Oops, I forgot to post this last month! So here’s a double-header of all the books I read in June and July. Some really fantastic ones in this batch, but there’s one that stands so far above the rest I’m putting it above the ‘read more’ line (also, it’s hard to categorise as either fiction or nonfiction). Read on…
A Ghost in the Throat by Doreann Ní Ghríofa
A novel about a woman who becomes obsessed with a poem by an 18th century noblewoman, what she sees as parallels in her own life, and her efforts to trace the woman’s history and descendants, in some ways it’s difficult to describe what makes this book so exquisite.. Is it the richness of the prose, by an author who is mainly a poet and who shows this through the lyricism of even mundane, minor moments? Is it the way it melds genres—it’s won awards in fiction and nonfiction categories, it’s part biography and part memoir and part translation and part novel and it plays with all these styles in a compelling and intriguing way? Is it the way the plot draws you in? Every time I picked up the book to begin reading again, I immediately felt as invested in the narrator’s search for evidence of Eibhlín in marriage records and death notices and the periphery of other people’s lives. Of course, it is all these things and more, and the result is an incredibly special book. Perhaps my favourite of the year so far, and one I will be thinking about it for a long, long time.
One of the small benefits of the last 18 months is that a lack of things to do and places to go has meant it’s been a good opportunity to save money. Steve and I have been busily building up our savings for our wedding next year and for a deposit on a house, so we’ve been doing what we can to avoid unnecessary expenses. We’ve been lucky enough to be able to live with his parents since moving back to Ireland, so that’s also helped a lot, but in the day-to-day the lockdown has definitely made a difference in not spending money on travel and bars.
Still, even when saving as much as possible for important things, it’s good not to deprive yourself entirely of little luxuries, if you can swing it. And there are a couple of things I’ve bought in recent weeks that are well worth the money.
One year ago this week, I arrived in Ireland, landing at Dublin airport at 4.15am and blearily informing the immigration officer that I was intending to stay. Steve collected me from the airport and then it was across the country to Kerry. Two weeks later, out of self-quarantine and spouse visa in hand, I started applying for jobs and exploring my new home.
A year and several lockdowns later, this is the longest I’ve lived anywhere since the last time I lived in Ireland 6+ years ago. East coast US, west coast US, Canada, across the States in a van, east coast US again, New Zealand, Australia, travelling around Southeast Asia, east coast US once more… and then finally over here. It’s still too early to say “for good,” but I was approved for a three-year residency card renewal the other day, so, we’ll see.
The past year has obviously been weird, but despite the stress of a global pandemic, moving internationally again, looking for work in a small town that mostly runs on tourism, and so on, it’s been mostly good. I’ve gone for a lot of hikes, read a lot of books, written less than I would’ve liked but still a good bit, and even managed a few adventures when lockdown rules allowed.
On the horizon? A vaccine (finally—by the end of this month, if not sooner), a trip home to the States for a month in August/September, and hopefully things going back to normal in the not-so-distance future. Looking forward to see what the years to come will bring.
I always set myself a reading goal of 52 books for the year (so on average a book a week). Well, somehow (lockdown), I’ve hit that goal 5 months into 2021. Here are the top 10 fiction and top 5 nonfiction books I’ve read so far this year — what should I put on my to-read list for the rest of the year?
The Rain Heron by Robbie Arnott Rule of Wolves by Leigh Bardugo The Vanishing Half by Brit Bennett The City We Became by N.K. Jemisin The Absolute Book by Elizabeth Knox No One is Talking About This by Patricia Lockwood Furia by Yamile Saied Méndez Catherine House by Elisabeth Thomas The Yield by Tara June Winch Interior Chinatown by Charles Yu
Empire of Pain by Patrick Radden Keefe Dark Emu by Bruce Pascoe Born a Crime by Trevor Noah Can’t Even by Anne Helen Petersen Crying in H Mart by Michelle Zauner
After one of the longest lockdowns in Europe, Ireland is finally opening up. Next week, hotels and bnbs reopen, followed by outdoor dining the following week, with indoor dining, pubs, etc. likely returning in July. Museums and cultural sites are beginning to reopen, and for domestic tourists at least, there’s a lot to look forward this summer.
Obviously, not being able to travel and enjoy tourism is minor compared to the other things that have happened during this pandemic (I feel like this is so obvious I shouldn’t even have to mention it, but just to be clear that I’m not trying to place it on a similar level), but as someone who has spent the preceding years (and even the first half of 2020) travelling as much as possible, it has definitely felt weird to have not even left the county since September of last year.
Luckily I’ve gotten to do plenty of fun things around Kerry like trying another route up Carrauntoohil and hiking Crohane mountain, but I’ll be looking forward to doing more as restrictions loosen. For now even the tiniest trips offer a nice chance to get out and explore.
This past weekend, we took advantage of a sunny day and took a small drive just across the border into Cork to see the Beara peninsula.
Okay, so after all my big talk last month about how I might have to split up this month post’s into two because of all the books I was going to read, I actually had a pretty slow reading month. I got a just a wee small little bit obsessively hooked on a podcast (The Magnus Archives) and so instead of listening to audiobooks I found myself listening to the podcast, and instead of reading… I also found myself listening to the podcast. 90 episodes in means it was a quieter reading month than the last couple (and I still have half the podcast to go so May might have fewer than usual books in it as well). That said, I still got through a good few excellent books; read on for my reviews or check them all out on Goodreads.