Some Books I Enjoyed During Lockdown
by Heike O’Sullivan
Helen Russell: The Year of Living Danishly, 2016, ISBN 9781785780233
When her husband is offered a job with LEGO in rural Jutland, journalist Helen Russell discovers a startling statistic: Denmark, a land often thought of by foreigners as consisting entirely of cured herring, Lego and pastries, is allegedly the happiest place on earth. What is the secret to their success? Helen decides to give herself a year and try to uncover the formula for Danish happiness. From childcare, education, food and ‘hygge, to SAD, taxes, sexism and an unfortunate predilection for burning witches, this is a funny, poignant record of a journey that shows us where the Danes get it right, where they get it wrong, and how we might just benefit from living a little more Danishly ourselves.
Although a factual book, this is an immediately engaging light read which I found both really interesting and amusing. Danes are famous for having the work/life balance issue cracked and I enjoyed reading about the ups and downs of living in their society, finding the book eye-opening as well as entertaining.
Stephen Shaw: These Green Fields, 2009, ISBN 9780955531415
This GAA novel tells the story of a group of Mayo hurlers who decide to take on Galway for one last game before the Tribesmen’s defection to Leinster. As the other counties become involved, it raises the possibility of the Connacht SHC being revived.
A novel about hurling? Give it here! This is a beautifully written underdog sports story with a real Irish vibe. The characters ring true, scenarios and dialogue struck me as realistic, and I just really enjoyed this slim volume from start to finish. Now I want to see someone make this book into a TV fillum. Go on, go on, go on!
David Collison: Are We Driving Up the Right Riverbed?, 2017, ISBN 9781978211032
Against all odds, an English couple restore a Spanish ruin in Andalucia and then attempt to build a house. A story of elation, despair and comedy in equal measures.
Every spring, I seem to enter a phase where I’m reading about people moving to warmer climes, usually around the Med. This funnily named memoir is written in a down-to-earth, personable style. The courage, tenacity, stoicism and utter patience of the author and his wife can only be admired and marvelled at. To embark on such adventure in a foreign country was one thing; to be faced with a vast number of uncooperative and actively obstructive people was gobsmacking. To have gone through this twice over is nothing short of heroic. Or plain stubborn. This is a well written, informative and entertaining book, recommended for anyone who enjoys reading such tales, even if you’d never consider buying property abroad.
Claire Kilroy: The Devil I Know, 2012, ISBN 9780571283439
‘The Devil I Know’ is a thrilling novel of greed and hubris, set against the backdrop of a brewing international debt crisis. Told by Tristram, in the form of a mysterious testimony, it recounts his return home after a self-imposed exile only to find himself trapped as a middle man played on both sides – by a grotesque builder he’s known since childhood on the one hand, and a shadowy businessman he’s never met on the other. Caught between them, as an overblown property development begins in his home town of Howth, it follows Tristram’s dawning realisation that all is not well.
I absolutely loved the story and its ‘voice’ as well as the format the book is written in. The storyline is strong and rings entirely true to anyone who has lived in Ireland these past 15 odd years or so. Anyone who has lived through the Irish property boom and bust will recognise scenarios and probably even (disguised) characters. I found the language entirely realistic and engaging. The reader’s dawning comprehension of the identity of M. Deauville and the book’s ending are chilling but – amazingly – not at all surprising. I do wonder if foreign readers who don’t have the inside knowledge of the Celtic Tiger boom will enjoy this book as much as those in the know, but I for one can heartily recommend this book and have enjoyed it immensely.
William Kamkwamba: The Boy Who Harnessed the Wind, 2009, ISBN 9780007316199
William was born in Malawi, a country where hunger and drought were a daily reality, and hope and opportunity were hard to find. Faced with crippling adversity and unable to afford school fees, he had a ‘crazy’ idea. With only a few old text books and incredible determination, William constructed a crude windmill with materials found in scrap heaps. This unlikely contraption would eventually bring electricity and water to his village, changing the community and transforming the lives of those around him.
I saw the movie a few years ago and bought the book some time later. This memoir is very likeable; its language and style is suitable for adults and teenagers alike. I find it a very powerful book on more than one level. Although the subject matter demands some technical / engineering detail be included, I didn’t find it self-serving but only enhancing my understanding and appreciation of the boy’s genius and doggedness. This is a book I find myself re-reading ever so often and I have often gifted it to adolescent readers, so far only getting positive feedback.
Frank Schaetzing: The Swarm, 2006, ISBN 9780060859800
Whales begin sinking ships. Toxic crabs poison Long Island’s water supply. The North Sea shelf collapses, killing thousands in Europe. Around the world, countries are beginning to feel the effects of the ocean’s revenge as the seas and their inhabitants begin a violent revolution against mankind. At stake is the survival of the Earth’s fragile ecology–and ultimately, the survival of the human race itself.
I’m not normally into science fiction novels but the very scary thing about this one is, that the scenario is an entirely realistic one as long as the reader approaches the discovery of the ‘yrr’ open-mindedly. This book, in its many translations, has been a world-wide mega-seller which – ridiculously – put me off reading it for years despite family’s and friends’ recommendations. Oh, that and the fact that my paperback version is 881 pages long, in very tiny font. My reading glasses definitely came out for this one!
When I did finally start on The Swarm, my working days were utterly ruined because my nights were spent reading. The fact that our oceans have been abused for many decades is a very topical point in conversation and media, and I for one wouldn’t be at all surprised if the oceans will strike back one day, and more luck to them. The scientific information (following years of the author’s research and not a little alleged plagiarism) this novel is sprinkled with does require some attention but it didn’t stop me from greatly enjoying this ‘rollercoaster ride’. I also liked that, Game of Thrones-like, the author wasn’t shy in killing off main protagonists without warning. It certainly kept me on my toes.
We are so lucky to have a superb independent book shop in Kenmare where you can buy these books and many, many more.
Kenmare Book Shop Shelbourne St, Kenmare (064) 664 1578 #supportlocal