Shannon Country, Paul Clements ( large paperback, Sept 2020)

£14.99

In August 1939 the Irish travel writer Richard Hayward set out on a road trip to explore the Shannon region just two weeks before the Second World War broke out. His evocative account of that trip, Where the River Shannon Flows, became a bestseller. The book, still sought after by lovers of the river, captures an Ireland of small shops and barefoot street urchins that has long since disappeared.

Eighty years on, inspired by his work, Paul Clements retraces Hayward's journey along the river, following - if not strictly in his footsteps - then within the spirit of his trip. From the Shannon Pot in Cavan, 344 kilometres south to the Shannon estuary, his meandering odyssey takes him by car, on foot, and by bike and boat, discovering how the riverscape has changed but is still powerful in symbolism. While he recreates Hayward's trip, Clements also paints a compelling portrait of twenty-first century Ireland, mingling travel and anecdote with an eye for the natural world.

He sails to remote islands, spends times in rural backwaters and secluded riverside villages where the pub is the hub, and attempts a quest for the Shannon connection behind the title of Flann O'Brien's novel At Swim-Two-Birds.  On a quixotic journey by foot, boat, bike and car, Paul Clements produces an intimate portrait of the hidden countryside, its people, topography and wildlife, creating a collective memory map, looking at what has been lost and what has changed. Beyond the motorways and cities, you can still catch the pulse of an older, quieter Ireland of hay meadows and bogs, uninhabited islands and remote towpaths. This is the country of the River Shannon that runs through literature, art, cultural history and mythology with a riptide pull on our imagination.

* signed copies available * 

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The Settlement, Ruth Kirby Smith ( paperback July 2021)

£9.99

Written by a N Irish author who attended Methody, and QUB, this is a page-turning drama set in a turbulent period of Irish history ( was there ever a non turbulent period?!) Most copies should be signed.  

Returning to Ireland from Boston in 1984 for her grandmother’s funeral to the (fictional) village of Lindara, County Armagh, Olivia is appalled when a man she has never seen before spits at Sarah’s coffin. The mystery is gradually revealed through the grandmother’s journal ... in those pages are the agonies of spurned love, a hastily contrived rebound marriage, but also humour. This is Sarah’s story, recounting the momentous events leading up to the partition of Ireland but from the point of view of the anti-Home Rulers of the north, a perspective which has attracted less attention in fiction.

Although ideologically not completely attuned to the beliefs of her husband and community, Sarah finds herself caught up in gun-running. 

Kirby-Smith evokes the widening fissures in what was to become a border community, the fear of reprisals and the harbouring of resentment through generations which mirrors Ulster’s more recent Troubles. Occasionally the narrative risks turning into a retelling of history – but what a history – until the characters reassert themselves. This novel is neatly plotted, and secrets hidden for decades are deftly revealed and satisfyingly resolved.

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