February 03, 2015

Current Reads

I thought I’d try my hand at something different for today’s post. I read as often as I can (honestly, not half as much as I’d like to) and love sharing my favourite books with whoever will listen IRL. Neither myself nor Sinéad would count make-up as our sole interest – I suppose this is just one other way for me to show you guys that we are not, I can assure you, by any means one-dimensional people!

I’ll read anything I can get my hands on but as it was the subject of my degree, I do have a definite passion for history and historical novels – so if that’s your bag, you might like some of these picks. Oh, and anything Irish, especially Irish fiction, although I’m also enjoying Sali Hughes’ Pretty Honest, so keep reading for a review…

Our War: Ireland and the Great War

This one’s been out quite a while but is such a valid read at the moment – we’re one year away from the centenary of WWI and possibly no closer to truly understanding how such mutiny ever came to occur within a supposedly civilised European society. The huge participation of Irish people in WWI was largely ignored until this decade – and it’s not until you actually sit down and read about it that the scale of Irish involvement becomes truly apparent. A group effort by some of Ireland’s leading historians, Our War is a brilliant examination of the effect the war had on countless ordinary Irish people, and includes beautiful reproductions of letters, photographs and maps. It’s a book to treasure!

Pretty Honest – Sali Hughes

I’ll say it: I wish I wrote this book! It’s full of practical, non-judgemental and, well, honest advice about beauty without coming across as preachy. This isn’t instructional in the traditional, old-school sense: Pretty Honest is about the power of knowledge – we can embrace however much or little glamour and grooming as we personally like, but it never harms us to know what’s what.

Hughes is sage and practical throughout: I loved her approach to writing about hairdressers (‘When The Salon Knows Best’ vs. ‘Things You Never Need to Accept’) and appreciated the odd product recommendation where it was appropriate – I totally bookmarked the ‘Six Perfumes That Ooze Sex’ page!

The Temporary Gentleman – Sebastian Barry

I’m only halfway through this one but I’ve loved every Sebastian Barry book I’ve read so far. He’s just one of the most talented novelists I’ve ever come across - war is a common topic across his novels, and he’s incredibly skilled at evoking that particular chaos. Although WWI, the 1916 Rising and the Irish Civil War are frequently touched upon by Barry, it’s never in a partisan manner – his main focus is emotion and the direct impact that these events have upon his subjects. More often than not, it’s harrowing, and his stories will stay with you for a long time afterwards.

Easter Widows – Sinéad McCoole

I love history, especially Irish womens’ history – and this has to be one of the most important books to be published under this particular category in quite some time. You can really tell that this book has been a labour of love for Sinéad McCoole, as she refers to many different interviews conducted over the last 10 years or so for the purpose of this book.

Easter Widows rightly shifts the focus of how we look at the events of 1916 back to somewhere a little more gender-balanced. The book is by no means just about 1916, though – what I really appreciated about this was how McCoole took each widow and examined as much as possible about their lives and personalities even before they got married. I loved reading this and found the stories of these women seriously inspiring – I came away with a better appreciation for Kathleen Clarke and Lillie Connolly in particular.

Fathers Come First – Rosita Sweetman

I bought this on The Book Depository after reading this article on The Irish Times and devoured the novel in a day over Christmas – it’s very short but a good read, especially with context. I wouldn’t say it’s the strongest story in the world but that’s not exactly the point of this book, and it’s certainly better than most modern chick lit.

It’s an excellent snapshot of what life was like for Irish women in the 1970s, written with a definite feminist slant – hardly surprising as the author was a member of the Irish Women’s Liberation Movement. I love that Sweetman wrote this when she was just 23, and her description of feminism back in the 1970s is also excellent: it was "a bit like bidets – all fine and good for a few ‘poshies’ in Dublin, but nothing to do with us ordinary people."


  1. Fathers Come First is one of my favourite books Dee! Mine is falling apart but I could never find it to replace. You know the jewellery designer Chupi? Rosita is her mum - small world!

  2. I'm going to go and get that book about the war, I've always been a bit confused as to some of the events, I've often looked for a single book that could educate me a little more, so that's great to find a recommendation! Dipping in and out of Sali Hughes' book, everything makes so much sense in it. I adore book posts, my monthly round-ups are some of my favourite posts to write - please do keep this up! x

  3. Hey Sharon, delighted you liked this and I'll definitely keep it up! I think you'll really like Our War - it's so well curated and gives a good Irish perspective x

  4. Oh and I got my copy on The Book Depository if you want a new one!

  5. I loved it - no way! I adore Chupi and her mum is an absolute hero x

  6. I love this post....thank you for introducing me to some new books! I love historical novels too so I'm off to search for the Sebastian Barry book first!

  7. You're welcome - so happy you liked this! I would start with A Long Long Way by Barry, it's brilliant.

  8. As a book (& sometimes beauty) blogger I love this post. I've heard great things about the Sali Hughes book - keep meaning to pick up a copy!

  9. Brilliant - think I will be a sometimes book blogger from now on so ;) It's a great book, lovely to dip in and out of!

  10. What a great reading list!! Not being Irish, I didn't have much of a clue about any of this. I love book posts, maybe you guys could do them periodically :)?


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