I'm a big fan of historical novels. To me, there’s nothing more relaxing than a good book. I have a large library of reference books on Ireland and other places, but they typically aren’t what I want to read on vacation, nor do I want to read a history book...give me a good novel.
So how does that fit with genealogy? Historical novels provide a great deal of background information about the time and place in which our ancestors lived. You probably have some concept of southern life just before and during the civil war from Gone with the Wind. There are excellent novels set in Ireland. One of my favorites (and on my recommended list for anything doing Irish research) is The Dublin Saga: The Princes of Ireland and The Rebels of Ireland by Edward Rutherford. These two novels cover the period from the druids through the Irish civil war in the 1920’s. Since many of us will never be able to trace our ancestors in Ireland earlier than the 1800s, these books give a picture of what life was like and traces the roots of the “troubles” that exist in Ireland today. I strongly recommend you read, at least the second of this series before traveling to Ireland. Some of the previous participants who read this said they had a much better understanding, especially when they were touring.
Another author who writes about Ireland is Frank Delaney. His novel, Ireland, is about an Irish storyteller or seanachi. Shannon is the story of a priest, who, suffering from “shell shock” after World War I, visits Ireland in 1922 to try and trace his family, knowing only that they came from the area of the Shannon River (sound familiar?). This fragile individual is set down in Ireland at the time of the Irish civil war, and like all novels, although the story is fiction, the historical facts (including the death of Michael Collins) are real. Another of his books about Ireland is Tipperary and his newest book is The Matchmaker of Kenmare.
Check out your library catalog searching on Ireland or Irish to learn about the times that shaped your ancestors lives. You can also order the books mentioned above from Amazon through my store.