Destined for Dublin? Book blogger Aoife Bennett takes you on a tour of the Irish capital.
If you take a look back over some of the literary guides we’ve featured, you’ll notice they’re quite UK centric. For this guide, we’re going to take a little trip abroad again, this time to Ireland.
The Emerald Isle has long been known as the Island of Saints and Scholars, and with writers such as WB Yeats, George Bernard Shaw and Louise O’Neill calling Ireland home it’s not very hard to see why. There’s a rich literary history in Dublin just waiting to be delved into.
Books set in Dublin
‘Ulysses’ by James Joyce
If you’ve not read this book yet, don’t worry – few have actually conquered its 265,000 words. ‘Ulysses’ follows Dubliner Leopold Bloom across the events of his day on 16 June 1904. It’s a cult classic across the world, and is annually celebrated.
‘The Cinnamon Tree’ by Aubrey Flegg
Yola, who lives in Africa, steps on a landmine under a cinnamon tree and loses her leg. She travels to Dublin to be fitted for a prosthetic leg, and here meets Fintan and learns more about Irish culture, and how to now fit in to her new world. But she cannot forget the terrors afflicting her family back at home.
‘PS I Love You’ by Cecelia Ahern
Holly’s husband Gerry has recently lost a battle with cancer, and she’s finding it difficult to cope since his death. Gerry has prepared for this moment, and left her a set of 12 letters, one to be opened each month, to make the grieving process a little easier for Holly and remind her of what her life was like before she lost her husband.
Authors who live in Dublin
Claire Hennessy is one of Ireland’s longest established YA authors, and her first book was published when she was just 15. Her 11th YA book, ‘Nothing Tastes as Good’, was published in July, and tells the story of Annabel, a young girl who struggled with an eating disorder throughout her life and who is now in charge of Julia, another girl with a tumultuous relationship with food and her body.
One of John’s most famous novels isn’t even set in Ireland, but is a compelling and chilling account of Bruno, a nine-year-old who moves from Berlin with his family when his father is given a new position in “Outwith.” Bruno misses his friends and his life in Berlin, and wishes that he could instead play with his new friend Schmuel, who lives at the other side of the barbed wire fence at the bottom of the garden. But Schmuel, who is always wearing striped pyjamas, always seems to be busy working.
Peadar Ó Guilín
Peadar is a fairly new name to Irish YA fiction. His YA thriller ‘The Call’ was released in September. It features Nessa, a 10-year-old girl who suffers from polio. But she’s not about to let her disability affect her when it comes her time to be “Called” – when ancient fairies kidnap her for three minutes, and she must fight to survive in her own world.
Best bookshops in Dublin
Easons is Ireland’s largest chain bookshop, and its flagship store lies on O Connell Street, Dublin’s main thoroughfare. You can pick up an array of fantastic titles here, as well as some brand new stationery to start recording your reading journal. Department 51, the O Connell Street Eason’s YA fiction department, is located in the basement and is an absolute must visit.
Dubray, an independent book chain, have eight stores around the country. Only two of these are outside Dublin and its surrounding area. One of these eight stores is on Grafton Street, and it’s a fantastic respite from the shops surrounding it.
If you like a book that’s already had one loving owner, you definitely need to visit Chapters. This huge bookshop is home to Ireland’s largest independent bookstore, and you’ll spend hours upon hours trawling through the shelves and the extensive collections. There’s also a colossal second hand book shop on the first floor, where you can give a book a new forever home.
Best reading spots
Right in the heart of the city, just at the top of the pedestrianised Grafton Street shopping area, lies Stephen’s Green. Its beautiful lakes and tranquil benches make the perfect spot to duck away from shopping and the bustle of the city and just pull out a book to catch up on some reading – that is, if the rain holds off long enough.
Merrion Square is right next to the Natural History Museum (or, if you want to give it the same title the locals do, the “Dead Zoo”) so the area is perfect for a some early morning sight-seeing before heading back to the centre of town (Grafton Street is just a five minute walk away.) It’s also home to a statue of one of Ireland’s most famous and flamboyant wordsmiths, Oscar Wilde.
It might be slightly further out from the city centre than the above two, but Phoenix Park is definitely worth visiting. It’s one of Europe’s largest parks, so you’ll be guaranteed to find somewhere to sit down and watch the world go by. Or, when you’ve finished your book, you can take a trip to visit the home of the President of Ireland, who lives within the grounds, or to Dublin Zoo (the live one!).
You can say hi to Aoife on Twitter @PrettyPPD
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