‘Reflections on Ireland’ will be the focus of the Sunday Symposium with special guests Fintan O’Toole, Declan O’Rourke, Sophie White and Derek Scally.
Fintan O’Toole’s An Post Non-Fiction Book of the Year Prize Winning We Don’t Know Ourselves: A Personal History of Ireland Since 1958 is a very personal vision of recent Irish history from the year of O’Toole’s birth, 1958, down to the present. A brilliant interweaving of memories and engrossing social and historical narrative, the era of Eamon de Valera, Jack Lynch, Charles Haughey, sectarian civil war in the North and the visit of the Pope, but also of those who began to speak out against the ruling consensus – feminists, advocates for the rights of children, gay men and women coming out of the shadows.
Declan O’Rourke’s meticulously researched literary debut, The Pawnbroker’s Reward takes place in the time of Irish famine and is related to Declan’s personal family history. The story of the ua Buachalla family is woven into a powerful, multi-layered work showing us the famine as it happened through the lens of a single town and its environs. Local pawnbroker Cornelius Creed is at the juncture between the classes. Sensitive and empathetic, he is a voice on behalf of the poor, and his story is entwined with that of Pádraig ua Buachalla. Through these characters, utilising local history and documentary evidence, Declan creates a kaleidoscopic view of this defining moment in Ireland’s history.
Sophie White’s powerful collection of essays: Corpsing: my Body and Other Horror Stories is an account of personal, lived stories in which the setting is Sophie White’s own body. Her vivid and ambitious literary non-fiction collection asks uncomfortable questions about the lived reality of womanhood in the 21st century, and the fear that must be internalised in order to find your path through it. White balances vivid storytelling with sharp-witted observations about the horrors of grief, mental illness, and the casual and sometimes hilarious cruelty of life.
Derek Scally’s The Best Catholics in the World: The Irish, the Church and the End of a Special Relationship explores Dubliner Derek Scally’s experience of Christmas Eve Mass on a visit home from Berlin where he finds more memories than congregants in the church where he was once an altar boy. Not for the first time, the collapse of the Catholic Church in Ireland brings to mind the fall of another powerful ideology – East German communism. While Germans are engaging earnestly with their past, Scally sees nothing comparable going on in his native land. So he embarks on a quest to unravel the tight hold the Church had on the Irish.
‘At once intimate and epic, this is a landmark book.’ – Fintan O’Toole
Discussion with the panellists will be followed by an audience Q&A.
Ennis Book Club Festival acknowledges the support of the Arts Council of Ireland, Clare County Council, Clare County Library, Creative Ireland and all of our sponsors, in making the festival happen.
Books by festival contributors may be purchased from Ennis Bookshop.