The Feckin' Book of Everything Irish Colin Murphy & Donal O'Dea O'Brien Press npa, 304pps
JUST the thing to revert us all to adolescence. After reading this book, we are assured, we'll "be aytin' coddle and boxtiefSinging the Minstrel Boy andf"Effin' an' blindin'." And sure enough, the language is as rough as a badger's arse. "Me arse was knackered after that vindaloo." There are claims. On Irish agony aunts:
"Frankie Byrne was ultra conservative." If that sadly missed character was even mildly conservative, then I am Pope Benedict. Another claim puts Queen Maeve ("Ireland's most lustful woman") on the early £1 note. That was not Queen Maeve, that was Lady Lavery, Michael Collins's mot. Bleedin' doted on 'im, so she did. The man who made that cock-up should be "kicked in the goolies".
The Suspect The Story of Rachel O'Reilly's Murder Jenny Friel Maverick House 11, 207pps TITLED 'The Suspect' and not 'The Convicted', I presume, because most of Friel's book covers the period between the discovery of Rachel O'Reilly's body and the conviction of her husband Joe. So you already know about that. When the badly battered body of the woman is discovered, the press are in full cry. One of the reporters, Jenny Friel of the Irish Mail on Sunday, is granted a series of interviews with the prime suspect, Joe O' Reilly, and this is the part of the book that will fascinate most readers. There is double-edged dealing here. She wants her story. He thinks her paper might show him in a good light. At one early stage she actually says he was charming. Double-edged dealing, but who was cutting into whom? And who cut deepest in the end?
The Book Club Kate McCabe Poolbeg 16, 390pps
THE heroine of McCabe's latest romance hits the ground yawning. Marion Hunt is bored out of her tree because she works as a civil servant in the Department of Education; wouldn't you know. This is not to say that the book is boring. As Bertie might say, 'you can't see the daggers for the smoke'. The action is propelled along at a lively lick. All of Marion's friends are romantically involved. Her evenings are empty, boring. She considers joining a book club. Better yet, she starts her own book club. The club links a web of characters together. One finely drawn character, a lightweight poet, is stunned by the success of his slim volume. He is equally stunned by the savagery of Dublin's lit crits. Inevitably, Marion gets involved with a wastrel. Wastrel gets involved with the stock market and wished he hadn't. It all ends with a far from pat resolution.
Classic Munster Hurling Finals Seamus J King Gill & Macmillan 17, 264pp
EAT, sleep, dream Munster hurling? Don't wait for June to come around. Put in your Christmas order now. Tell your missus this is what you want. The wonderful and vicious characters, epics and filthy games are recalled. Not for nothing was Tipperary's back line called Hell's Kitchen. In the 1950s, Cork's Christy Ring saw a hurling field as somewhere to unleash his mild madness. In one unforgettable encounter with Tipp "a thrilling goalmouth clash" resulted in Ring's head being heavily bandaged. A hot day in Hell's Kitchen. King is well informed but capricious. For example, he rightly singles out Waterford's 2004 victory over Cork as being one of the greatest ever. Yet he says nothing of Paul Flynn's famous 'dipper' goal; possibly the most skilfully audacious attempt ever scored in a Munster final.
The Great Enlightenment Love Affair David Bodanis Little Brown 19.75, 309pps
IN A period when untitled women were generally trodden on, one particularly spirited woman took up with Voltaire. Emilie du Chatelet was an autodidact, could speak English and Italian. She could also speak her mind. Voltaire could turn nasty and was prone to write vicious satire about anyone who crossed him. He attacked the Duc d'Orleans and was flung into the slammer and his hat after him. Emilie, for her part, was not exactly shy and retiring either. At one stage in the romance, they both moved into the du Chatelet house; her husband somehow chose to ignore them. Quite right too. Bodanis has written a lively account, making the pair a fascinating study which I suppose they were.