Dublin has been an inspiration for many writers from the early 1900s to the present day. Dublin plays such a role in these novels that it can be considered a character in itself. Here is the list of books set in Dublin city.
Ulysses by James Joyce
The most important book of modernist literature is set in Dublin on the single day of 16 June 1904. During this day, the main characters are wandering around the city. Now there are plenty of guides to places described in the novel. On the annual Bloomsday, the fans of Ulysses follow the protagonist Leopold Bloom’s route, starting at the Martello tower at Sandycove and visiting various places in Dublin, such as Bank of Ireland and the National Museum.
Dubliners by James Joyce
This is the famous collection of 15 short stories set in early 1900s Dublin. As well as Ulysses, Dubliners feature geographic details such as street names and buildings. In this sense, Dublin is the common aspect of these stories, each with its own characters and themes.
The Gathering by Anne Enright
The Gathering is definitely worth reading because it won the Man Booker Prize in 2007 and the 2008 Irish Book Award for the Irish Novel of the Year. The title of the novel alludes to the funeral of Liam Hegarty, as his wife and children come to Dublin for his wake. The narrator is Liam’s sister who is trying to make sense of her brother’s death. She thinks about their childhood and their family, and, as it often happens, there is a skeleton in the closet.
Circle of Friends by Maeve Binchy
Circle of Friends was published in 1990 and is set in 1950. The beginning of the novel is set in rural Ireland, in the fictitious town of Knockglen. Then the novel turns into a guide on how to move from a rural area to the city of Dublin. The characters go to University College Dublin, and Maeve Binchy transferred her own UCD experience into her book. In 1995, Circle of Friends was adapted into a film.
The Illusionist by Jennifer Johnston
Jennifer Johnston was born in Dublin, so it’s no wonder she placed her novel in her home city. Published in 1995, The Illusionist consists of two interwoven stories, one in Dublin and the other in London. In Dublin, the main character Stella Glover tries to reconcile with her daughter, while the London narrative presents Stella’s flashbacks to her relationships with an illusionist called Martyn.
Tender by Belinda McKeon
This novel is rather sentimental and tells about two people, Catherine and James, who meet in Dublin in the late 1990s. Catherine is a young college student who has problems with self-identity. She meets James who she thinks to be the best man she’s ever met, though he has his problems, too. Tender is full of emotional insights; sometimes Catherine’s thoughts might seem too much and even painful, but maybe you’ll like the mix of emotions that this book awakens in the reader.
Normal People by Sally Rooney
Another novel about the complicated relationships between two people. Normal People by Sally Rooney was published in 2018 and won the 2019 British Book Award and was even longlisted for the 2018 Man Booker Prize. Normal People is set during the post-2008 Irish economic downturn and is about two teenagers who go to school in Carricklea and then go to Trinity College Dublin where their relationship develops. There is also a popular TV series based on this novel starring Daisy Edgar-Jones and Paul Mescal.
This is only a few Irish books set in Dublin city, and there are many more. Perhaps you have read a book about Ireland’s capital city; what is your favourite book set in Dublin?
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