Whether you are an avid reader or haven’t picked up a book since school, we all share a sense of curiosity when learning about the past. The world around us has been shaped by the events of the past. Through historical literature readers can better understand the past and the people who lived in it. For readers, learners and history gurus alike, whatever happened in the past is quite significant. It is a reflection of the life we have today.
Out of all the cultures and histories out there, Irish history stands out. Ireland, who in the past was known as the land of Scholars and Saints has always valued learning and preserving culture, a tradition that has inspired modern writers to this day. In this article we will examine 100 historical fiction books about Ireland in detail.
What actually is Historical Fiction?
Before we delve deep into our top 100 list of historical fiction we have to understand what it actually is; historical fiction is a story that takes place during past events but is fictional. Characters can be a mix of fictional personas and real life notable figures as is often the case.
The main goal of historical fiction is to capture what life was like at the time, the way people interacted, the law, societal classes, relationships and religious beliefs. Essentially historical fiction aims to immerse the reader in the past, allowing them to feel what a person living in that time actually experienced.
Through our exploration of the past in historical fiction we are better able to objectively look at our society and see the issues that were shared in the past. In retrospect it is easy to recognise a flawed system, or an oppressive leader, but with continued learning we as a people can become more wise and maybe even avoid making the same errors of the past.
Historical fiction is just one way to learn about history and only one genre you can choose to read, but after reading this article we hope to convince you that it is an enthralling one. Who knows, your library may become filled with Irish history novels!
ALRENE HUGHES’ TOP IRISH HISTORICAL FICTION
Alrene is popular for writing Irish historical fiction novels, An Enniskillen born, Belfast raised author, Arlene Hughes’ “Martha Girls” series actually revolves around her mother and aunties. The three sisters were wartime singers for soldiers, and while the events in the book are fictional, the author says they could have actually happen, as the people, place and events are part of history.
Her books include Changing Skies: Manchester Irish Writers and the Martha’s Girls Series.
Learn more about Arlene Hughes here.
Changing Skies: Manchester Irish Writers
Alrene wrote this book to depict the experience of the Irish Emigration. It is one of the best Irish historical fiction books on emmigration, including 15 stories showing real emotions of both pain and enthusiasm. People who had to go through this experience were torn; heartbroken to be leaving their friends, their family and even their homeland, Ireland, behind.
Yet, they were excited to start a new life, one with the potential to achieve their dreams, to enter a place where opportunities are everywhere. That is not to say that the realities of emmigration are ignored. They struggle at first to find jobs, but they eventually adapt, never forgetting their aching hearts that long for home, but learning to make peace with a new life abroad.
The book features fifteen stories of fifteen people who had gone through the Irish Emigration experience. Although fictional, the struggles are real. Universal themes such as homesickness, excitement and adaptability are wonderfully merged together with uniquely Irish sense of humor and perseverance.
Martha’s Girls (Martha’s Girls Series #1)
This series is arguably the best Irish historical fiction of Alrene Hughes’ works. An Irish historical series of novels set in Ireland, the story revolves around the struggles of five Irish women; a mother and her four daughters. Set in Belfast in 1939, Martha was raising her daughters and trying to keep them away from temptations.
The Plot of Martha’s Girls
Martha’s eldest daughter was Irene; she was usually hunting a new job and looking for love. Irene had two men in her life, but certain circumstances hindered her from having a future with either of them. Sandy was one of those men; he was an RAF radio engineer who served in India. On the other hand, Sean O’Hara was arrested for a crime he claimed to never have committed.
Right after Irene comes Pat, a sensational girl with big dreams. She fantasized of a life beyond the one she had. Her ambition drove her to think of bigger plans. When the world around her started to change, she realised that there was a possibility of having a new life and seized it.
Then, comes Peggy, the glitzy, stubborn sister. She worked in Mr. Goldstein’s music shop; and was happily consumed by her work. In fact, it was in the music shop where she met a Humphrey Bogart lookalike, but there was more to him than his Hollywood star looks.
Finally, Sheila was the youngest sister. Her family went through desperate financial times but she wanted to proceed with her education. Being the youngest, she was treated like a child, something that she genuinely hated.
Despite the differences between the four girls, they all shared their love for singing. They received an offer to join a new cast of entertainers. Conflicts started to rise as Martha feared her daughters would succumb to life’s temptations, while simultaneously, bombs started to fall over Belfast.
The Golden Sisters (Martha’s Girls Series #2)
The wartime story continues as Martha struggles to keep her four girls safe. A moving story about a determined family who stay together even through moments of hardships. The events of the story take place in 1941, during the time when the German Bombs started attacking Belfast.
Martha’s family face great danger and jeopardy. There are lots of difficult decisions they have to make, but the sisters bond is strengthened by singing in army camps and concert halls. They call for victory and freedom as the war directly detours their lives in unexpected directions.
A Song in my Heart (Martha’s Girls Series #3)
New circumstances are changing the lives of Martha and her girls for once again. All of the girls have found love interests, but are they all the right matches for them?
Irene, the eldest sister is already married and pregnant. She knows her life is going to change once her baby arrives. It is a difficult but exciting time. The only thing she fears however, is losing her freedom when she becomes a mother.
After her first heartbreak, Pat has finally found a new love and is engaged. However, her joy ceases when her fiancé, Tony Farrelly, a member of the US army, gets posted to North Africa. She is afraid her heart will break once more.
On the other hand, a sophisticated Guards officer has managed to sweep Peggy off her feet. Despite their age difference, Peggy falls for him. He convinces her to keep their relationship a secret. Is he keeping secrets from Peggy?
Sheila, the youngest girl, finds the perfect match, her impulsive nature makes her go for an adventurous romance, something dangerous that may not end well.
Martha’s girls is a prime example of captivating series of Irish historical romance novels.
ANN MOORE’S TOP IRISH HISTORICAL FICTION
Ann Moore is an English writer. She spent her childhood in the Pacific Northwest region of Washington State. Moore also holds a master of arts from Western Washington University. One of her most famous Irish historical fiction is the Trilogy of Gracelin O’Malley.
Learn more about the English Writer Ann Moore
Gracelin O’Malley (The Gracelin O’Malley Trilogy #1)
Among the important Irish historical fiction books comes Gracelin O’Malley. Ann Moore has set the plot of the novel during the potato famine that wrecked Ireland. Interestingly, Moore even used “O’Malley” as the family’s name of the protagonist, a popular Irish name. This novel rotates around the life of a young woman who put her family’s life and happiness over her own, despite her young age.
Ann Moore succeeded in portraying the struggle that the Irish lived through during the Great Famine in the 19th century in her popular trilogy. This Irish Historical fiction saga is well worth reading.
The Plot of Gracelin O’Malley
Gracelin was born to the O’Malley family. Her father Patrick chose that name for her as it means the light of the sea. Gracelin had smiling eyes that were unusually beautiful and shiny. At the age of six, her mother died. The whole family was caught in a whirlpool of darkness. Financial crisis kept on crawling into their lives incessantly.
In the hopes of solving her family’s financial woes Gracelin gave her consent to marry Bram Donnelly at the age of 15. He was the son of a wealthy English landowner; the savior to her family’s terrible situation. She married someone above her social class to save her family; in doing she had to endure the insults of the English high society, subjecting herself to living in a community that did not respect her or treat her as equal..
Gracelin wanted to give her husband a baby to be his successor, and hopefully ease his cruel nature. But, things hadn’t always gone the way she hoped for.
Gracelin defied her husband by feeding the poor. She also sided with the Young Irelanders; rebels who fought the English rule until they freed their land. Morgan McDonagh and Sean O’Malley, Gracelin’s brother, were the leaders of the revolutionists.
Leaving Ireland (The Gracelin O’Malley Trilogy #2)
Ann Moore continues her Irish historical fiction series, Gracelin O’Malley, a story of sacrifice and struggle. This volume reflects the Irish Emigration to America; the experience is represented through Gracelin O’Malley herself, who emigrates from Ireland.
In the first book, Gracelin O’Malley went out of her way to protect the ones she loves. She traded her happiness for her family’s security by marrying an abusive English landlord at the age of 15. This time, she is doing more selfless acts that would once again save the ones she cares for.
The Plot of Leaving Ireland
Gracelin O’Malley gave birth to a young baby girl. Now that she was living on her own, she was forced to flee to America. She took her young daughter, hoping to find security and a safe haven. However, things did not go as she planned. Life in New York City was too loud and harsh to adapt to for an Irish country girl. Moreover, Irish immigrants suffered from the anti-Irish prejudice of the Americans. Ignoring all of the hatred, Grace persevered to give her daughter a decent life.
Through the process, she gladly reunited with Sean, her brother. Unexpectedly, life had also brought her into contact with the one man she believed would never see ever again. Gracelin managed to make new friends in the new city. She befriended a runaway slave and involved herself in a protest movement, once again having to find a way to protect her family.
‘Til Morning Light (The Gracelin O’Malley Trilogy #3)
Every time life started to settle for Gracelin, another problem arrived that she never saw coming. Ann Moore keeps her readers engaged with her books of the Gracelin O’Malley series. Thankfully, she released the third and final novel of the series; ‘Til Morning Light.
This Irish historical fiction series is a truly captivating experience of the famine in Ireland, the coffin ships that sailed precariously across the Atlantic, and just when an immigrant believed to be safe and sound, the harsh reality of arriving in America as an Irish person at that time.
Not only do you find yourself caught up in the story, rooting for Gracelin, you learn about Irish history all along the way.
The Plot of ‘Til Morning Light
This series of books have depicts the suffering that Ireland went through during the 20th century. It is also one of the Irish historical fiction series that encapsulates the famine that tore Ireland apart back then. For those reasons, Gracelin left Ireland and paved her way to a new life in America. She suffered in New York City but remained persistent to build the life she dreamt of.
This time, Gracelin has two young children. She traveled to San Francisco after receiving a marriage proposal from a sea captain. Having accepted the proposal, she arrived to San Francisco only to realise he was not there. The city was also not the type to embrace a lonely widow with her children.
A prevalent doctor offered her a job in his household. However, the doctor’s troubled sister managed to cause trouble in Gracelin’s already chaotic life. All the time, a man she thought she had lost forever is desperately trying to reach her.
CATHY CASH SPELLMAN’S TOP IRISH HISTORICAL FICTION
Cathy was born in a household that loved to read. Thus, she grew up reading as a hobby. Later, it developed to be more than just a hobby; her talents in writing were clear. She would become a best-selling authors of numerous books.
Learn more about Cathy Cash Spellman.
An Excess of Love
An Excess of Love is a heart-touching story about two sisters. It is an Irish historical fiction that shows the impact of the British Empire on families. The story is about two sisters from the FitzGibbon family; Elizabeth and Constance. Their father was an Irish Protestant lord who enjoyed great wealth and fortune. The girls were surrounded by a loving family, but they endured other circumstances were full of hardships.
After their marriage, the two girls found themselves propelled into the revolution. Elizabeth was married to Edmond Manningham, an aristocrat. Their marriage ended in disappointment, forcing Beth to join the hostility of Ireland’s war. On the other hand, Con married Tierney O’Connor, a poet who firmly believed in the Irish cause. Consequently, she was forced into the intensity of the revolution due to her ambitious husband.
COLM TOIBIN’S TOP IRISH HISTORICAL FICTION
Colm Tóibín is an Irish creative writer who is currently a Professor of the Humanities at Columbia University. He was also a playwright, novelist, critic, poet, and journalist through his life.
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This Irish historical fiction books has been named as a New York Times Bestselling novel. Colm Toibin gives us an insight on Irish immigrants trying their best to make their way in America in the early ’50s. The novel has been adapted into a critically acclaimed film directed by John Crowley starring Saoirse Ronan, Domhnall Gleeson, Emory Cohen and Jim Broadbent. The film received numerous Oscar nominations and won the best film at he 2016 Bafta awards.
The Plot of Brooklyn
This novel features an Irish young lady, Eilis Lacey, who used to live in the small town of Enniscorthy, Ireland. She had lived there during the rigid years after the Second World War. There was very little opportunities for women at this time other than the hopes of marrying into a wealthy family; jobs were scarce and careers were expected to be given up after marriage.
Eilis’ life turns upside down when she crosses paths with an Irish priest who came from Brooklyn. He offers her a flight to the United States where he would sponsor and support her. The offer was too good to refuse, and so her adventure began. She leaves her sister and wane mother behind with a heavy heart, but excited for the opportunity that awaits her.
Upon reaching Brooklyn, Eilis found work on Fulton Street inside a department store. She overcomes her homesickness and the Irish country girl starts to thrive in America, so much so that she meets a new partner, Tony.
Tony came from a big Italian family and with plenty of effort wins over Eilis’ heart. She couldn’t help but fall in love with him, but her joy with drained soon after as devastating news arrives from her homeland in Ireland, and forces her to choose between the life she has built in the states and the Amreican Dream she is so close to achieving, and her roots back in Ireland.
COLUM MCCAN’S TOP IRISH HISTORICAL FICTION
Colum McCan is an Irish writer who is currently staying in the United States. He spent his childhood in Ireland where he grew up in Dublin.
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Among the best storytellers around the globe is Colum McCan. He is the writer ofthe Irish historical fiction TransAtlantic; a deep reflection of the world’s history as well as identity. TransAtlantic is a rising novel featuring characters that are neatly introduced through reality and imagination. This novel demonstrates once again that McCan is to be acclaimed as an enthralling author, even one of the most impressive of his generation.
The Plot of TransAtlantic
The events of the novel take place in more than a few centuries and revolve around many different people. It starts in 1919 with the two aviators, Arthur Brown and Jack Alcock. They both left Newfoundland for their first nonstop flight across the Atlantic Ocean. Those aviators were hopeful they’d heal the wounds caused due to the Great War.
The second voyage of the novel takes place in 1845 and 1846 in Dublin, Ireland. This time it is about Frederick Douglass who realised the Irish to be victims of an oppressive cause. People suffered from unbelievable hardships while the famine swept the countryside.
The third part of the story is about Senator George Mitchell. He lived in New York during his lifetime and departed for Belfast in 1998. Mitchell left his newborn and young wife behind.
These three stories are connected through the lives of three remarkable women. The first woman is named Lily Duggan, she met Frederick Douglas on his travels Lily was an Irish housemaid.The novel carries on narrating the significant stories of her daughter, Emily, and granddaughter, Lottie. The events take place through Ireland, Newfoundland, and the flatlands of Missouri.
The three stories culminate in the present day, as the ramifications and benefits of the previous 3 timelines are felt by Hannah Carson.
COLIN C. MURPHY’S TOP IRISH HISTORICAL FICTION
Colin C. Murphy is a successful writer who has covered more than a few genres. With over 25 published books, Irish historical fiction has its definite place in his successful works
Learn more about Colin C. Murphy.
Boycott is one of the most interesting Irish historical fiction novels you’ll ever lay your hands on. An enthralling plot of two brothers who survived one of Ireland’s toughest times, the Great Famine, only to find them selves at the helm of the war three decades later. The Joyce brothers, Thomas and Owen, lived through the 1840’s. The two brothers succeeded in making it through the rough patch of the great famine. Yet, the experience left them negatively impacted and traumatized.
The Plot of Boycott
Thirty years after the Great Famine, Thomas and Owen were both thrown together during the time of Land War, another rough patch in the history of Ireland; when landlord cruelty reached its peak. This injustice was too intolerable for the brothers to overlook; the two brothers had already had enough with a life of injustice and tyranny. They decided to take action, albeit in two very different ways. Thomas used his gun, putting his full trust in it to serve and protect him. On the other hand, Owen went on supporting the Land League passively.
While the novel’s title indicates the action in which people have taken at that time, it also refers to a character. This character is the English land agent in County Mayo, Captain Charles Boycott. With his ceaseless cruelty, he unsurprisingly becomes the first sufferer of the revolution. Out of nowhere, he, along with his family, become an outcast from the society. It was too hard to take after being one of the greatest powers of authority. Despite suffering from the peasants’ revolution, he gets support from the British government, the police, the press, and the military. How will the brothers and other poor Irish people stand against this tyranny?
DARRAN MCCANN’S TOP IRISH HISTORICAL FICTION
Darran McCann is an Irish author was born back in 1979, in County of Armagh. Before pursuing a career in journalism, he studied at Trinity College Dublin and Dublin City University. Later, he became a journalist and worked at the Irish News of Belfast. He then moved his career to teaching, giving writing courses at Queen’s University Belfast.
Learn more about Darran McCann.
After the Lockout
One of the most fascinating Irish historical fiction stories there is, the events of the story are set in November 1917. A time when Ireland was laden with tension and war. War had broken out all around Europe at that time. Simultaneously, Russia was facing an upheaval of a revolution. This novel is going gives the reader a great insight into both Irish and European histories.
The Plot of After the Lockout
The central character of the novel is Victor Lennon. The story opens with him going back to his home village after a long exile. In the book, Victor Lennon narrates his painful experience in the Dublin Lockout. He also recites how his life during the Easter Rising. Victor’s character is a vivid representation of what some of the Irish had to endure in the past. While one party perceived him as a hero, another one deemed him a danger. More interestingly, McCann portrayed Victor in the most intimate way. He is also telling everyone his own personal story through this character. This novel is an enchanting one that tells a story of ambitions and great achievements. It also represents a conflict that kept recurring in Irish history for many years.
Throughout the story, we will get to meet the people closest to the protagonist, individuals that are most aware of his true nature. Those people include the love of his life; Maggie, who saw the man behind the war hero. His father Pius, drinking himself to death and Charlie, who was wounded in the trenches also know him well. Soon after Victor settled in his home village, a collision started to rise between him and a frightening priest, Stanislaus Benedict.
DEBORAH LISSON’S TOP IRISH HISTORICAL FICTION
Deborah Lisson is popular young adult fiction author, living in Australia. During her stay in Ireland, she did her extensive researches on Red Hugh. As a result, she wrote a piece of Irish historical fiction that truly stems from passion.
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The events of the novel take place back in 1857, at a time when Ireland struggled against Queen Elizabeth. The old Irish clans were fighting to keep their lands with all their might. The Spanish Armada was threatening the queen at the same time, but she continued with her plans for Ireland, hoping to defeat them once and for all.
The central character of the story is Hugh O’Donnell, who at age 14 was captured and held hostage in Dublin castle. His father was the leader of the O’Donnell clan; a powerful clan from Donegal. Hugh was held hostage to ensure his father would behave well. He remained there for years until the opportunity to escape offered itself on a freezing night in winter. Hugh was determined to go back home, but it was a journey riddled with risk.
DERMOT BOLGER’S TOP IRISH HISTORICAL FICTION
Dermot Bolger is an Irish novelist and poet who was born in the suburbs of Dublin. He grew up in Finglas. Bolger is a prominent writer whose novels usually feature characters that society alienates. Interestingly, he combines these stories with rich history, resulting in a perfect Irish historical fiction.
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An Ark of Light
The events of the novel take place in the 50s with Eva Fitzgerald as the central character. Eva Fitzgerald was, in fact, a real-life figure that Bolger wrote about in his novel, The Family on Paradise Pier. She was a remorseless woman who fought to hold her family together. In spite of losing her battles, she managed to keep her family’s bond unbreakable.
In this book, Bolger narrates the tale of a fierce mother who gave up her happiness for her children’s sake. Her marriage failed and that urged her to go on an extraordinary journey. She went to discover herself by leaving Ireland behind. Eva roamed the world searching for her own identity and her children’s happiness. She had to defy all norms to protect her homosexual son and a rebel daughter. With nothing in common between them, Eva and her daughter only shared their love for one another. Along with her long journey, she befriended many people who changed her perception in life but never her sturdy determination.
The Family on Paradise Pier
A captivating Irish historical fiction novel, a genre which Dormet Bolger excels at. He portrayed the war that took place in Donegal, Ireland, back in 1915. War had disturbed most of Europe during that time, however, some children were unaffected.
The children of Goold Verschoyle managed to have a fairy-tale childhood. They went for midnight swims and regatta parties, unaware of what was going on outside their tranquil life. However, their peace was disturbed when catastrophic events started erupting around Europe, tearing the family apart. The three siblings Brendan, Eva, and Art; each took a different route in life.
Brendan joined the General Strike in England, but, later, ran away to the Spanish Civil War. He wanted to experience that war first-hand. On the other hand, Eva followed the traditional life of marriage and started a family. Lastly, Art left to Moscow to start life there on his own.
EDWARD RUTHERFURD’S TOP IRISH HISTORICAL FICTION
Rutherfurd takes readers on a journey through Irish history. Starting all the way back in the Pre-Christian period to modern times in Ireland. He devoted a good part of his life writing a series of book about Irish history.
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The Princes of Ireland (The Dublin Saga #1)
Want to delve deep into the history of Ireland? The Princes of Ireland is one big volume embracing everything that moulded Ireland into the country it is today. This novel is one of the best Irish historical fiction books to look out for. The Princes of Ireland is a saga, rather than one book. One book could not do justice to such a rich history.
The Plot of The Princes of Ireland
The series of The Princes of Ireland starts out with the legend of Cuchulainn- the Irish Hulk. Rutherfurd succeeded in modifying the legend while still keeping its heritage. Through the novels, you’ll come across the intertwined connections between monks, soldiers, rebels, and everyone who shaped Irish history.
Here are all the events you should expect to find in the novels; all major incidents in the history of Ireland. The saga involves the the era of mighty and fierce kings of Tara. Following that, you will come across Saint Patrick and his mission in spreading Christianity across the lands of Ireland. You will also learn about the foundation of Dublin and the invasion of the Vikings to name just a few historical events.
You’ll gain a sturdy background about Henry II and his fraudulence and the dramatic changes that took place in 1167. Not to mention learning about how barbaric Cromwell was and the plantation of the Tudors. Along the way, you will get to the rebellion that turned abortive in 1798 as well as the Easter Rebellion. Additionally, you will learn of the Wild Geese Flight and the Great Famine.
Upon reading this saga, you’ll wonder how Rutherford so skillfully managed to craft this masterpiece. You’ll also observe the events that came to pass in the late 19th century, including the rise of the Fenians. Other events also involved gory wars to pave the way for the Irish independence. The saga ends with the foundation of the Free Irish State in 1922.
The Rebels of Ireland (The Dublin Saga #2)
Following the success of Edward Rutherfurd’s Irish historical fiction, The Princes of Ireland, a new volume came out. The Rebels of Ireland is the second volume of Edward’s Irish historical fiction series. This time, Rutherfurd goes on with the significant events of the Irish history that took place after the 1534 Irish revolt.
The first part ended with the disastrous revolution and the sacred staff of St. Patrick vanishing. Thus, the second volume starts with the transformation of Ireland. It narrates the history of Ireland during the last periods in the English conquest of Ireland. The Rebels of Ireland is a story of bloody romances, sturdy conflicts, and political and family manoeuvres. During the 20th century, Irish families witnessed more than a few hardships. Through many generations, they had no idea what their future would be like. In this novel, Rutherfurd brings those events of the past to life through the rich details.
The Plot of the Rebels of Ireland
The book is a tale about Irish families who were torn between choices during the conquest and fighting for freedom. It includes several characters that were actual examples during the 400-year path to independence of Ireland. They were people who came from different classes of society; all fighting for the same goal. These characters included a wife whose marriage was threatened due to her intimate feelings for the Irish chieftain. It also narrates the tale of brothers who wanted their families secured, but couldn’t betray their profound faith. There were more and more people who sacrificed their lives, security, and fortunes in a desperate pursuit of freedom. The book also narrates times of crisis and crunch. It starts from the plantation settlements and all the way to the Flight of the Earls. There is also a glimpse of Cromwell’s suppression and the anti-Catholic tough penal laws.
EITHNE LOUGHREY’S TOP IRISH HISTORICAL FICTION
Before becoming a writer, Eithne was a drama teacher. She worked in a school in Ireland. Later, she started her career as an author and wrote an epic Irish historical fiction series, Annie Moore. Eithne wanted to show the Irish Emigration to America experience through a teenage girl whose life turned upside down.
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Annie Moore: First in Line for America (Annie Moore Series #1)
Annie Moore was a young Cork girl who had to leave her hometown behind for America. In 1891, she left Queenstown for America in December. In fact, she happened to be the first immigrant to pass through the immigrant station at Ellis Island, America. For that reason, her name was written in history. There are even sculptures of her figure found in the Ellis Island Museum in New York. In County Cork, her hometown, there is another sculpture outside the Cobh Heritage. Annie, along with her brothers, reunited with their parents. They were already settled in America, in New York City. Up until this point, the novel narrates the real story of Annie Moore. However, everything after this point is fictional.
Annie Moore: The Golden Dollar Girl (Annie Moore Series #2)
The second book in the epic series narrates the story of Annie Moore four years after immigrating to America. By that time, she was 17 years old. She moved to Nebraska, leaving her family behind in New York. Nebraska was a whole new world to Annie; it was different from everything she had ever known. However, she managed to adapt and settle down real fast and soon enough, she had an admirer, Carl. She was interested in him yet she was still thinking about Mike Tierney; a man she met on her journey.
Annie Moore: New York City Girl (Annie Moore Series #3)
In the third novel of the Annie Moore Series, we get to see Annie through her young adult years. New York City Girl is the book where Annie became a young woman of twenty years old. After two years of staying in Nebraska, she went back to New York, reuniting with her family and friends. One of the many things that excited her about New York and its endless opportunity was the presence of Mike. Annie was excited to spend more time with the man she admired. She also got to learn a lot of things about the different sides of New York. Sadly, war broke out, taking Mike far away from Annie where he was in danger.
EMER MARTIN’S TOP IRISH HISTORICAL FICTION
Emer Martin is an Irish author who grew up in Dublin. Throughout her life, she has lived in several places around the world. This includes Paris, London, the Middle East, and various places in the U.S. In 1996, her first novel, Breakfast in Babylon, won Book of the Year Award. Among her successful books is The Cruelty Men; an epic Irish historical fiction.
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The Cruelty Men
This novel is capable of displaying Irish history as far back in time as the ice age. No wonder the author has won prizes for writing such a grand piece of Irish historical fiction. It portrays the lives of Irish families and their children who struggled in the Irish institutions. The central character of the novel is Mary O Conaill. She is a vivid portrayal of what children had to endure in the past. Simply enjoying their childhood was not an option. They had to find a way to endure the hardships standing the way of their futures.
The Plot of The Cruelty Man
The O Conaills family moved from Kerry to Meath to settle down. Upon their journey, they abandoned their children with Mary being the eldest of them. She was too young at that time for such responsibility yet found herself in charge of her younger siblings. It became her duty to raise them all on her own, and the process was not easy. But despite this, she gave her mother her word to keep the family together. Mary was only ten years old; -far too young to mind herself, let alone her siblings too- but she kept her promise.
Things did not go the way Mary had planned. Her sister Bridget escaped to Dublin and, later went to live in America. Then Padraig, her brother suddenly disappeared. Besides, Maeve worked as a servant to a family in the local town. Somewhere along the way, she became pregnant outside a marital relationship. Thus, she gave birth to twins that the Magdalene Laundry forcefully took away from her. Seamus, the eldest boy, was a troublemaker whose decisions were ill-planned and deceitful. Finally, Sean, the youngest of all of them, was the smartest. Mary even managed to put him in school. He managed to complete his studies all the way to college as well. Later, he became a Christian brother whose mind was convinced that life was a cruel place.
EMMA DONOGHUE’S TOP IRISH HISTORICAL FICTION
Emma Donoghue excelled in writing a bestselling novel, Room. A Dublin based author, now based in Ontario, Canada.
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Donoghue managed to sustain her uncanny writing abilities in The Wonder as well. The events of The Wonder takes place in the Irish Midlands back in 1859.
The Plot of The Wonder
The novel revolves around two strangers’ whose lives turned upside down by being there for one another. It narrates the story of an eleven-year-old girl who claims she managed to survive four months with no food. Anna O’Donnell was a child believed to be a miracle to the small Irish village she resided in.
Two nurses were brought to this small village to observe this miraculous girl. One of those nurses happened to be a nun. On the other hand, the other nurse, Libby Wright, was an English woman who thought the girl’s story was a hoax. She couldn’t buy the idea of a girl living on water for months and staying healthy- as claimed by doctors. Libby believed that someone had to feed the girl secretly. While keeping watch over the girl, Wright finds herself getting too attached. She even fights to save this little girl’s life.
FRANK DELANEY’S TOP IRISH HISTORICAL FICTION
Frank Delaney was one of the best storytellers of Irish History. Delaney was born in Ireland in Tipperary. For quite some time, he had been on top of the Irish New York Times best-seller.
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The book’s name is quite fitting. What places this book among the top Irish Historical Fiction books is the stories it involves. Delaney successfully wrote pages that feel heard rather than read. He, obviously, attempts to unravel Ireland’s history through his works.
The Plot of Ireland
The story’s events take place back in 1951 during Winter. At that time, a storyteller arrives at the Irish countryside. He resided in Ronan O’Mara’s home- a nine-year-old boy. That storyteller happened to be the last practitioner of the honored traditions of the old centuries. He only stays in the town for three evenings. Despite the short period, Ronan’s life was changed forever. The young boy heard tons of stories about saints, foolish kings, and Ireland’s accomplishments. That had enabled him to pursue those glorious tales throughout the course of his own life.
FRANK MCGUINNESS’S TOP IRISH HISTORICAL FICTION
Professor of Creative Frank McGuinness is one of Ireland’s most prominent writers. He also happens to be a Professor in University College Dublin; he teaches Creative Writing. McGuinness is commonly known as a dramatist. His most popular and highly successful hit on stage was Observe the Sons of Ulster Marching towards the Somme. Besides writing drama, he wrote several anthologies of poetry that were published as well. Furthermore, he wrote scripts for films, including Dancing at Lughnasa.
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Arimathea is one of the most popular books that Frank McGuinness has ever written. It is an enthralling story of fiction perfectly intwined with real life history.
The events of the novel are set in Donegal, in 1950. Derry city is quite close to Donegal; only 14 miles apart. In this buzzing community, Gianni arrives all the way from Arrezzo in Italy. He is an Italian painter that was also named Giotto at his birth. However, Gianni was the name he was commonly referred to as he grew up.
The reason he headed to Donegal was because he was hired to paint the Stations of the Cross. While pursuing his passion in a new land, he also gets to learn a lot about a new culture. Not only that, but he was also able to teach the locals about his own culture as well. People regarded him as a dark-skinned man with bizarre habits; he seemed interesting to them. Gianni was usually someone who enjoyed being on his own, he wanted to keep parts of his own strange past to himself.
HEATHER TERRELL’S TOP IRISH HISTORICAL FICTION
Heather Terrell lives in Pittsburgh with her family. She has a double degree from Boston University; one from Law School and the other from Art and History. Heather specializes in writing fantasy, historical fiction, and young adult novels. You will find a lot of her stories revolving around Irish historical fiction as well as Irish mythology. She also tends to mix both genres, producing an enthralling combination. Among her top Irish historical fiction lies Brigid of Kildare.
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Brigid of Kildare
According to the Irish mythology, Brigid was the first female nun in Ireland. She used to be worshipped by pagans long before the arrival of Christianity in Ireland. In this book, you will find rich details about the history of Ireland through different centuries. The first part of the book examines the history of Ireland during the 5th century. It also narrates the story of Brigid before and after becoming a Saint. Later on, the book switches to modern times when Alexandra Patterson examines the history of Saint Brigid.
The Plot of Brigid of Kildare
During the first part of the novel, you get introduced to a part of Irish history. Set in the 5th century, the novel reveals Brigid who was the first female bishop in Ireland. Not only that, but she also was the only female in Ireland to ever become a bishop. She used to live in Kildare County where followers hoarded to her abbey there.
Brigid was the Goddess of Sun and Light according to the pagans. With the arrival of Christianity, people started to believe in the existence of only one God. Afraid of being forgotten, she became a priest in an attempt to keep her followers. Despite her efforts, the Church perceived her as a menace. Thus, they sent a Roman priest Decius, secretly, to find a proof of her desecration. He discovered her shady practices, but she managed to charm him. Decius faced a difficult decision.
The second part of the book brings us to modern times with Alexandra Patterson. She was an evaluator of the leftovers of the primitive times. Alexandra was called to Kildare in order to examine caskets that supposedly belonged to Saint Brigid. Upon opening that holy box, Alex found fascinating manuscripts from the past.
Brigid was one of the most prominent Gods of Celtic mythology, as well as a member of one of Ireland’s oldest and most magical races: the Tuatha de Danann. You can find a fully comprehensive guide of the Tuatha de Danann here; from its magical gods, to the treasures they brought to Ireland as well as the many mythological stories they appear in, such as the Children of Lir, on our aticle of the Tuatha de Danann.
J.G. FARRELL’S TOP IRISH HISTORICAL FICTION
James Gordon Farrell was commonly known as briefly as J.G. Farrell. He was born in Liverpool and was of Irish descent. At the age of 44, James tragically drowned off the coast of Ireland.
His books were usually historical fiction. His notable Empire Trilogy is a mix of Irish historical fiction and other cultural histories. The common subject between the three books is the damages resulted from the British colonial rule. He shows how they impacted cultures and politics through their tyranny.
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Troubles is a pitiful Irish historical fiction that relates to the Irish history and the impact of the British Empire. The novel is set in 1919 after the Great War ended. Major Brendan Archer is the central character of the novel. He was engaged to Angela Spencer whose family owned the Majestic Hotel in Kilnalough.
Thus, he decided to head back to Ireland and, to his surprise, things are no longer the same. His fiancée’s family had suffered a significant decline in their fortune. Their conditions had been utterly altered. Hundreds of the rooms in the hotel collapsed. During these unfortunate events, Major involved himself with another beautiful woman; Sarah Devlin.
More Books of the Empire Trilogy
JAMES RYAN’S TOP IRISH HISTORICAL FICTION
James Ryan is an Irish prominent author; born and raised in County Laois. He graduated from Trinity College in 1975. Not only is he an author, but he also teaches English and history, a possible reason why he loves combining history and literature, giving us a larger-than-life piece of Irish historical fiction.
South of the Border
This novel is a masterpiece that brings wartime Ireland to life. You vicariously live through the characters and experience the incidents as if they are still ongoing. A heartwarming fictional love story highlights the importance of surviving through the hard times of Ireland. Set in 1942, Matt Duggan arrives at Rathisland in the Irish midlands in autumn. He was a young Balbriggan teacher who made it through the world war to Ireland.
On one fine day at the school where he worked, rehearsals take place all around. The students were getting reading for playing Hamlet by Shakespeare on stage. It was the day when Matt met Madelene Coll, an attractive 19-year-old lady. She was running away from her aunts’ watchful eyes and Matt observed her in astonishment. Despite the worlds they created for themselves in auditions and rehersals, the tragedy of war is still going to perservere.
Home from England
Another Irish historical fiction by the talented author James Ryan. He has the skills of illustrating an experience that feels so vivid. The emotions of the novel can reach you effortlessly. In his book Home from England, he illustrated the experience of going back home after a long time. Back in the 20th century, the Irish people used to immigrate to either America or England. Of course, some immigrated to other different places, but those two countries were most popular.
This novel depicts the relationship between a father and his son. A sensitive relationship that has been a standard trait in modern Irish fiction books. The climax of the book lies in the death of the protagonist’s father, altering his life in a myriad of ways. The protagonist of the story returned back home from England. He returned with so so many found memories and expectations but found that the lands of Ireland were a different place. In fact, he could no longer recognize the new place nor the new faces; yearning for the old life he’d left.
JAMIE O’NEILL’S TOP IRISH HISTORICAL FICTION
Jamie O’Neill is an Irish writer who lived and worked in England for around 20 years. Readers claim that Jamie O’Neill is the successor to prominent authors such as Samuel Beckett and James Joyce. His top Irish historical fiction book, At Swim, Two Boys, gave him a skyrocketing evaluation. It remains popular to this day
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At Swim, Two Boys
This novel has received a lot of praises from different sources, including Entertainment Weekly. It is an Irish historical fiction set before the time of 1916 uprising. The novel depicts the bravery of and fractures surrounded by Ireland’s prominent revolution. It narrates the ups and downs of the incident through people that got trapped in the history’s tides. Jamie O’Neill successfully and brilliantly wrote a piece of literature that documents a prominent episode in Irish history.
The Plot of At Swim, Two Boys
The book narrates the tale of two young boys; Doyler Doyle and Jim Mack. Doyler Doyle is an energetic boy full of life. On the other hand, Jim was a naïve scholar whose father was an ambitious shopkeeper, Mr. Mack. Doyler Doyle’s father used to serve in the army with Jim’s father, Mack. That was how the friendship between the two boys flourished.
The Forty Foot was a part stuck out of a rock where men bathed naked. At that place, the two young boys make a deal. That deal included Doyler teaching Jim swimming. One year later, when it was the Easter of 1916, the two boys swam to the faraway Muglins Rock, claiming it for themselves. Mr. Mack remained in his shop unaware of the boys’ plans or the depth of their friendship. He was too busy expanding his corner shop.
JANE URQUHART’S TOP IRISH HISTORICAL FICTION
Jane Urquhart is a popular author who lives in Canada. She has seven novels that are internationally acclaimed. One of those seven is Away; categorized as an Irish historical fiction novel. The other novels include The Stone Carvers, Changing Heaven, Sanctuary Line, The Whirlpool, A Map of Glass, and The Underpainter.
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Away is an Irish historical fiction set in both Canada and Ireland. Obviously, the settings of the novel refer to the knowledge of the author. She lived in both countries throughout her life. The book reveals the past of a family that lived on the Northern Irish Coast during the 1840s. It also unfolds some history about the lands of Canada when the Canadian Shield was barely habitable.
JOE MURPHY’S TOP IRISH HISTORICAL FICTION
Born in 1979, Joe Murphy lived his childhood years in Wexford. At school, he was the best in his class at writing, excelling and winning many awards for it. For that reason, he carried on his studies, majoring in English Literature. He wrote several books with one Irish historical fiction novel coming out on top. Among his popular published books are I Am in Blood and Dead Dogs.
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1798: Tomorrow the Barrow We’ll Cross
The book recounts the calamity the British Empire had done to the lands of Ireland. It took place back in 1798 when a small county in Ireland started defending its lands against the cruel British occupation.
Throughout the novel, we will get to know a lot about Irish history through the stories of the Banville brothers. Tom and Dan were full of rage when war struck into Ireland. It had disturbed their comfortable rural lives in so many ways.
Thus, they did not have second thoughts about thrusting into a revolution. In no time, they found themselves joining the Rebellion. They stumbled against racism and brutality while fighting the power of the British Empire. The book is a vivid illustration of love the Irish had for their lands and families. They were loyal and persistent on keeping their lands free and independent for as long as they lived.
JOHN THRONE’S TOP IRISH HISTORICAL FICTION
John Throne is an Irish writer who was born in County Donegal, in Lifford. Before 80-plus-year-old mother died, she told him the secret she kept from the family. She narrated the story of her mother who suffered during the slavery years in Irish history. After hearing the horrors of his grandmother’s life, he decided to share the injustice with the world.
The Donegal Woman
The story is about Margaret who had a rough childhood. She is the depiction of the author’s grandmother and her story is based on a real-life.
Less than a century ago, in some parts of rural Ireland, slavery managed to carry on. Penniless parents sold their seven-year-old children to farmers in exchange for money. Those farmers had the right to keep the children for a certain span where they can overwork them. They also severely mistreated them; often worse than they’d have treated cattle.
During those awful times, Margaret lived in the hills of Donegal with her poor parents. They sold her out to farmers as a child to be hired in exchange for pennies. Not only did she suffer from mistreatment, her master also raped her when she was still little. She got pregnant and was forcefully married to a man as old as her father.
Despite all the hardships she went through, Margaret managed to keep her passion and persistence. She promised to give her children the life she never had. While she did sacrifice her own happiness, she succeeded in providing a peaceful life for her little ones. Her spirit was as high as the sky and was too sturdy to ever be tamed.
JOHN MACKENNA’S TOP IRISH HISTORICAL FICTION
John MacKenna is an Irish novelist and playwright who was born in Co. Kildare. He is the author of several popular novels among which he wrote Irish historical fiction. Currently, he carries on his writing career and works as a teacher as well. He teaches several media studies courses as well as creative writing at the NUIM Maynooth and Kilkenny.
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Once we Sang Like Other Men
This Irish historical fiction revolves around the life of the Captain. He was a mysterious figure with great power. The book contains several different stories about the distinctive followers of the Captain. MacKenna portrayed the central character, an impulsive character who walked away from his family, leaving his wife and children behind. He even carelessly left his job just to go and follow the Captain. When that Captain died, the lives of his followers changed in numerous ways.
JOHN BRENDAN KEANE’S TOP IRISH HISTORICAL FICTION
Commonly known as John B. Keane, he was one of the most prominent authors of Ireland. Many of his books and plays won several awards, including Sharon’s Grave and The Field. He died back in 2002, in Listowel, but his memory still lingers around.
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The Bodhrán Makers
The novel is set at the times of the famous Irish Emigration. Most people at that time left for America. Some of them actually headed for England instead. They were looking for better lives and better opportunities. Despite the great number of departures, some people stayed. They remained behind because they loved their homeland too much to ever abandon it. Although the future was foggy and uncertain, their faith in Ireland was bigger.
Set in the 50s in the Kerry Village of Dirrabeg, bodhran drums were a popular Irish instrument. Every year, the wren dance was a way of celebration for the village people. It was the only light in the nights of darkness that lived. That day was a long one of celebration; people referred to it as St. Stephen’s Day. This festival still takes place in our modern times, but it dates way back to the time of paganism.
Donal Hallapy was a bodhran drum player; people always called for him to show off his exceptional skills. He was a loyal father with a large family. He usually played his bodhran drums on that festive day every year. People sang, danced, and drunk as much they liked to. But, the Church was upset about not being able to have control over them. Thus, the Clan of the Round Collar made enemies of them with Canon Tett as the leader. He was a sadistic priest who was looking for a way to destruct the wren dancing festival.
Want to learn more about traditional Irish festivals such as the Wren? Click here to learn all about Traditional Irish festivals, music, sport and dance.
JOHN BANVILLE’S TOP IRISH HISTORICAL FICTION
Banville is an Irish writer who grew up with siblings who loved writing as well. Originally, he wanted to become an architect and a painter, but he never went to college. Instead, he became a popular writer, offering the world with some of the best Irish historical fiction.
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The Book of Evidence
Banville wrote a series of books where his protagonist was Frederick Montgomery. We can see through the novel that John Banville included his passion for painting. The book revolves around a man who paints.
The Plot of The Book of Evidence
Throughout the series, we get to know more about Frederick Montgomery. He was a former scientist and later took an unclear detour in life. Being a perfect observer of his surroundings, he loved to paint. On one fine day, he returns to Ireland to reclaim a painting that was part of his inheritance. After being stopped by the servant of the man who owned the painting,, Frederick murdered her. In a narrative-length novel, Frederick commits to his ghastly act.
For once again, John Banville dazzles us with a touching novel about love and loss. He shows us how powerful the memory can be. We all remember our pasts and understand it different when seen under a brighter light.
The Plot of The Sea
The novel narrates the story of a middle-aged Irish man, Max Morden. Morden lost his wife and grieved for a long time after. During his childhood years, he stayed in a seaside town. It was the place where his summer holidays came to pass. To keep up with his melancholy loss of his wife, Morden returns to that place.
He remembered more than he expected about his childhood. It was also the place where he had the chance to meet the Graces. In fact, the Graces was a family that showed strength, teaching Morden a lot about life and death. Just there, Max started to comprehend the impact of the past on his present. He came to terms with the fact that some things would just never go away.
JOHN BOYNE’S TOP IRISH HISTORICAL FICTION
John Boyne is one of the most popular Irish novelists. Not only because he wrote some of the best Irish historical fiction, but also for writing pieces that catered to everyone. Boyne created five novels suitable for young readers. On the other hand, he wrote a dozen more for adults. Moreover, his novels are available in almost 50 languages. Thus, they are popular worldwide.
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The Heart’s Invisible Furies
This novel is a supreme work of art that Boyne has masterfully created. A novel that has surely been added to the top shelf of Irish historical fiction. It is an enthralling story. Boyne displays the history of Ireland through the eyes of the protagonist- supposedly an ordinary man. The Irish history in this novel starts from the ’40s and continues all the way to modern times.
The Plot of The Heart’s Invisible Furies
Cyril Avery is the ordinary man who happens to be the protagonist of the novel. His life turns upside down upon learning that he is not a “real” Avery. In fact, his adoptive parents, the Averys, tell him so. Desperate to know who he is, Cyril learns that he was born in a rural Irish community to a teenage girl. The Averys were a couple with a decent life who came from Dublin and adopted him with the help of a nun. Cyril spends the rest of his life searching for his real identity. He will desperately look for a place where he can call home.
This story is a poignant reflection of the many young unmarried mothers whose children were taken away from them, with the church doing everything in their power to ensure the mother and child would not be reunited. The ramifications of these actions are unfortunately still being felt today.
JOSEPH O’CONNOR’S TOP IRISH HISTORICAL FICTION
Joseph O’Connor is an Irish writer who was born in Dublin. He has written a number of Irish historical fiction novels and other literary books. Those include Desperadoes, The Salesman, Cowboys and Indians, and Redemption Falls. His most prominent Irish historical fiction is Star of the Sea. The book has also gotten him to be voted the Irish Writer of the Decade.
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Star of the Sea
Another Irish historical fiction novel about the Irish Emigration to America, set in the winter of 1847 when injustice and famine tore Ireland apart. A tale of love, mercy, healing, and tragedy, the novel tells us the stories of hundreds of refugees who boarded coffin ships heading to the promised land of America. Through the journey, many will lost their lives and secrets are revealed.
The closer the ship gets to the new land, the more the passengers feel attached to their past. Among the passengers are a killer, a maid with a disturbing secret, and Lord Merridith. The latter is bankrupt who got on board with his wife and children, heading for a new life.
KAREN HARPER’S TOP IRISH HISTORICAL FICTION
Being one of the bestselling authors, it is quite expected for her to keep up with her exceptional writing abilities. Harper’s success was quite obvious in her masterpiece Mistress Shakespeare.
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The Irish Princess
Harper excels once again in her novel, The Irish Princess. Harper narrates the history of Ireland through a sequel of events that captivate the readers’ minds.
The Plot of The Irish Princess
Elizabeth Fitzgerald was born to a royal family- the first family of Ireland. She had royal ties on both sides of her family. She was known as Gera rather than Elizabeth. Her father was the Earl of Kildare. Gera had a peaceful and joyful life among her family until Henry VIII showed up. He sent her father to prison, scattering the family and turning Gera’s peaceful life into chaos.
After the destruction of the Fitzgerald family, Gera received an offer to refuge in England’s royal court. She accepted the offer and moved to London’s incredibly different streets. Gera was used to the lush green fields of her homeland, County Kildare. However, she fiercely stood against the tumbling waves that tried to rapidly alter her life. She shifted alliances to fulfill her desire for revenge. Refusing to be tamed, she worked on becoming the power that would restore her family’s position in Ireland.
KATE KERRIGAN’S TOP IRISH HISTORICAL FICTION
Kate Kerrigan is an Irish author who started off as a journalist in Irish Mail and Irish Tatler. Later on, she became an editor, working on women magazines of Britain; the most successful ones. Kate writes novels about Irish historical fiction and romantic literature. One of her top Irish historical fiction is the series; Ellis Island.
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Ellis Island (Ellis Island Series #1)
This series is popular in the United Kingdom, a tale about the Irish immigration experience intertwined with a love story. It takes place in the early 20th century. Kerrigan narrates the story of an Irish woman, Ellie who immigrated to New York City in the 1920s. She was young and full of life. She was left with a choice between the interesting experience of America and the man she left back in Ireland. Kate Kerrigan was capable of portraying the huge differences between those worlds effectively in her books.
City of Hope (Ellis Island Series #2)
This is the follow-up to Ellis Island; the first book of the series. This book unfolds the story of a brilliant woman. She lived with her husband, John, during the 1930s before he suddenly passed away. After that traumatic experience, Ellie Hogan made the decision of leaving Ireland. She went back to New York City because there was nothing left for her to stay in Ireland. Ellie only went back for her husband and now that he was gone, she left again. Upon arriving back to America, Ellie sought distractions from her grief through the loud ambience of the city. Little did she know about the Depression that would come sweeping the city. Due to the crisis, the city was no longer as energetic and lively as it had always been.
Since her life had changed forever, Ellie decided to make use of the changes and run a home for the homeless. She used the work to distract herself from her grief as well as build a new life and passion. Interestingly, she received the support and love from the people she cared for. They also made great friends that helped her get through her grief and develop herself. But, the joy was not as sustainable as she hoped for it to be. Her past tragedies came haunting her when an unexpected person showed up to her door.
Land of Dreams (Ellis Island Series #3)
Here comes the third and last book in the series of Ellis Island; Land of Dreams. This one is set in the 1940s when Ellie Hogan finally achieved the American Dream. She resided in Los Angeles, built a family, and went through the crisis of World War II. Before moving to LA, she lived on Fire Island in New York City. However, things took a downward spiral when Leo, her adopted son, eloped. He was in the pursuit of fame and fortune that Hollywood life promised. Ellie followed her son in an attempt to keep her family together. Through the process, her youngest son, Bridie, had to experience a major relocating.
Upon reaching LA, she built a new home for herself; a fashionable one. She became recognizable among the celebrities and artists of the city. Ellie made new and different relationships with Suri and Stan. Suri was a pretty woman from Japan with attractive vibes that taught Ellie a lot about her unjust country. On the other hand, Stan was a film composer. He was a type of man that Ellie had never met in her life.
KATE HORSLEY’S TOP IRISH HISTORICAL FICTION
Kate Horsley was born in Richmond in Virginia back in 1952. As a kid, she loved reading and her mother was the one who inspired that habit. Thus, she became a writer under the name of her mother’s middle name- Alice Horsley Parker. The first novel she wrote was a dedication to her mother. But, her later novels, five of them, were a dedication to her deceased child, Aaron. He died in 2000 at the age of 18.
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Confessions of a Pagan Nun
The book reveals the tale of an Irish nun, Gwynneve, who was isolated in a stone cell at the monastery of Saint Brigid. There, she spent her time documenting the memories of her pagan youth in utter secrecy. In fact, she had an assigned task to rather document and record the times of Patrick and Augustine.
Through her documentation, she mentioned her sturdy mother who had a talent with healing plants. She actually inherited that from her mother along with her inner strength. The person that introduced her to the vagueness of writing was her druid teacher, Giannon. Despite the isolation, events took place that kept intervening with her documenting mission.
KRIS KENNEDY’S TOP IRISH HISTORICAL FICTION
The best writer that combines big romance with historical fiction. Most of his books involve love stories between strong heroes and heroines. However, his book, the Irish Warrior, is among the top Irish historical fiction novevls.
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The Irish Warrior
The novel narrates the tale of the Irish warrior Finian O’Melaghlin. He watches his men die before his own eyes. Right after, the English Lord Rardove captures Finian. He holds him hostage, unable to ever break free.
When Finian least expects it, he receives assistance from a beautiful woman, Senna de Valery. She has been a hostage to Rardove’s cruel clutch as well. The two of them risk their lives by trying to flee. While they manage to escape, troubles awaited them outside. They now depend on each other to survive; seeking a safe haven. Both of them try to resist their urging desire and lust for each other. They know it’ll jeopardize their lives if they were to surrender to it. Finian takes an oath to protect Senna; the woman who saved his life. However, Senna seems to have a buried secret that Fenian will soon find out about.
LEON URIS’S TOP IRISH HISTORICAL FICTION
Leon Uris was a prominent authors who enthralled the world with Irish stories. He worked to bring the history of Ireland alive.
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One of the best Irish historical fictions, Trinity offered the world a glimpse of the beauty of Irish lands. Uris charmed his readers with several popular 20th-century classics. All of them recite an epic journey of Ireland’s struggle to gain freedom.
The Plot of Trinity
Trinity is a stirring tale of a young Catholic rebel who had a cause. Along the way, he meets a pretty Protestant girl who flouted her legacy and traditions to support him. The novel revolves around victory that costs a valuable price in return. It also involves a tale of love and danger, narrating how people were divided by faith and class.
LORNA PEEL’S TOP IRISH HISTORICAL FICTION
Lorna Peel is an English author who grew up in North Wales. Currently, she lives in the rural areas of Ireland. Thus, we can see her setting her historical fiction novels in both Ireland and UK. She is popular for her Dublin series that’s events are set in Ireland back in the 1880s. The Books of this series include A Scarlet Woman and A Suitable Wife. In 2019, she published the third book in the series, A Discarded Son. This list was originally created before the realease of the third, fourth, fifth and sixth entries so there is plenty to catch up on!
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Brotherly Love: A 19th Century Irish Romance
Lorna Peel’s books are usually a mix of history and romance. This one is no exception; it is an Irish historical fiction that includes eternal love. Based in 1835 in Ireland, there was a Faction fighting by that time. That crisis divided the community of Doon; some followed the Donnellans while other followed the Bradys. The love story occurs between a Brady woman, Caitriona and a regular man.
The man was Michael Warner; he was handsome and unbiased. Michael did not follow either of the factions, thus, he was free to fall in love with Caitriona Brady. However, he seemed to have a shady secret that he kept from her.
On the other hand, Caitriona Brady belonged to one of the families of the faction. She lost her husband John; he was the Brady champion. However, she did not mourn him, for she married him when she was 18 and had never loved him. A few years later, John’s mother passed away too, leaving Caitriona the freedom to marry again. But, would she marry the man she fell in love with before his secret was revealed?
MARITA CONLON-MCKENNA’S TOP IRISH HISTORICAL FICTION
Marita is an Irish writer born in Dublin. The Famine period of Ireland has always been of a fascinating topic for her. She read as much as she could about the subject. It’s no wonder her popular books are a trilogy of Irish historical fiction. Under the Hawthorn Tree is Marita’s first and most successful book.
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Under the Hawthorn Tree (Children of the Famine #1)
The Great Famine happened in Ireland during the 1840s. During that time, a lot of people died as victims of cruel starvation. Children were also sent to the workhouse where they would work under harsh circumstances.
In this book, Marita shows us the struggles that came with the Great Famine in Ireland. She narrates the story through three children. They were left all alone during the Great Famine. This meant that they may be sent to the workhouse whenever found.
They were afraid that they would have to go through that dangerous process. They remembered the great-aunts that their mother used to tell them stories about and made it their mission to find these relatives, with only the little information their mother gave to them.
Under the Hawthorn tree is one of most poignant novels about Ireland during the Famine, as it highlights the heartbreaking life children faced.
Wildflower Girl (Children of the Famine #2)
Another fascinating Irish historical fiction novel by Marita is Wildflower Girl. It is the second book in the series of the Children of the Famine. Again, Marita takes us on a journey through a torn-apart Ireland when it was utterly overwhelmed by the Great Famine.
However, this time, she also introduces us to the challenges that the Irish faces while crossing the ocean to America on coffin ships. The story this time is about a little girl named Peggy. She managed to survive the Great Famine while embarking on a hazardous voyage through the lands of Ireland. Six years later, the Irish Emigration to America was the newest solution to escaping poverty.
People fled the harsh conditions of Ireland to build new lives of their own in the Promised Land. Peggy embarked on a new journey where she crossed the Atlantic Ocean to America.
Fields of Home (Children of the Famine #3)
Marita concludes her trilogy of the Children of the Famine with Fields of Home. Her interest in the subject of the Great Famine is still ongoing in the third book. The story revolves around a stable-boy who lived at the Big House. His name was Michael and he had an interest in learning about horses.
On the other hand, his sister Eily fought off for her life on a scrap of land. The author reveals through the book that those two children are Peggy’s siblings. Peggy still worked in America and never came back to Ireland. You will find out what Michael will decide to do with his life. Whether he will go find his sisters or forget about them and move on.
Marita portrays the struggles that loomed under the Irish sky during the First World War in this novel. The story revolves around the three pretty Gifford sisters, Nellie, Grace, and Muriel. They grew up in Dublin with an Anglo-Irish background.
Their mother, Isabelle, raised them on their ancestors’ customs and traditions. However, the three of them always resisted against these norms. They all find their true love during the wartime when Ireland was fighting for freedom. One way or another, the sisters involved themselves in the rebellion movement.
Thus, the world they’d always known turned into something tragic and melancholy during Ireland’s biggest uprising in 1916.
MARY PAT KELLY’S TOP IRISH HISTORICAL FICTION
Not only is Mary Pat Kelly a remarkable writer, but she was also the producer of Saturday Night Live. Currently, she lives in New York. During her life, she has been almost everything, including studying to be a nun. Among her popular fictions is Special Intentions.
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Mary Pat Kelly portrays the history of the Irish-American folks in one epic Irish historical fiction saga. She sheds the light on the Irish-American experience- a rarely narrated part of the Irish history. Mary Pat Kelly narrates the history of Ireland in a terrific novel full of legendary and mythical stories. The incidents take place in one of Ireland’s popular spots for fishermen, Galway Bay, hence the name, The Plot of Galway Bay.
In love with epic journeys? This one will leave you in wonder after finishing the last chapter. The book embraces the story of an Irish family, narrating moments of victory and catastrophes alike. In fact, it explains a lot about the Irish-American experience. The best part about this Irish historical fiction is that it reflects the mythology of Ireland, in a really interesting way.
The Plot of Galway Bay
The story starts with a young Honora Keeley and Michael Kelly tying the knot. They used to reside in a hidden part in Ireland, Galway Bay. The residences of this area included farmers and fishermen; they all found comfort in their ancient traditions.
Such traditions including communal celebrations, enchanting songs and telling tales. People around that bay made a living by selling their crops. The only crop that they actually kept were potatoes; it was their only staple food.
Things started to take a downward spiral when a blight swept off their only staple food. Unfortunately, landlords along with the government turned their back to that natural disaster. They let the blight destruct the potatoes several times in four years. The Great Starvation took millions of lives throughout the years.
Michael and Honora pledge to keep their children alive no matter what it takes to do it. Thus, they join Irish refugees; almost two million, in one great attempt to survive; the Irish Emigration to America. Having to leave their hometown behind, they were unaware of the disasters awaiting them on the other side of the world. The bottom line is that this story is a piece of evidence documented, shedding lights on the Irish Americans of today’s world.
MARTIN MALONE’S TOP IRISH HISTORICAL FICTION
Martin Malone was originally a military policeman who served in the Irish Defense Forces. He had placements experiences in Lebanon and Iraq which he documented later. Malone became a short story writer and novelist afterwards. One of his top Irish historical fiction is The Silence of the Glasshouse.
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The Silence of the Glasshouse
In this powerful Irish historical fiction, Malone narrated the story of the Irish Civil War. In fact, he recalled many of the significant events that took place in Irish history. He also narrated the stories of four Kerry volunteers who were supposedly sentenced to death for illegal possession of arms. However, they managed to make peace with the new government.
MORGAN LLYWELYN’S TOP IRISH HISTORICAL FICTION
Morgan Llywelyn is a historical fiction writer. She also writes historical fantasy and non-fiction. But, she is always fascinated about history. Morgan is American-Irish, and a true supporter of the Irish freedom. She also received the award of Exceptional Celtic Woman of the Year back in 1999. Morgan wrote popular Irish historical fiction, including Bard and The Horse Goddess and Lion of Ireland. She also kept tracking the history of the Celts.
The top bestselling Irish historical fiction of Morgan’s work was her epic Irish Century Novels. It consists of 5 books where each one embraces the history of Ireland at some point throughout the 20th century, the book series “Irish Century Novels”. Other Irish historical fiction that Morgan Llywelyn produced was the series of Brian Boru.
Learn more about Morgan Llywelyn
1916 (Irish Century Novels #1)
This Irish historical fiction highlights Morgan Llywelyn’s great support to the Irish freedom. What makes this book among the best Irish historical fiction novels is the large amount of historical events it embraces.
The book gives the readers an insight into World War I and its impact on the streets of County Dublin. It also shows a number of men and women who had an unforgettable and significant rolw in the Irish history, for example there was one that fought with all their might against the brutality of the British Empire. Besides, Llywelyn shows that he gained his inspirations from the historical stories told through the years. Ned is the protagonist that gives us access into Morgan Llywelyn’s thoughts and beliefs.
The Plot of 1916
The story of the book is all about Ned Halloran. He lost his parents at the age of 15 on the disastrous incident of the Titanic ship. Ned almost lost his own life as well; however he managed to survive and returned to Ireland, his homeland with very little to his name.
After going back to his hometown, he enrolled at Saint Edna’s school in County Dublin. Patrick Pearse happened to be the headmaster of the school. He was also a poet and a scholar who turned into a patriot and rebel, the real historical figure who read the proclamation of the Republic of Ireland outside the GPO.
In the vines of the revolution, Ned got caught and was deeply attached to the cause. He was even ready for the sacrifices that came along.
1921: The Great Novel of the Irish Civil War (Irish Century Novels #2)
Morgan likes putting her novels under dates rather than names. Those dates mark significant events that came to pass throughout the history of Ireland. The 20th century in Ireland was all about fighting for independence. Just like the title says, the book is about the Irish War of Independence and Civil war that took place right after.
The Plot of 1921
The novel reveals the struggle of a reporter, Henry Mooney, who works hard to report the daily news with no manipulation or bias. He also faces challenges in figuring out the truth. One of Henry’s dearest friends is Ned Halloran.
He was the protagonist of another novel by Morgan; 1916. The friendship between Henry and Ned starts to wane when their political beliefs take different routes. Somewhere along the road, Henry realizes that the struggle for freedom will impact the lives of all Irish citizens. There was no way he could put a stop to the hurt no matter how hard he tried.
1949: A Novel of the Irish Free State (Irish Century #3)
Being the third book of the epic series, it continues with the narration of the historical dramas of the 20th century. Still, the struggle of the Irish and their strife for independence carries on. After all, it took them almost a century to get where they always wanted.
1949 is an Irish historical fiction that narrates the story of a woman; Ursula Halloran. That was also the same period when the Great Depression come uninvited, striking the world and taking it by surprise. Things were going terribly to almost all of the European continent.
The Plot of 1949
Ursula Halloran was fierce and independent despite her young age. She worked for the green Irish radio service. Later, she left her job to work for the League of the nation. Ursula had a successful career path, but on a personal level, she was facing some troubles.
Like most of the women in the Irish historical fictions, she was torn between two men of different worlds. One was an English pilot while the other was an Irish civil servant. During the ’20s, Eamon De Valera led the Catholic state, repressing it and allowing more room for tragedy. At those times, jobs were not something that married women could have and divorce was illegal as well.
Ursula defied all laws of Church and State. She was pregnant with a child without marriage; which was forbidden back then. Thus, she had to leave the country to give birth. She faced lots of struggles, especially during World War II. In the long run, she managed to go back to Ireland, a country that remained fierce against the war. She got to live out her days in Ireland progressing all the way to a modern independent state.
1972: A Novel of Ireland’s Unfinished Revolution (Irish Century Novels #4)
More and more of the Irish historical fiction reveals the Irish conflict throughout the 20th century. This is the fourth book of Morgan Llywelyn’s epic chronicle of Irish history. In this book, she tells us the story of Ireland between the period of the ’50s and ’70s. The protagonist that we see the events through his eyes happens to be another Halloran; Barry Halloran.
Morgan carried on her series, keeping the legacy of the same Irish family. A family that was born to fight for the Irish cause through all of its generations. It was a family tradition for the men to join the Irish Republican Army by the age of 18. Barry Halloran was no exception; at 18, he joined them to carry on with the unfinished revolution.
The Plot of 1972
On the year that Barry Halloran turned 19, he joined the Irish Republican Army. Not only to carry on with his family’s legacy but because he was a firm believer of the cause. Barry thought that things were obvious and clear before getting into the army.
However, his first violent experience left him disturbed and jolted. He got lost in the vines of a seemingly endless war. However, finding a family trace in the army urged him to keep going. It was too hard to give up yet even harder to carry on. When things got too tough to handle, Barry decided to be part of the events in a non-physical way. So, he became a photographer, documenting all that took place in the north side.
Barry found himself caught in a new relationship after getting out of a doomed love affair. His new love was Barbara Kavanagh, an American professional singer. Barry expected a specific life for himself, but the escalation of tragedy in Northern Ireland said otherwise. He also remained loyal to the Irish cause until he was involved in Bloody Sunday in Derry back in 1972.
1999: A Novel of the Celtic Tiger and the Search for Peace (Irish Century Novels #5)
With 1999, the epic series of Morgan Llywelyn comes to an end. She ends the Irish struggle for a century with one of her Irish historical fiction masterpieces. Right after, Ireland started to gain its freedom with the start of the 21st century. A new start for modern Ireland after a riotous course of a century full of disorderly episodes.
The Plot of 1999
Morgan started with 1916 and ended the chronicle in 1999; the conclusion. This novel is the story of decommissioning and reconciliation. It was the time when the Irish conflict started to settle. This part continues with the story of Barry Halloran; the central character of the previous book. Barry stepped down from the army. He carried on being a photojournalist since he always wanted to weigh in on the incidents, but from afar. Besides, he also married his sweetheart, Barbara Kavanagh. Barry’s nature of work allowed him to document all the events he lived through the course of the war. In this book, he narrates the aftermath of Bloody Sunday.
Lion of Ireland (Brian Boru #1)
Another bestselling Irish historical fiction is all about the Irish king, Brian Boru. Not only was he a king, but he was also a lover and a warrior. The tale of Brian Boru makes up a great portion of Irish mythology.
The Plot of Lion of Ireland
A legend of the strongest and wisest king that existed in the 10th century. Brian Boru was a brave king, and one of the greatest leaders that Ireland had ever witnessed. He managed to escort his people a golden era. You’ll get to witness friends turning into lethal enemies, forgetting that they once swore to protect each other.
Pride of Lions (Brian Boru #2)
The chronicle of Brain Boru started with Lion of Ireland. Brian Boru was the great king who reformed the notions of society and introduced new traditions. He dreamed of having a prosperous land and he managed to bring his dream into fruition. In this second book, Morgan introduces us to his son, Donough. His son was 15 years old when Brian Boru died in the battlefield.
The Plot of Pride of Lions
Donough lived with his mother, Gormlaith. She was a deceitful woman whose only concern was power. Donough’s longed for making the High Kingship of Ireland his own, like his father. Clontarf was where the little boy received his very first command; in a bloody battle. From there, things started to take the route towards the little boy ruling.
He was worked so hard to make the other kings accept him as an equal among them. Donough faced troubles during his reign; in his heart belonged to a pagan girl, Cera. As the High King, he was obliged to have a Christian partner. Thus, she remained out of his reach. At the same time, his heart was laden with hatred toward his disloyal mother. This tore him apart and affected his performance.
Bard: The Odyssey of the Irish
Morgan Llywelyn tells Irish history and tales in a captivating way. This novel, in particular, is the tale of how the Irish came to the land of Ireland. Itt tells the world how it all began, starting from the men and women who captured the land. They made the emerald isle their own. It is the tale of the early Celts. The setting of the story is supposed to be after the arrival of Amergin. The latter was the chief bard of the Galicians in the 4th century B.C.
The Plot of Bard: The Odyssey of the Irish
The Galicians had lived for years in failure and weakness. They had nothing that could bring back their years of prosperity. Thus, they sat waiting for the arrival of Phoenician traders. The Galicians believed they would help them restore their opulence. Age-Nor was the leader of the Phoenician traders; unfortunately, he didn’t hold the solution to the Galician’s problem. Both parties had nothing worth trading, so they were of no use to one another.
Age-Nor arrived at the Heroes’ Hall just to find himself in a brutal confrontation with Amergin’s brothers. They attacked him upon his arrival. However, their brother, Amergin, used his talents to stop them and save Age-Nor. Amergin protested intensely against Age-Nor. But, the latter returned the favour of by rewarding the bard with a servant, Sakkar; he was a shipwright. Before departure, Age-Nor amused the bard with a tale about lerne, an extraordinary land.
The tribe of the bard built more than a few ships with Sakkar as assistance. They had made a long chain of bad decisions. But, it was time to sail off to the fabled land of lerne. The tribe hit the shore and arrived on lerne to find that it was inhabited. People of the Goddess Danu, known as the Tuatha de Danann, were the tenants of the land.
The Last Prince of Ireland
Here is more Irish historical fiction that Morgan Llywelyn provided us with; The Last Prince of Ireland. Legendarily, Irish history is rich with tragedies and victories. They are too plentiful to ever fit into one book. Some were distressing and others stimulate the emotions of victory and triumph. In this book, Morgan Llywelyn reveals to us the prominence of the Battle of Kinsale.
The Plot of the Last Prince of Ireland
For over two thousand years, the Gaelic dignity and superiority sat still on the lands of Ireland. It ended only with the arrival of the English invaders. All that the people of the Irish lands managed to build for centuries came crashing down. After that tragic invasion, Ireland was dominated by the English Empire for around four centuries.
The book title refers to Donal Cam O’Sullivan. He was the Last Prince that refused to give his homeland up even after the battle. With his clan, he was forced to flee after the Gaelic nation was torn apart. The English occupation was too powerful; they managed to plant a seed of betrayal between the Irish folks. They had highly tempting bribes that could hardly be resisted, and thus, the nation was truly broken. From there, Donal Cam started journeying with his clans towards the path of freedom and independence.
In this Irish historical fiction book, Morgan introduces us to parts of Irish history along with popular legends. The book features Cuchulain as the central character of the novel. In Irish mythology, he is a popular character that is known as the Irish hulk. He is a legendary warrior that finds himself caught up in battles and violence in ancient Ireland.
The Plot of Red Branch
The novel narrates the tale of Cuchulain who resided in a land where the worlds of animals and human intertwined. Throughout the story, a high-pitched croaking of an ominous wolf keeps haunting Cuchulain. He finds himself torn between violence and tenderness. In a world full of raging battles, he spends his life fighting for his homeland. Later on, he figures out the trap that the Gods set up for him. It was implied in the irresistible beauty of Deirdre and King Conor’s hurtful jealousy.
NICHOLAS O’HARE’S TOP IRISH HISTORICAL FICTION
Nicholas O’Hare is popular for writing Irish literature. His books have revealed a lot about the history of Ireland in an epic writing style. Among his books are The Irish Secret Agent, A Spy in Dublin, and The Boyle Inheritance.
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The Irish Secret Agent
It is a novel full of fantastic adventures all piled in one Irish historical fiction. You will get to take a glimpse into how life had been in Dublin back in the 50s. It illustrates the parallel lives in Ireland during that time. Highlighting the lavish lifestyle of the Irish capital, while concealing the political turbulence and crimes.
The protagonist happens to be a civil servant of a low grade. He had a quite normal life before it was turned upside down. Transferred to the intelligence department, his principal officer was a total failure, as he described.
The protagonist’s career shifted up from clumsy to heroic when he secretly sought housings in a brothel. He was arrested, but managed to find his way out. He teamed up with a vague detective and together they blackmailed an army officer to give them confidential information. And, that was when his life became truly unexpected.
The Land Where Hate Began
Here is yet another Irish historical fiction that Nicholas O’Hare has beautifully written. He explained how people from different religious sectors lived under the same sky of Ireland. While they were all different, each of them had their own impact.
The influence was at its peak for each sector at different eras through the centuries. It also shows the fights that took place between different individuals; all defending their own beliefs. Most of the novel’s events take place in Ulster; showing how distinct parties impacted it differently.
The story of the book revolves around more than one character. All the characters belong to either Anglican, Catholic, or Presbyterian families. Throughout the book, you will get to learn about their attitudes in the lands in which they lived. The author states his viewpoint of both nationalism and unionism in Ulster by narrating an interesting series of events and creating a captivating story of anger and love.
A Spy in Dublin
Nicholas O’Hare skillfully wrote about the 70s Irish struggles against the British Empire in the form of this story. He made it possible to learn about history in the most enthralling and captivating ways. In this book, a man puts his life on the line to make a prominent change in Irish history. The story revolves around Major Charlie Hennell. In the 70s, he was an undercover M16 agent, working in Dublin. He found himself involved in a chain of incidents that might send him right to the grave. However, he managed to cunningly stay alive and dodge death.
The Plot of A Spy in Dublin
Major Charlie Hennell lived his life in a smooth and conservative way. He never took risks or opened himself up to potential scenarios which would jeopardize his life. However, before retirement his life changed in the most unexpected way.
In 1974, his station head commanded him to choose a location where they could ignite a car bomb. The main aim was to stimulate the Irish Government and force them into action against the IRA. Long story short, the Northern part of the country was in the midst of war. There were raiders that the British Intelligence ordered to go into Dublin to set the bomb off in the centre of the city.
With his less-than-adventurous life, Hennell realized how blindfolded he was. The whole situation left him in shock, but he decided to take action. Deciding to interfere, he went to the Irish and told them about the IRA conspiracy of letting off their own bomb. If he was capable of convincing them, they would have taken action and stop the IRA. T
hat way, the British wouldn’t be able to let off their bomb. However, things did not go the way he wished. Instead of believing his story, they categorized him as a spy and went after him. The news spread really fast and the British deemed him a traitor. Now, instead of saving the day, Hennell made an enemy of himself and had to fight on two fronts.
This book is highlights the more turbulent times in Irish history. Novels about Irish history are an important way of remembering our past. Even if the characters are fictional, the situations they faced are real.
The Boyle Inheritance
A captivating book that displays the social changes that occurred in Ireland over the centuries. It also shows how people of different generations have totally distinct beliefs to fight for. Even when they all live on the same land, their perceptions are not the same. The main central characters of the book are members of the Boyles family. They own land in Co. Meath on which they have lived for almost three centuries. It is a family estate that sits at Streamhill, near Navan.
Since the family’s arrival, Streamhill witnessed several changes in Irish society, and they firmly believe in the significance of their heritage. It is something that is crucially important to them. Along the way, we will get introduced to the family members, starting with old Colonel Boyle. Being among the eldest members of the family, his heart still aches for the past. He believed in the days of landlord dominance and royalty even though it was long gone.
On the other hand, two other family members represent the perception of the new generation, Howard and Margaret. Yet, they spend their lives making the Streamhill Estate survive for as long as possible.
NOELA FOX’S TOP IRISH HISTORICAL FICTION
Noela Fox is both a historian and an author. She documented the biography of an important woman in Irish history, Nano Nagle. Her book A Dream Unfolds: The Story of Nano Nagle counts as one of the prominent Irish historical fiction.
A Dream Unfolds: The Story of Nano Nagle
Nano Nagle lived in the early years of the 18th century. At that time, the Penal Laws condensed the Irish Catholics’ rights. She might have an ordinary life back then, but her vision to the future was an extraordinary one indeed.
The novel beautifully narrates the life of Nano Nagle and her achievements. She was the founder of the Presentation Sisters and a firm believer of God. Nano had an unshakable faith that her Lord would turn her dream into reality soon enough. With her compassion and determination, she managed to become a momentous figure in Irish history.
The book narrates Nano’s story from her childhood and all the way until she became the person she always aspired to be. She was born in Cork County in the early 18th century. At that time, the Penal Laws restricted the Irish Catholics from receiving an education. Thus, she had to leave for France to complete her studies.
Upon her arrival, the Parisian society left her in a joyful astonishment. But, that was only temporary until she had a glimpse into the poor lives that filled the streets. Her life changed forever after that. After a while, Nano Nagle returns to Cork, Ireland.
She refused to let poverty and illiteracy affect people of her society. Nano raised the people’s awareness of the importance of education. Besides, she herself, started educating poor Catholic children. Fearlessly, she challenged sanctions imposed at that time; both social and religious. Her goal was to improve their living conditions.
NORA ROBERT’S TOP IRISH HISTORICAL FICTION
Nora Roberts is one of the prominent authors who made it to New York Times Bestselling. She has over 200 novels, including The Obsession and The Liar. She also wrote an Irish historical fiction trilogy that was a massive success.
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Dark Witch (The Cousins O’Dwyer Trilogy #1)
The novel revolves around a young girl named Iona Sheehan. Her parents were indifferent and uncaring. Thus, she grew up seeking attention and acceptance from the outer world. Once, her grandmother told her that she can find what she was looking for in a special place. That place was full of mesmerizing lakes, dense forests, and was popular for fascinating legends. It was called Ireland; County Mayo specifically was what the grandmother referred to.
She narrated to young Iona stories about her ancestors who actually came from there. So, she believed that it was the place where her fate sat awaiting her. Iona took her grandmother’s guidance and directions; successfully, she made to Ireland. She had nothing there but optimism and a talent with horses.
Iona was supposed to spend a week at her relatives’ luxuriously lavish castle. While on her way, she met Branna and Connor near the castle; her O’Dwyer cousins. They invited her into their home since she was a family member. After staying for a while, Iona found a job at the local stables. The owner, Boyle McGrath, of that place, was irresistible toher. In fact, he had everything she ever dreamed of. While Iona was trying to build a life for herself, evil was planning to cause destructions in her family.
Shadow Spell (The Cousins O’Dwyer Trilogy #2)
The second book of the story focuses on another character, Connor O’Dwyer. His role in the first book was a bit insignificant, but now it takes centre stage. Nora Roberts has an enchanting way in telling history among a thrilling fictional story.
The Plot of Shadow Spell
Connor O’Dwyer is Iona’s cousin and Branna’s brother. He was born and raised in County Mayo; thus, he proudly calls it home. Not only was Mayo his homeland, but it was the same for his sister and cousin. His sister had always lived and worked there and it was here his cousin found herself and her true love. It was also the place where he formed a sturdy circle of friends since childhood.
While the bond of the circle was strong, a long-awaited kiss caused tension. Throughout the years, Connor had seen Meara, Branna’s best friend, on a daily basis. They often crossed paths but never actually communicated. Meara was seductively beautiful, but Connor was too busy to realize her charm.
One day Connor came in close to death but managed to avoid it somehow. Meara was there and they both found themselves involved in a steaming knot. Connor had been with so many women before, but no one was able to make his heart beat like Meara.
They made good friends, but never thought it would be anything more. So, Meara tried to take things down a notch, so they would not lose their friendship. Later on, Connor got involved in a series of events that stirred his past around. It was time when he needed his friends and family nearby to save all that he loved.
Blood Magick (The Cousins O’Dwyer Trilogy #3)
Blood Magick is the third book of the trilogy that keeps describing the fascinating landscapes of County Mayo. Besides, this place embraces many traditions that Ireland developed through the years. This time, it is about Branna O’Dwyer, Connor’s sister.
The Plot of Blood Magick
Just like her brother, Branna is proud of her hometown, County Mayo. It is the place where she learned to embrace traditions and legends. Not only that, but she also incorporated them into her work. Branna owns a shop named The Dark Witch. She sells lotions, candles, and soaps for tourists; stuff that she handmade with an unusual finish. People around Branna obsessed over hawks and horses, including her brother, cousin, and best friend. But she had a warm spot in her heart for her hound.
Branna was known for her strength and caring nature; it was the reason she kept her friend’s circle tight. Everything was always perfect for Branna, but the only thing she missed in life was finding her true love. She then found someone with whom she was comfortable with, Finbar Burke. However, history and blood forbid them from ever having a future together. For that specific reason, Finbar traveled the world to forget about the one love that he could never have. But, now certain events are bringing them back together.
ROBIN MAXWELL’S TOP IRISH HISTORICAL FICTION
Robin Maxwell is one of the American writers and novelists who showed interest in the history of Ireland. She specializes in the Tudor period, particularly. In fact she writes about history and politics.
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The Wild Irish
Think you know everything about the Irish war of Elizabeth? Well, think again, because, in this Irish historical fiction, Robin Maxwell illustrates little-known facts about it, in a masterful way. Maxwell brings two female titans to life. They show up in this Irish historical fiction masterpiece to narrate to the world secrets of Irish history. Because, as we all know, the Saga of Elizabeth’s Irish War was, and still is, a crucial part of Irish history.
This is another Irish historical fiction book where you get to read about Grace O’Malley. She actually happens to be one of the two portrayed females in the book. Grace was a tarnished adventurer known as the Mother of the Irish Rebellion. She was one of the few Irish women who stood up against the English dominion. Grace O’Malley never gave up on her beloved country; apparently, that was the reason she was so popular. The Queen of England, Elizabeth, was Grace’s antagonist. When the unfortunate conflicts started to surge, she courageously sailed all the way to the Thames to face her nemesis in London.
This actually brings us to the second female titan of the story, Grace’s rival Elizabeth, the queen of England. During those times, Elizabeth managed to vanquish several sea battles and take over colonies across Europe, utterly unaware that an Irish revolution was on the boil, ready to take her down in exchange for their freedom. Only during the uprising conflicts, did she realize that not all of the colonies were ready to bow down to the British Empire.
RODDY DOYLE’S TOP IRISH HISTORICAL FICTION
Roddy Doyle is an Irish novelist and screenwriter. He started his career as a full-time writer back in 1993. Before that, he was an English and geography teacher with a Bachelor degree in Arts. His top Irish historical fiction books rely on The Last Roundup Series. Roddy Doyle is renowned for writing some of the best historical fiction novels about Ireland
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A Star Called Henry (The Last Roundup Series #1)
This is the first book in the Irish historical fiction series of the Last Roundup. The story revolves around Henry Smart; an Irish soldier. He was born in the early years of the 20th century. It was a time when modern Ireland started to evolve. Henry Smart tells us his story; from the day he was born to the one he became a soldier. He spent his childhood years on the streets of Dublin, and joined the Irish Rebellion as a soldier. He fought during the years Ireland was striving for its own freedom and independence.
Oh, Play That Thing (The Last Roundup Series #2)
The second book of the Irish historical fiction series received a hail of praises from more than a few reviewers. Even the Washington Post described the book as a masterpiece. Roddy Doyle cleverly engaged his fans in his first book of the series, A Star Called Henry. Thus, his loyal readers were impatiently waiting for the second volume.
In this book, Henry Smart runs away from the paymasters of the Irish Republican. Later, in 1924, he arrived in New York City to start a new life. Unfortunately, escaping his homeland does not mean he was capable of running away from his past. Henry moves from New York City to Chicago where he meets Louis Armstrong. Louis was a man that used to play happy music.
The Dead Republic (The Last Roundup Series #3)
The Dead Republic comes as the conclusion of the Irish historical fiction trilogy. Henry Smart’s story ends in this third novel. We have learned through the previous books that Henry has a wild, adventurous soul. Age does not stop him from being the energetic rebel he has always been. Henry faced death in California’s Monument Valley, but Henry Fonda saved him.
Later on, he becomes involved with the legendary director John Ford upon arriving at Hollywood. They both collaborated to write a script based on Henry Smart’s interesting life. Henry and Ford go their separate ways after which Henry returned to Ireland. It was 1951 and Henry’s film career came to an end. He then settled down in a village north of Dublin where he had a peaceful life. In this village, he started building a new life for himself. He worked as a caretaker for a boys’ school.
Henry Smart leads a peaceful life until a political bombing takes place in 1974 in Dublin. After that incident, Henry gets featured in newspapers since he got injured. His profile in the media provoked searching into his past. Now, his secret is out and everyone knows he was a rebel. Through the novel, you will figure out whether this revelation will work with or against him.
THOMAS CAHILL’S TOP IRISH HISTORICAL FICTION
Thomas Cahill was born in New York City to Irish-American parents. He studied Greek and Latin Literature along with medieval philosophy. Cahill believed that people perceive history as an endless loop of wars and outrages. While that may be true, there were also blessings and joyful events that took place back then. Thus, he started writing a series about people who mattered in history, The Hinges of History, to be exact. Yet, the series is not concerned with Irish historical fiction; only the first book is.
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How the Irish Saved Civilisation (The Hinges of History Series #1)
The first novel of the Irish historical fiction series revolves around the Dark Ages of Ireland. Well, destruction did not only strike Ireland, it devastated the European continent as a whole. It was that time when culture, learning, and civilization went out of the window, leaving Europe in ruins.
Those ages started from the fall of Rome and continued until the rise of Charlemagne. The holy men and women of Ireland helped in saving the western heritage. All the classics of the Romans and the Greek that we see today is an outcome of the Irish movement.
Thomas Cahill managed to show us the achievements of the Irish in this book. He wrote an amazing description of history during the times when civilization crashed down. Cahill takes the readers on a historical journey through the island of saints and scholars. He gave many reasons why Ireland deserves such a title. Also, he mentioned how monks and scribes saved the written treasures of the west. When things started to settle down and Europe was becoming stable again, the Irish scholars were ready to spread learning.
The Full Series of The Hinges of History
THOMAS FLANAGAN’S TOP IRISH HISTORICAL FICTION
Thomas Flanagan succeeded in recordkeeping the downfalls and triumphs of several historical events. He was born in Greenwich, Connecticut, but all of his four grandparents came from Ireland.
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The Year of the French (The Thomas Flanagan Trilogy #1)
Ireland history is laden with endless incidents that shaped history both positively and negatively. Sources have claimed the greatness of this historical novel, featuring it among the best Irish historical fiction books.
The Plot of The Year of the French
In 1798, France played a significant role in Irish history. It was the year when Irish patriots raged and determined to free their homeland. The English Empire was no longer tolerated. Thus, French troops landed in County Mayo in Ireland, supporting the rebellion. Wolfe Tone was the leader of the French rebellion. He was supposed to follow the French troops with other ships for sturdier support. While triumph occurred at first, things went downhill once again upon an English counterattack.
The Tenants of Time (The Thomas Flanagan Trilogy #2)
In this volume, Flanagan gracefully combines Irish mythology and history in one captivating tale. The book is laden with secrets that manipulated the lives of the characters for good.
The Plot of the Tenants of Time
The book reveals the lives of young friends who joined the uprising of the Fenian. Those young people included two best friends; Ned Nolan and Robert Delaney. After joining the Fenian, they experienced a violent night that changed their futures. For one, Delaney became the champion of Ireland. Through the years, he managed to rise to power, becoming a politician himself. On the other hand, Ned Nolan picked a life of guns and terrorism for himself. They both went their separate ways. Through the events of the story, Delaney fell in love with a forbidden woman; but he couldn’t resist her beauty. Though, he knew how mercilessly she could destroyt him.
The End of the Hunt (The Thomas Flanagan’s Trilogy #3)
The last volume of the epic Thomas Flanagan’s Trilogy is an enthralling mingling of fiction and history. Just like his other two books, Flanagan delightfully depicted passionate characters who played significant roles in the Irish history. More specifically, the third book is all about Sinn Fein’s fight for the independence and freedom of Ireland. It takes place in the first decades of the 20th century. Interestingly, the characters found in this Irish historical fiction were both real historical people and fictional personas. This rich mix made the tale feel authentic yet fresh.
The Plot of the End of the Hunt
The End of the Hunt narrates the tale of four central characters. It is one of the top Irish historical fiction novels that reflects the Irish approach during the years of war. The four characters include two who care about the cause but remain hesitant about the methods used. In contrast, the other two were actually republican activists. One of those main characters is an actual portrait of the legendary figure, Michael Collins. This Irish historical fiction represents the time in Irish history when forces broke loose in search for closure.
PATRICIA FALVEY’S TOP IRISH HISTORICAL FICTION
Patricia Falvey is an Irish writer who was born in Newry, County Down, Northern Ireland. She lived most of her childhood years both in Northern Ireland and England. Later, she left to the United States when she was only twenty years old.
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The Yellow House
The politics of Northern Ireland had caused a huge change at the beginning of the 20th century. In this piece of Irish historical fiction, Patricia Falvey takes us on an awe-inspiring ride. She combines politics with passion and how they both could interfere with one another.
A lesson the world has taught generations is that politics can ruin things, no matter how hard you try to keep it out of the way. Patricia has beautifully put all of these aspects together to make the masterpiece called The Yellow House. You should definitely add this book into your to-read list of Irish historical fiction.
The Plot of The Yellow House
O’Neill was a family that resided in Northern Ireland. They were torn apart by religious intolerance and other buried secrets . Eileen O’Neill hates seeing her family’s difference shredding them to pieces. Thus, she devoted herself and efforts to pick up the broken pieces and reunite her scattered family. To pursue her dream, she took a job at the local mill; one that helped her save a patch of money. She worked hard to regain her familial home; however, war resisted against her wishes. The tides and waves of war were much stronger, and she couldn’t keep politics out of her personal life. That civil conflict had inadvertently impacted Eileen’s life, as it did to everyone at that time.
Besides, decisions became even more complicated when she met two men who piqued her interest all at once. One of the two men was wealthy and belonged to the pacifist family. They owned the mill at which she worked. That particular man’s attention-grabbing behaviour was too loud for her to ignore.
On the other hand, the other man happened to appeal to the warrior side deep within her spirit. He happened to be a political activist; charismatic and passionate. His sole concern was winning the cause of the Irish independence. He was willing to fight the British Empire at any cost just to claim Ireland’s freedom.
The Girls of Ennismore
Here is one more Irish historical fiction is written by Patricia Falvey. The Girls of Ennismore is a historical novel that explores the blustery conditions of Ireland in the early 20th century. Inheritance and class have always played a role in the history of Ireland. In this particular novel, we get to have a closer look at how things had been during that time.
An unlikely friendship is formed between two girls coming from whole different worlds. To save their unusual relationship, they have to push together against the barriers that society has imposed upon them.
The Plot of The Girls of Ennismore
Rosie Killeen belonged to a peasant family. She lived on a farm in County Mayo where a road separated her home from the estate of the Ennis. In 1900, Rosie was eight years old and, on a fine day, she crosses the road for the first time. She reached from the other side where Lord and Lady Ennis’ big house sat.
There she met a horde of servants getting things ready for Queen Victoria’s arrival; she joined them. The royal visit of the queen was supposed to be an overthrow for Ennismore. However, that upheaval seemed to hide a nice opportunity for little Rosie.
What’s more, Lord and Lady Ennis had a young daughter, Victoria Bell. She was dreadfully desperate and lonely. Thus, Lord Ennis places Rosie, the peasant girl, in Victoria’s school where they had lessons together. It was not something that happened every day, for the aristocratic kids barely went around with the locals. However, the Ennis family were saving their little daughter from loneliness, valuing her happiness over societal norms.
Rosie was having an exhilarating experience, but she could not help but feel detached and isolated. Lady Louisa was Victoria’s aunt and tutor; she refused to teach Rosie since she belonged to the locals. Other servants held grudges against Rosie for her exceptional luck of escaping labor. Rosie was then scattered between two different worlds; not really belonging to either. She grew closer to Valentine, Victoria’s brother.
The Linen Queen
Patricia Falvey carries on with the Irish themes of her debut novel, The Yellow House. But, this time, she is making the Irish historical fiction about World War II. Falvey writes an enthralling story about a beautiful lady whose life was highly impacted by the war. She states how the country’s political situations stood as an obstacle in the lady’s personal plans.
The Plot of The Linen Queen
Sheila McGee was born in a small mill town in Northern Ireland. She grew up with a witty mother. One of the things that highly impacted her childhood was the absence of her father. Sheila was a lovely girl who everyone in town admired. At 18, she looked for several ways by which she could escape and leave her town, and mother, behind. One of those ways was joining the annual pageant of the Linen Queen. But, the war outbreak hindered her dream.
Patricia Falvey loves incorporating complicating love stories into her stories. In this one, we can see Sheila confused between two men she found charming; a classic love triangle. One of them was actually her best friend, Gavin O’Rouke; he was possessive and sulky- a toxic partner by todays standards. On the other hand, Joel Solomon was a Jewish-American army officer who had a gloomy life. Who will she choose?
PATRICK MACGILL’S TOP IRISH HISTORICAL FICTION
Patrick MacGill is an Irish author rather known as The Navvy Poet. He used to work in the navy before becoming a writer. What makes his work so astounding is the fact that it is an autobiography of his own life. However, he managed to write it as fiction to make it more appealing.
Children of the Dead End
The story revolves around a 23-year-old who tells his story from when he was born. He struggled for his life with his family. They had to endure tough conditions in the lands of both Scotland and Ireland. Throughout the book, MacGill narrates the tales of people who had met in the navy huts when he worked. Due to the miserable conditions he had gone through in life and work, he attacked the political system of both Britain and Ireland. For that, he was highly criticized and not forgiven, especially by the Irish Elite class.
Another astonishing Irish story by Patrick McGill. He depicted the struggles of the Irish throughout the 20th century through his character Norah Ryan. Norah is the central character of the novel; she comes from Donegal and suffers from poverty. The novel’s title, The Rat-Pit, was an actual place. It was a lodging house located in Glasgow where humans were severely mistreated and oppressed. At that time, the Irish immigrants faced racism and oppression. The book tells a real story about a woman that McGill depicted as Norah Ryan. Children were forced into heavy labor and women were forced into a life of prostitution.
In this novel, Patrick McGill made Moleskin Joe the central character. He was featured in his other two novels as well, Children of the Dead End and The Rat-Pit. This sequel is actually about him. He was a handsome man who also happened to have a huge physique. Moleskin Joe used to work in the navy and, among his brethren, he was perceived as a superman. In the novel, Moleskin Joe was a popular man; he was famous as a worker, a fighter, and a drinker. Patrick McGill published that novel back in 1923. He documented his experiences on the road of Scotland and England during his Navy years in the 20th century.
Not only did Patrick documented his adventures through Moleskin Joe, but he also told the world about his philosophy. People learned more about the traits and personality of Patrick McGill through Moleskin Joe. He believed that somewhere along the road, goods times were awaiting. They would come even if he was not there to see it. Besides, the book tells us the love story between a young Irish woman and Moleskin Joe. He met her during his continuous travels.
PETER DE ROSA’S TOP IRISH HISTORICAL FICTION
Peter de Rosa is among the Irish authors whose fiction was more about religion and Christianity. However, he managed to produce one Irish historical fiction that reveals the rising events of 1916. Peter is also the author of the bestselling fiction, Vicars of Christ. In his one Irish historical fiction, he represents both the beauty and the terror found during the 20th century.
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Rebels: The Irish Rising of 1916
The title of the book says it all. Peter de Rosa narrates the political events of 1916, bringing history to life in a delightful Irish historical fiction. The book tells the stories of thousands of men and women who fought for the Irish freedom. They all armed up and occupied Dublin, proclaiming it as the new republic. It also narrates the tragedy and bloody outcomes caused by the British troops during the war. Despite the despicable events that happened through history, the rebellion of 1916 was not in vain.
SANTA MONTEFIORE’S TOP IRISH HISTORICAL FICTION
Women have had an amazing impact on shaping the history of Ireland. Thanks to these brilliantly-written Irish historical fiction, we’ve come to know some of them. Santa Montefiore had devoted a great portion of her time making this fact clear to the world. She wrote a trilogy about three Irish women who lived during different decades of the 20th century.
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The Girl in the Castle (Deverill Chronicles Series #1)
The Girl in the Castle is the first book of her saga and one of the top Irish historical fiction books. It is an enthralling story of love, loyalty, friendship, and politics. One that you can’t help but read all the way to the last page. Not to mention that the novel beautifully displays the wild landscapes and beauty of Ireland.
The Plot of The Girl in the Castle
Kitty Deverill was a special girl; just as her grandmother had always claimed. She was born in 1900, on the ninth day of the ninth month of that year. Kitty lived in Castle Deverill; it sat on the green hills of West Cork. Throughout the years, Deverills of different generations made a home out of that castle.
Kitty’s heart held a warm spot for the wild countryside of the Emerald Isle. She was loyal to her Irish Catholic friends despite being an Anglo-Irish herself. Those friends included Jack O’Leary, the son of the vet, and Bridie Doyle, the daughter of the Castle’s cook. Despite their differences, Kitty loved them dearly; even when Jack reminded her of her not being purely Irish. While those differences separated the worlds of the two, they couldn’t resist falling in love. They admitted their love, knowing of the obstacles they would always face.
On the other hand, Bridie loved Kitty and liked how humble she had always been. However, she couldn’t resist dreaming of having the wealth that Kitty had. Her resentment surfaced upon figuring out one dangerous secret that Kitty buried away.
This book is a prime example of historical fiction set in Ireland.
Daughters of Castle Deverill (Deverill Chronicles #2)
The number one bestseller author, Santa Montefiore, once again charms us with the second book of her Deverill Chronicles. She carries her series on with new generations of the Deverill family. They were ones that tried to restore the glory of the family’s name long after it was forgotten.
The Plot of Daughters of Castle Deverill
The second book’s events take place almost two decades after those of the first one. Now, the war had been over for a quite long time. Things were never the same for people who witnessed the cruel incidents of the war.
In this book, it is the year 1925 and the main character is Celia Deverill. Castle Deverill used to be a big warm place for the Deverill family for centuries. It sat in the west of Ireland, but it was no longer there. The castle burned down to ashes. Celia Deverill was one of the youngest members of the big family. She had the intentions to restore the former splendour of her family’s castle after becoming nothing but sad ruins.
Celia married the right man who would keep wealth in the family. She would never trade what was left of her family for anything. In fact, she worked hard to restore her family’s heritage and keep it, but dark shadows gathered around her. It was a time when the grounds of financial markets started to shake. Celia was so certain about her plans of keeping her family’s wealth. But, along with the sudden changes, doubt started to crawl into her life.
The Last Secret of the Deverills (Deverill Chronicles #3)
Santa Montefiore puts an end to Deverill Chronicles with her final novel; the Last Secret of the Deverills. In this volume, you will get introduced to the new life changes of the first book’s characters.
The Plot of the Last Secret of the Deverills
This time, the events take place in 1939. The war was already over and peace was spread all over. Everything was quite different for the Deverill family.
The story starts narrating the tale of Martha Wallace. An American-Irish woman who leaves America and goes searching for her birth mother in Dublin. During her stay in Ireland, she falls for one of the Deverill family; JP Deverill. He was too enchanting to ever resist. Besides, Martha realised that her mother came from the place that JP came from. Thus, sticking around the handsome man was a great idea to assist her in finding her mom.
Later in the book, we go back to the central characters of the first novel; Bridie Doyle and Kitty Deverill. Bridie became the mistress of Castle Deverill. She has always been lucky since childhood and now she is working toward making the castle her home. Her determination is as big as her dreams.
However, her husband, Cesare, seems to have different ideas from that of hers. He starts to wander off away from his own wife and everyone around begins to question his real identity. On the other hand, Kitty Deverill has a peaceful life with her husband Robert. They live serenely with their two children. However, a storm started to threaten that peace with the appearance of Jack O’Leary; the love of her life. Jack returns back to Ballinakelly, occupying Kitty’s mind once again. Unfortunately, his heart is no longer for her love; it belongs to someone else now.
SEBASTIAN BARRY’S TOP IRISH HISTORICAL FICTION
Sebastian Barry is one of the few Irish writers and playwrights who wrote several times about loyalists. We are grateful for the Irish historical fiction books that Barry has offered to the world. They taught us a lot about how life has been in Ireland over the years.
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On Canaan’s Side
One of those brilliant Irish historical fiction is On Canaan’s Side. According to critiques, it is safe to call it the wrong side of New Ireland. He describes the lives of Irish people who left their homeland.
Other authors have written about the Irish Emigration as well, but Barry’s characters were usually more archaic. That was one trait that made the stories seem as old and as real as it should be. On Canaan’s Side features an old lady, Lilly Bere, who lost her grandson. She narrates her own story as well as her grandson’s. Barry has also featured Lilly’s brother and father in other novels of his own.
The Plot of On Canaan’s Side
The novel starts off with Lilly Bere narrating her story. She mourned the loss of Bill, her grandson, who committed suicide. Lilly grieved in her own way, writing in a daybook about the story of her life. Her regular day entries piled up forming an enthralling novel. The book also goes back to her younger years when she was forced to leave Sligo. She faced several obstacles during the time of World War I.
Lilly was among the people who left for America. The First World War was actually a time when Ireland was full with a horde of rebels. At that time, being a policeman in British employ was more of danger rather than a privilege. That was actually the case with Lilly’s Father; he was a policeman serving in the British employ. On the other hand, her partner was one of the Irish men who fought the British rule. Lilly was left in shatters between the two sides knowing that she can’t be on both of them.
The Secret Scripture
Barry wrote this Irish historical fiction piece about a woman who lived for a century, Roseanne McNulty. Some also refer to this novel as McNulty Family. Sebastian portrays Roseanne as a character that changed the history of Ireland secretly. It is a depiction of a life marked by ignorance and abuse yet filled with love and hope
The Plot of the Secret Scripture
Roseanne McNulty was on the verge of turning 100. She stayed most of her adult life at a mental hospital- the Roscommon Regional Mental hospital. Commonly known as Rose, she received visits from a young psychiatrist, Dr. Grene. The psychiatrist seemed to show a great interest in Rose’s story. However, their sessions usually trigger painful feelings, and joyful ones, from Rose’s past. This brilliant novel made it to the big screen in 2016 as a movie under the same name. Starring was Rooney Mara, Jack Reynor, and Eric Bana.
This novel is one about loss, reconciliation, and childhood innocence. The events of the story are set in Ireland during the late ’50s. This story is Irish historical fiction, for it gives us an insight into how Ireland once was. It may not be addressed in a direct way, but it’s obvious through the story, thanks to Barry’s narrating style.
The Plot of Annie Dunne
Annie is a simple woman who lives on a small farm in a remote part of Wicklow. She moved in to live with her cousin Sarah in Kelsha hills. At that time, Annie was in her 60’s. She was grateful for Sarah for taking care of her. After all, she had a poor and tough childhood. Annie’s safety was threatened when Billy Kerr started to approach Sarah. His intentions were ambiguous. The only way Annie could resist and fight back was by being bitter and resentful. She had to take care of two young Children when Sarah was away in London.
Days without End
Another masterpiece by Sebastian Barry. An Irish historical fiction that brings the past life of Ireland to life. You will vicariously live through the rough patch of the great Irish famine upon reading this book.
The story revolves around 17-year-old Thomas McNulty. When the Great Famine struck Ireland, he managed to run away. To save his own self, he signed up for the U.S. Army. He went to fight several wars alongside his army friend, John Cole. They participated in the Civil War and different wars in India. Together, they saw nights of fright and horrors of war, but they made it out alive. Later, Thomas moved to Tennessee to create a family with Winona, the young Sioux girl.
A Long Long Way
Another Irish historical fiction that recites the world of wars that divided Ireland back in time. The story is set in 1914; it was a sequel to Annie Dunne, featuring the Dunne family again. This time, it is about Willie Dunne, an 18-year-old boy who leaves his family and homeland behind to join the Allied forces. He wanted to go to the Western Front to face the Germans. Willie grew up in Dublin and met the love of his life whom he promised to marry. However, he left her behind when his plans took a different detour; a totally unexpected one.
Willie went with a great spirit only to realize that the awaiting horror was much worse than his own imagination. He managed to keep his energetic soul through the words of the Irish boys who, eventually, lay dead beside him. After a while, he returned home just to realize that things were different; nothing was ever the same again.
SORJ CHALANDON’S TOP IRISH HISTORICAL FICTION
Sorj Chalandon is a French writer and journalist. For over three decades, he worked as a journalist, covering events in different places around the world.
Chalandon beautifully described the wounds that Ireland had endured through the magnificent art of music. He paradoxically inscribed both beauty and pain; ones that occurred in both the Republican movement and the Falls Road.
The story’s protagonist is a French violin maker, named Antoine. Idealistically an energetic young man who traveled to Belfast in 1977. Before that, he resided in Dublin, then took the train to Belfast. He indulged into the heart of the Falls Road. Besides, he attended the core of the Republican movement when it first came to pass. He, there, let himself sink into the beauty of the Irish music; melodies of pain and joy. During his stay at Belfast, he meets a high-ranking member of the IRA, Tyrone Meehan. They become best friends; Antoine perceived Tyrone as his mentor. Not only because he was a high-ranking member of the IRA, but also because he deemed him as an icon of the Irish struggle.
Antoine lived around Ireland for almost three decades. During that time, he moved through Belfast’s streets to Donegal’s fields. It was when and where he got to learn about new things that were bizarre to his musical world. He learned about prisons and bombs, pride and poverty, and important incidents in Irish history. Antoine lived through the hunger strikes, marches, and the process of peace that Ireland had witnessed at some point through history.
WALTER MACKEN’S TOP IRISH HISTORICAL FICTION
Walter Macken was an Irish novelist, playwright, and short stories writer. He was born in Galway, Ireland. Macken wrote several novels throughout his life. Most of them included a glimpse into the history of Ireland.
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Brown Lord of the Mountain
A novel about selfishness and passion. However, it also illustrates other emotions including regret and redemption. There is a lot you can learn from reading this gripping novel. Upon finishing the book, you will know right away why it’s highly recommended. Not to mention that it falls in the category of the top Irish historical fiction.
The Plot of Brown Lord of the Mountain
In a remote community in rural Ireland, a mythical Lord of the Mountain rules this society. It was first Donn’s father and now it is his turn to take his father’s place. Being the lord of such a rustic community is not satisfying to Donn. He longed for a bigger and wider kingdom. In attempts to pursue his passion, Donn leaves his wife and baby girl behind. He goes roaming around the world and fighting in battles. However, he finds himself homesick and returns home sixteen years later. Once he returns, he tries to pick up from where he left off. He has to make up for his deserted family, especially his afflicted daughter.
Donn dedicates his efforts to nourishing the green valleys that he neglected for years. After some efforts, prosperity is all over the lands and the water is once again flowing. However, the peace of Donn’s kingdom is threatened when an enacted crime rises.
Rain on the Wind
Rain on the Wind is a classic Irish historical fiction about love and drama. The story takes place in the fishing community that falls in the western part of Ireland, Galway Bay. You have definitely heard about this part in Ireland, at least by now. While it may seem like a romantic classic story, it actually has a lot to do with Irish history. Most of the Irish writers depict the past of Ireland through the fictional story without making the event the center of the novel. Rain on the Wind is no exception. Walter Macken included a lot of the significant events of the Irish history without clearly pointing a finger at it.
The Plot of Rain on the Wind
Mico was a gentle guy; a fisherman who had nothing to offer but love and passion. He lived in a community that suffered from poverty and other hardships in life. Mico loved the sea dearly. In fact, he bears in his heart the same love, for the sea, for a young girl, Maeve. He worked so hard to win her heart. But, he knew that it was not that easy to win her over. Not only because he was poor, but also for the hideous birthmark had he got on his face. Can Maeve look past his scar and see how tender his heart is? You will figure this out throughout the book.
Seek the Fair Land (Irish Trilogy #1)
With the Irish trilogy that Walter Macken wrote, this particular book comes on top of them. When seeking the best Irish historical fiction, head to Walter Macken’s novels. Seek the Fair Land is the first book of the trilogy that explores the several generations. Those generations all belonged to one big Irish family and they embarked on a journey to save their homeland. Through the three books, those generations fight so hard to set Ireland free. The novel is set in 1641, featuring the life of a simple man, Dominick McMahon. The latter was a merchant by trade who realized he had to fight Cromwell’s army. It was the only way to defend his town. The book is another portrait of the Irish struggle against the English. Yet, it is one that is too vivid to not feel it.
Despite the title, the story reveals all of the unfair acts done to the Irish lands by the English occupation. They managed to ambush those lands, making them shrink a little smaller along the way. After destructing a major part of the country, the later generations failed to see the once was prosperous land. The destruction kept on moving on with Cromwell’s forces completing the process.
The Plot of Seek the Fair Land
Upon reading Irish historical fiction, you’ll learn about the massacre of Drogheda. It shaped the history of Ireland in more than a few ways. Yet, it remains rarely told. In this story, you will read about the massacre in details. The novel also revolves around three principals that work hand in hand through the war times. As we previously mentioned, Dominic, the small trader, happened to be one of them. The other two are Sebastian and Murdoc. Sebastian was a priest; the events of the war had left him wounded and more wane than he ever was. However, he kept his spirit as high and as invincible as he could. On the other hand, Murdoc was a giant man who came from the west highlands. With the assistance of Dominic, he managed to hide and escape with his two little children after his wife’s death.
The war lasted for years, leaving the lives of those three principals hectic and unstable. They were always hiding and escaping. Doing that for two years, Murdoc’s region gained power where he made Dominic his liegeman. He also gave him land to build a house. That was no sign of the war stopping at that time. In fact, it kept on going, but clans started to dispute. Murdoc had to surrender to Coote and his warriors upon their arrival. He also took an oath to Parliament. His action drove his people away, including Sebastian and other fugitive priests. Hate was all that Murdoc got and lived almost alone.
The Silent People (Irish Trilogy #2)
The Silent People is an examination of the events that triggered the Irish fighting for freedom. It’s one of the Irish historical fictions that says a lot about the history of Ireland. Besides, it is Macken’s second novel of his trilogy.
The Plot of the Silent People
Since it is the second novel of a trilogy, it carries on the adventures of one Irish family. The journey had been carried on by several generations of the same family. This novel, in particular, is a story of a young man. He is highly educated and comes from Connacht. It is set at the time when Ireland was swept by a tough famine.
The Scorching Wind (Irish Trilogy #3)
Thanks to Walter Macken, we can now have a full look into the history of Ireland. His trilogy makes up the best Irish historical fiction. The novel’s settings are in Dublin and during the Rebellion of 1916. You get to learn about the melancholy years that came after that rebellion. Basically, the novel takes place during World War I. It was the time when the Irish did not stand up for the British. They were fighting in France and Belgium, but the British could not make allies of the Irish. Through the novel, you’ll get to learn about history through the eyes of two young brothers. Their swerving lives exhibit the years of torture and anguish of Ireland.
The Plot of the Scorching Wind
During the First World War, the two brothers, Dualta and Dominic, faced a twist in their lives. Dualta left off to fight for the Empire. Eventually, he went back home wounded. Later, he helped the Irish underground with the organization and arrangements. On the other hand, Dominic was a medical student who had doubts regarding the cause of the rebels. Anyhow, he joined them and managed to steal weapons to fight off. Unfortunately, the soldiers managed to capture Dominic. They tortured him until he realized the significance of the cause. Thankfully, he escaped from jail.
At the same time, Dualta signed up with the New Police. On the other hand, Dominic decided to go on with the rebellion. Definitely, he changed his perception after what he saw in jail. The tragedy started to escalate when the rebels on Dominic’s side killed his brother, Dualta. He carried his brother’s deceased body to their mother.
In this Irish historical fiction, Macken manages to portray the tragic customs of Ireland during the past. He typically depicted the hard life of farming and the social manners that overpowered and smothered people. This actually included arranged marriages that eventually failed for the lack of love.
Cahal Kinsella was a young boy who lost his parents while still being little. He was obliged to return back to Caherlo, a small farming village of his family’s. After living in Dublin, he had to go back to his dictatorial grandfather. Despite how oppressive he was, Cahal was decisive of obtaining of his own freedom. He refused to live in his grandfather’s misery.
We hope you have enjoyed our top list of Irish historical novels set in Ireland and around the globe! From historical fiction books about Irish immigrants, to the Great Famine and further back to Celtic historical fiction, each book listed highlights an important part of our history in a unique way.
Have we missed any of the best historical fiction books? Please let us know in the comments below.