Fiction Map of the World – Northern Ireland

by Travelbag on 12 August 2014, 12:08PM

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Northern Ireland, much like the Republic, is a country whose inspiration for fiction is often drawn from its history. Though there is some crossover between the two there are plenty of novels, films and musicians from both of high quality. Today we look at Northern Ireland.

Essential Holiday Reading
Reading in the Dark by Seamus Deane, shortlisted for the 1996 Booker Prize, as well as receiving other accolades, is a novel that truly exhibits themes of Irish life during the mid-20th century. There are some who question where the line between fiction and reality is drawn in this case as there are similarities between the novel and Deane’s own upbringing.Set in Derry, from 1945 all the way through to the beginning of ‘the troubles’, it details the young life of a boy living in a poor area and the slow discovery of a secret that affects both himself and his family. With strong themes of religious division, family struggles and authority it epitomises a lot of what has shaped Northern Ireland as it is today and is an excellent and emotional read, giving a great insight into the times and the country.

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Notable Northern Irish Books
As aforementioned much of Northern Ireland’s fiction is grounded in reality and the furore of the troubles that have affected the country throughout the years. Novels that focus upon this include the powerful Killing Rage (in itself a true account of actual events) by Eamon Collins (a former IRA member before turning his back on them) and Mick McGovern, and Lies of Silence by Brian Moore which was shortlisted for the 1990 Booker Prize and offers a different angle on ‘the troubles’ and a more personal view of the effects they had on a married couple held hostage and forced into terrorism. There’s also One by One in the Darkness by Deirdre Madden that tells of the lives of three sisters in the week leading up to the IRA ceasefire in 1994 as well as their childhoods.

For something completely different there’s Divorcing Jack by Colin Bateman, a darkly comic tale that Bateman himself adapted into a film starring David Thewlis in 1998. 

Notable Northern Irish Authors
Northern Ireland has produced many talented and prolific authors. Names like Brian Moore (particularly prolific on novels involving ‘the troubles’), Robert McLiam Wilson (Eureka Street, Ripley Bogle), Bernard MacLaverty (Lamb, Cal, Grace Notes) and the aforementioned Seamus Deane. 

However, there is one name that stands out as Northern Ireland’s most famous author – C.S Lewis. Famed particularly for The Chronicles of Narnia (The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe, Prince Caspian, etc), he is also noted as a theologian and strong themes of Christianity are evident in his works. Regarded as one of the greatest British authors of the last century he has influenced many of today’s more prominent children’s authors including J.K Rowling and Eoin Colfer

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Notable Northern Irish Films
Again there are several prominent films focusing on ‘the troubles’ such as Titanic Town starring Ciaran Hinds and Julie Walters, the critically acclaimed television film Bloody Sunday starring James Nesbitt that concentrates on the shootings in Derry in 1972. There is also In the Name of the Father starring Daniel Day-Lewis about the four men falsely accused of the Guildford pub bombings in 1974 and The Crying Game, a Neil Jordan film.

Despite once more seeing a proliferation of films depicting difficult periods of the country’s history there are films that stray from this formula. Films such as Hunger starring Michael Fassbender as Bobby Sands that details the 1981 hunger strike, or the irreverent comedy Man About Dog for a complete change of tone! 

Essential Holiday Listening
For holiday listening I’m going to recommend Astral Weeks by Van Morrison, released in 1968 it was his second studio album and encompasses a variety of styles such as jazz, folk, blues and classical elements. The album came together over a course of several years and was finally borne from sessions including several instrumentalists that were almost akin to jam sessions. The album itself wasn’t a commercially successful album but has frequently been labelled amongst the best albums of all time and has, over time, become recognised as arguably Morrison’s best. In particular the lyrics, mostly written in a stream of consciousness style are akin to poetry and remain a highlight of the album.

Notable Northern Irish Musicians
Northern Ireland possesses many celebrated musicians, some who came from the Irish showbands boom from the late 50s to the 70s such as the aforementioned Van Morrison (arguably the most famous of all Northern Irish musicians) and guitarist Henry McCullough. Another well-known guitarist is Gary Moore who’s played with bands such as Skid Row and Thin Lizzy.

There’s also Feargal Sharkey who achieved fame most notably with The Undertones, best-known for their seminal pop-punk anthem Teenage Kicks. They have also produced several popular singer-songwriters such as the terrifically individual Duke Special, Hannah Peel and Paul Brady. Many of Northern Ireland’s musicians continue the trait of showing traditional Irish folk music influences in their work which gives them a truly Irish feel and distinction.


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