My Top Five Irish… Canadian Authors!

It’s week one of Reading Ireland Week and… okay look. I need a quick and easy, list-style prompt to get me back in the game. I haven’t posted all year. Nor have I read any Irish books (though that will change soon). Week one of Cathy’s long-running event prompts us to rank our top five Irish “novels, writers, films, musicians, plays, poems, albums” and so on, and I am ready to take it in just a slightly different direction…

While I love me some Tóibín, Joyce, and Keyes (Marian, that is), much of my Irish reading is actually Irish-Canadian reading. Here are my top five Irish-Canadian authors:

  • Emma Donoghue: You probably already know Donoghue’s work. She was born in Dublin and has lived in London (Ontario) for many years. Her novels are sometimes set in Ireland, sometimes Great Britain, occaisonally The States, and I don’t know if it was established where exactly that Room was. I don’t know that she’s ever set a book in Canada. Slammerkin (England and Wales) is my favourite, but for some Irish flavour I recommend The Wonder.
  • Anakana Schofield: Like Donoghue, Schofield came to Canada from Dublin in the late nineties and writes novels set in Ireland. She hasn’t had quite same breakout success, but her latest novels, Martin John and Bina, did receive huge acclaim and several prize shortlistings. I think her debut Malarkey (how’s that for an Irish title) is her masterpiece, and one of the funniest books I’ve ever read.
  • Brian Moore: Moore only lived in Canada for ten years, but managed to write Black Robe, a CanLit classic with the dubious honour of having inspired Joseph Boyden to write The Orenda. Many of his novels are set in his native Northern Ireland, including The Lonely Passion of Judith Hearne, which I so enjoyed for last year’s centennial event.
  • Colin Barrett: Barrett’s a rare case, in that he was born in Canada, grew up in Ireland, and returned at some point (I think – his bio is not so detailed as the authors above, but his Twitter suggests he’s living in Toronto). Also rare in that he exclusively writes short stories. His collection Young Skins came out nearly a decade ago, with only a movie adaptation to tide us over, but we are mere days away from the follow up, Homesickness. Will we get a story set in Canada? I’m not picky after waiting this long!
  • Jane Urquhart: Okay, I’m cheating on several counts here. Jane Urquhart isn’t really Irish-Canadian. She has Irish ancestry, and draws on it heavily for her novels, but as far as I can tell she’s spent most of her life in Ontario. And, I’m not entirely sure I’ve read her! I definitely own The Stone Carvers and Away, the latter being the more Irish of the two – perhaps it’s time to finally read (or reread) it.



  1. Claire 'Word by Word'

    I love how you’ve used the theme to shine a light on Canadian-Irish authors, excellent, Brian Moore could probably claim a few different tags. I detested what he did to Judith Hearne and wanted to throw the book across the room many times, but I persevered and read more of his work last year, surprised by how much he’d developed his awareness of the female character by the time he wrote The Doctor’s Wife and perhaps to a lesser extent The Magician’s Wife – what is it with the titles? This month I’m picking up his The Temptation of Eileen Hughes, and a few others for sure. I hope you read more Irish Lit in March and share it with us.

    • lauratfrey

      Yes Brian Moore certainly could, have you reviewed Judith Hearne, I’m dying to know more! I loved it… and yes what is up with those titles, as bad as every title having “Girl” in it for a while

  2. Cathy746books

    Excellent selection Laura – I love Anakana Schofield and am currently reading Homesickness by Colin Barrett. I never knew he was born in Canada! Thanks for taking part.

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  4. kimbofo

    Great list! I love Anakana Schofield. Bina won last year’s Kerry Group Irish novel of the year last year. I thought it was brilliantly bonkers!

    This post is making me think about Irish Australian writers, of which there are several, so might have to replicate your idea.

  5. Rebecca Foster

    Great picks! I loved The Wonder, The Lonely Passion of Judith Hearne, and Away. I’ve not read anything by the other two authors.

    It’s funny when the Giller nominates people who you had no idea were technically Canadian, like Rachel Cusk.

    • lauratfrey

      Yes, I was thinking about Rachel Cusk, if they can nominate her for multiple Gillers, surely we can get Colin Barrett on the long list, at least he wouldn’t have to travel to the ceremony!

  6. Kristine

    I am a very big fan of Jane Urquhart’s writing and am surprised that more people don’t talk about her books as she has quite a few. I love both The Stone Carvers and Away and think they are likely her best, in my opinion anyway. The Night Stages is set both in Ireland and Canada as well and features interesting history from both countries. Her books are slow, I will say, but I think very worth the time.

    • lauratfrey

      Oo good to know. It’s one of several books that I picked up in the early 00s, when I lived near a used book store, but have no idea what I did and didn’t read… no Goodreads, no book blog!

  7. Laura

    Love Emma Donoghue’s work. I don’t think she has any Canadian-set novels. My favourites of hers are Stir-Fry, Akin and The Pull of the Stars, but I also very much liked The Wonder. I’ve not read Slammerkin!

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