Galway

3 Books to Read While Studying in Ireland

Emily Mierswa is a student at the University of New Hampshire and is a current ISA Featured Blogger. She is studying abroad with ISA in Galway, Ireland. 

Settling down on a rainy day with a cup of tea is everyday life here in Galway and I’m loving it. I can’t fully enjoy the cozy day and sweet tea without a good book to read. So, here are three essential books to read while living abroad in Ireland!

I have to admit, I did read two of these books the semester before I left for Ireland. My understanding of the plot and relevancy of each book was strengthened by my experiences in Ireland, so reading them before or during my trip doesn’t matter. Before I begin, I have to say that these are all great books and  I equally recommend all three to anyone!

The first book I read was The Burning of Bridget Cleary: A True Story by Angela Bourke. This non-fiction book retells the preceding details and court case of the 1895 murder of Bridget Cleary in Tipperary, Ireland. Without giving away too much of the book, it is about the murder of a young woman who was claimed to have been a changeling. A changeling is the possession of a sick by a fairy. The book vividly describes fairy doctors, fairy lore, changelings, and Irish folklore all while contrasting this to the court case that sought to modernize Ireland to conform to the Western practices of continental Europe. Reading this book gave me amazing insight into an area of Irish history that is not spoken of in the American education system. If you want to learn a little bit about Irish folklore, fairies, of little-known Irish history than The Burning of Bridget Cleary is a great place to start.

Next came the memoir Angela’s Ashes by Frank McCourt. This book has quite the following and even a major motion picture! It is a series of chronological anecdotes about growing up as a poor Irishman in New York City and subsequently Limerick. The book gave amazing insight into the lives of immigrants and the reasons behind wanting to leave Ireland. As an added bonus, there is a Frank McCourt museum in his hometown of Limerick. It is definitely worth the visit.

After reading about fairy lore and Depression-era Limerick, I found it fitting to read a little bit about city life in Ireland. Thus, Dubliners followed suit. This is a book comprised of short stories by James Joyce. The last and longest of the featured short story is “The Dead” and is the most well-known. The story is so well liked in fact that it has been performed as a play and even an opera that I got to see in Galway. “The Dead” is a great example of the captivating powers of Irish storytelling with an incredible about of depth in under 16,000 words.  After seeing the opera I think I will reread it!

Just as a notable mention: Jonathan Swift’s Gulliver’s Travels! I just picked it up at the local library a few days ago and am really excited to start reading it. For anyone studying abroad in Ireland or someone that just loves a good read, I suggest these books. And, I suggest you follow my lead and get a public library card in your new city, it’s a great resource to have.

The world awaits…discover it.

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