Leo Moran, singer-songwriter
Birdsong by Sebastian Faulks
ONE OF the things I love about this novel is how it educates and entertains in equal and extremely generous measures.
I picked it up in a hotel book exchange on holiday. The choice was limited. There weren’t many English language books, this one was a bit thicker than I would normally gravitate towards, and a few pages were just about hanging in, but I checked and they were all present and correct. Neither would the subject of war normally attract me.
Its weight and thickness soon disappeared as it brought me through a compelling story of romance and family, back and over from England to France, introducing me to impeccably well researched details of the reality of WWl.
'The description of his surviving the Battle of the Somme is a remarkable description of the battle itself'
Stephen Wraysford is a member of a tunneling company of the Royal Engineers whose task it is to dig tunnels under no-man’s land and enemy lines in an attempt to plant explosives and listen for information. The Germans of course do the same. Stephen and his comrades’ trench lives are described in vivid detail, teaching me much more than I had previously known about the Great War. The description of his surviving the Battle of the Somme is a remarkable description of the battle itself.
Intertwined in the fighting is the romantic storyline; passionate and sad, but uplifting in the end as Stephen’s grand-daughter Elizabeth pieces her grandfather’s story together.
I’ve also listened to Birdsong and it was equally enthralling. I don’t own a copy of course – the best ones always move on…
Finghin Collins, classical pianist, artistic director of Music for Galway
The Silk Roads by Peter Frankopan
ANYONE SETTING out to write 'A New History of the World' has to be admired for sheer ambition. Peter Frankopan, in my opinion, delivers on this ambition with a book that, while hefty, is far from heavy.
Indeed it is remarkable for its freshness and its willingness to examine things from a new perspective. This is not a history of the world told from an Irish, British or even European perspective. It has a truly global view. It is highly readable, with each chapter almost acting as a self-contained unit, while at the same time remaining connected to the next.
'Certain subjects such as history are much more appreciated slightly later in life'
It whisks us along from ancient times to the present with astonishing ease, focussing very much on travel, currents, exchange, and commerce. There are fascinating insights into new worlds (at least to me! ) – from Mongolia to Constantinople.
This is the perfect read during the current time. One chapter a day will inject a period of utter joy (and much needed escapism ) and you will learn a lot without even noticing!
I had no interest in history when I was in school – I thought it was boring and just about learning off dates. I think certain subjects such as history are much more appreciated slightly later in life. Every student of history should read this book.
Dani Gill, writer, curatorwww.danigill.com
French Exit by Patrick deWitt
PATRICK DEWITT is known for his novels The Sisters Brothers (which has since become a film, starring John C Reilly and Joaquin Phoenix ), Under Major Domo Minor, and his autobiographical fiction debut, Ablutions.
French Exit, his latest book, is my new favourite. Witty, funny, and wearing his trademark of particular deWitt quirkiness, I think this adventure offers fun, light heartedness, and escape. Readers will be introduced to zesty widow and possessive mother, Frances Price, who, with her adult son Malcolm, is fleeing from a life of luxury in Manhattan after a scandal and impending bankruptcy.
'A great book for anyone who likes black humour and some strangeness'
A weird and hilarious cruise across the Atlantic delivers them to Paris where they seek a similar lifestyle, but without the means, so they coast along on favours and old friendships. Another character in the book that provides a lot of laughter is their aging cat, Small Frank, who Frances believes houses the spirit of her late husband, an infamously immoral litigator. Small Frank is reluctantly brought with them as they leave for a new life and the dynamic he provides is a brilliant chaos, especially the scene where he is given the Valium!
A great book for anyone who likes black humour and some strangeness, the rights of this have been sold and the movie will be released from Sony Pictures with Michelle Pfeiffer playing the role of Frances.