DVD version.

About Adam (2002), starring Kate Hudson and Stuart Townsend. Rather goofy farce of three Irish sisters pursuing the same guy. Wonderful Dublin locations, though.

Circle of Friends (1995), starring Minnie Driver and Chris O'Donnell. Three Irish girls find love (or not) in this film version of Maeve Binchy's novel-Colin Firth has a supporting role as a wussy English cad.

Far and Away (1992), starring Tom Cruise and Nicole Kidman. Film critics weren't particularly kind to director Ron Howard's action-packed romance between two1890's Irish immigrants-it's said that casting a married couple is box office poison (and Tom as an Irishman is a bit of a stretch, at least at first). But as star-crossed lovers, Tom and Nicole are appealing and completely believable.

The Secret of Roan Inish (1995). American director John Sayles creates a lovely, atmospheric Irish fable, with breathtaking Irish locations.

The Field (1991), starring Richard Harris, and Dancing at Lughnasa (1998), starring Meryl Streep. Both films, with their themes of family conflict, embody what Irish author Edna O'Brien calls the "innate, ancestral loneliness" of the Irish.

The Playboys (1992), starring Aidan Quinn and Robin Wright. Sensitive story of unrequited love and loss.

Agnes Browne (2000), starring Anjelica Huston. A 1960's working class Dublin widow and her comic struggles to raise her unruly brood of seven.

The Commitments (1991). Who knew you could fit so much profanity into one movie? The dialogue and Irish idioms were a hoot-at least the half I could understand.

Waking Ned Devine (1998). Enjoyable, well-acted story of country folk entering the Irish lottery, with comic results all around.

If you're in the mood for something really cheesy, try Darby O'Gill and the Little People (1959), and see Sean Connery (unibrowed but still hunky) in his film debut.

The Matchmaker (1997) starring Janeane Garofalo. Filmed on location in Galway, the scenery was fabulous…I wish I could say the same for the story. But the Irish cast of crafty eccentrics is fun to watch.

The Snapper (1992). Colm Meaney stars as the confused Irish patriarch of a large, unruly Dublin family. Touching and hilarious, this film will charm your socks off, as Meaney’s bluster reaches critical mass when his oldest daughter becomes pregnant out-of-wedlock. (The daughter’s frequent pub visits and resulting drunken episodes will make viewers wince, however: can you say, fetal alcohol syndrome?)

The Boys (and Girl) From County Clare (2005). Colm Meaney is back in another comedy, this time as an Irish musician determined to take first place at a “Trad” music competition. His biggest rival is his brother, played by Bernard Hill from the “Lord of the Rings” trilogy. The Irish music is delightful, as is Irish singer Andrea Corr in a subplot about rebellious young love.

For Pierce Brosnan fans...
Laws of Attraction (2004). Scruffy Pierce and uptight, buttoned-down Julianne Moore have great chemistry in this comedy, playing divorce lawyers on opposing sides.

The Nephew (1996), with Pierce in a supporting role. A young American comes to Ireland to reconcile with his uncle, and shakes up the small, rural community.

Evelyn (2002). Pierce co-produces and stars in this tender look at an Irish father's legal fight to raise his children.

For your definitive Irish romance, it's The Quiet Man (1952), starring John Wayne and Maureen O'Hara at her most fiery, with a priceless Barry Fitzgerald playing the nearest thing to a real-life leprechaun. Terrific interview with O'Hara in the DVD version's special features.