Michael Gorman, poet
Short stories of Anton Chekhov
A LOT of writers are the heroes of their own story. Reading them is like attending a gig by a right-on stand up comedian - the assumption is you are one of an audience of the converted. There is no challenge in it.
What I love about reading the stories of Anton Chekhov is that it is difficult to find the author's intention in them at all. They are beautifully observed, but so light-handed, they speak for themselves.
I have two particular favourites. 'The Grasshopper' delineates how what we have searched for all our lives can be right in front of us. It is a devastating critique of the pretentiousness of what passes for the artistic world.
Olga Ivanova belongs to that world but her understated husband, Osip, a doctor and scientist, does not. She considers him 'a stolid fellow', simple and faithful, but finds out too late that he is the rarest of beings.
'The Lady With The Dog' is remarkable. It would appeal to anybody who has ever walked Salthill promenade. A man and a woman pass each other daily walking in a seaside town, Yalta, and fall in love. The only trouble is they are both married to other people.
The backdrop of the sea and resort life is magical. I went to Yalta once. It reminded me of a larger Bray or Newcastle in County Down with a hill in the distance. Or Salthill with the excitement of the fifties and sixties. And it had a wooden boardwalk like Atlantic City's in the film, The King of Marvin Gardens.
Anna Lardi Fogarty, executive director, Music for Galway
The Betrothed by Alessandro Manzoni
THESE DAYS I find myself drawn to big sweeping narratives. It usually happens when summer comes, with the promise of long afternoons on the grass or at the beach, reading away.
I have just finished a classic of English literature, Dickens’ David Copperfield, but one book that certainly fits the bill, and may not be as widely read in Ireland, is a classic Italian novel – Alessandro Manzoni’s I promessi sposi – or in English, The Betrothed.
Written in the 19th century, and set in the 17th, on the shores of Lake Como, it follows Renzo and Lucia, through 1,000 pages of trials and tribulations before they finally manage to reunite. One such tribulation eerily coincides with our situation today.
'There is plenty of action, but also a good deal of social commentary going through the pages'
We find ourselves in the middle of the Thirty Years’ War – and the Plague is doing its terrifying rounds. Alongside our unfortunate lovers, who are separated almost at the outset, we meet a myriad of characters, some of them flawed, and some, like Gertrude, the nun of Monza, who have the most mysterious backstories.
As with Dickens, there is plenty of action, but also a good deal of social commentary going through the pages. It is a historical novel and along the way we get to find out a lot about the author’s views on that period of history.
It brims with sorrow and cruelty, but there are always chinks of light and it is written in the firm belief that good always wins out. Definitely one for the beach bag.
Patrick Hynes, senior occupational therapist
The Dry by Jane Harper
DURING A time like this, it is important to maintain daily routines and what better way than to incorporate dedicated reading time.
Last Christmas, I received a gift of The Dry by Jane Harper. This remarkably crafted debut novel throws out so many twists and turns in the story it is hard to believe this was her first novel.
Atmospheric and accessible, it will appeal to many readers and is popular among book clubs. This gripping murder mystery is set in a parched Australian farming community within a day’s drive of Melbourne. Part of Harper’s skill, is to make sure nothing is what it looks like at first sight, and there is excellent character development. The story meanders into the lives of the main characters, bounding and rebounding over a 20 year period.
Highly descriptive, you can taste the dry heat of regional Australia. For anyone who ever lived or travelled in Australia, this book will resonate with them through the vivid picture it paints of regional Australia. It will also appeal to those who enjoy a good solid murder mystery.