Okay, so my March prompt is not the most creative--March . . . Irish Lit . . . Irish eyes and all that. Kind of banal and expected, but then March and Irish Lit just seem to go together so nicely, and I always love the Irish authors I read. So, why not. Any excuse to allow me to pick up something I know I want to read, to . . . well, read right now (instead of sticking with that rigid 'mental queue that I always have going).
I was sure I knew what I wanted to read. Or at least knew the author I would choose. Do you remember this lovely stack of books I shared last fall? How could I possibly not pull from it. I even had it in mind when I was coming up with my prompts. All those backlist William Trevor books from Daedalus Books. On sale no less. I think I bought each one they had on offer and then went and bought a few more that weren't. I have read William Trevor before and think he is an amazing writer. I mean, this is a binge-worthy pile of books and I could easily spend the whole month (and then some) reading through all the William Trevor novels and short story collections that I now own.
But there was a problem. (There is always a problem when choosing a new book to read--the problem being having such a bounty of good books to choose from). There is so much really wonderful Irish Lit out there and I have so many books just waiting that I started to think about other books in my TBR piles, and then I made the mistake of pulling a few of them out for perusal. So, long story short I have picked two books with a further third 'just in case' book if I finish the other two early on. March is a 'long' month. And I can't run out of reading material (of that ever happens I might fall over from the shock, but it won't, so no worries).
First up this month is William Trevor's novella Nights at the Alexandra. It contains two short stories in addition to the 60 page novella, "The Ballroom of Romance" and "The Hill Bachelors". One of the cover blurbs assures me that these are two of Trevor's most famous short stories, and I must say the titles are quite tantalizing to me. As for the novella:
"Into a small provincial Irish town during wartime come the Messingers--a middle-aged German and his young British wife--refugees looking for a home. They settle in the big stone house at Cloverhill and fifteen-year old Harry is more than happy to fetch and carry for Frau Messinger, as well as listen to he stories--despite his family's instant disapproval".
I have long (long, long, long) had on my reading pile a number of books by Jennifer Johnston (and it has been years since I have read a book by her), but I recalled the cover of The Gingerbread Woman and knew I had to dig it out and see if the moment had finally arrived to read it. One blurb calls it "classic storytelling" and I am always in the mood for really good storytelling (it seems that Irish authors are very good storytellers indeed!).
"On a rainy afternoon on Killiney Hill a young man walking, without his overcoat, happens upon a woman gazing out over Dublin Bay, standing perilously close to the edge. From their testy encounter develops a remarkable friendship which will enable each to face afresh very different, damaged pasts, and to look towards the future."
Isn't that cover totally inviting? Or maybe gingerbread is making me hungry and I have to open the book and see what it has to do with the story. I was going to read the Trevor first and then this after, but I am not sure I can wait and as it is also a slender novel (just over 200 pages) I will carry them about with me this month.
And if I am having an especially successful reading month and/or am feeling ambitious I also have pulled aside (but not yet started) Edna O'Brien's The Little Red Chairs. Edna O'Brien is one of those authors that I read and loved and then proceeded to collect a whole shelf (or part of a shelf anyway) of her books (but then promptly got busy with other authors). I have heard so many good things about her most recent novel and it was on so many of last year's 'best of' lists that I really do hope to get to this one, though it seems a more formidable read than most of the books on my stack at the moment (save Virginia Woolf). This is a story of 'betrayal' and has been called "a vivid and unflinching exploration of humanity's capacity for evil and artifice as well as the bravest kind of love."
I have lots of really good books on my (growing) in progress pile. I am really excited about my reads this month and these will certainly round things out nicely. And you never know what else will come up along the way (next week will be the longlist announcement of the Baileys Women's Prize for Fiction, too--the longlist will only have a dozen titles instead of twenty). Ah, the anticipation of good reading!