Ireland’s dramatic landscape has inspired writers across the ages and continues to star in the work of the island’s contemporary novelists.
From W.B. Yeats to Seamus Heaney, Joyce, Beckett and more, distinguished Irish literary figures have always employed the spectacular scenery and unique ambience of the island of Ireland in their work.
And the stunning landscape continues to inspire, featuring heavily in the novels of the island’s most successful contemporary novelists – think Man Booker prize winners Anne Enright and Anna Burns, international best-selling author Cecelia Ahern, and Sally Rooney, whose novel Normal People recently became a must-watch small screen sensation for the BBC.
Much more than a backdrop, Ireland’s countryside, cityscapes and seascapes are important characters in the stories told by these literary luminaries.
Dublin-born Cecelia Ahern, author of the international best seller PS I Love You, has sold over 25 million copies of her novels worldwide. She chose the magnificent forest park of Gougane Barra in County Cork as the setting for the opening of her novel Lyrebird because of its beauty and tranquillity.
Listen to her reading the opening chapter of the book, which describes the tree-covered mountains filled with birdsong and the gentle movement of animals. “The reason I chose Gougane Barra is that it’s a very peaceful place,” she says. “It’s one of many places in Ireland where you can recharge your soul.”
The Burren, County Clare
Acclaimed novelist Anne Enright’s novel The Green Road is set on the gorgeous Atlantic coastline of County Clare. Reading from her novel, she paints a picture of the road, which has views over Galway Bay to the Aran Islands and further south to the soaring Cliffs of Moher, and runs through the rocky Burren and onto beaches and Atlantic-washed flaggy shores.
“The Green Road is the most beautiful road in the world,” says a character in the book.
Although Anna Burns’ prize-winning novel Milkman is set in the days of Northern Ireland’s ‘Troubles’, it is inspired not only by the gritty setting (likely Belfast, which feels like a separate character) but also by the resilience and sense of humour of the people who lived through the period.
While Northern Ireland today is much different from the time portrayed in the novel, its history is part of its story and continues to fascinate the many thousands of people who, in normal times, visit every year to experience the region’s giant spirit.
Sally Rooney’s Normal People takes inspiration from the wild and beautiful countryside of County Sligo with its imposing mountain Ben Bulben and golden Streedagh beach, as well as from the elegant, sixteenth-century location of Trinity College Dublin and the buzzing streets of the capital.
Go behind the scenes of the TV shoot to discover how important these evocative locations were to the telling of the story.