Historical Fiction – The Irish In America

The Irish in America
Oh, Play That Thing
by Roddy Doyle

With a price on his head, Irish revolutionary Henry Smart flees to the United States, arriving in New York City in 1924. At the height of Prohibition, Henry finds success as a bootlegger. However, his enterprising nature causes him to encroach on a powerful mobster’s turf, which sends him running to Chicago, where he embraces the burgeoning jazz scene and becomes Louis Armstrong’s bodyguard and unofficial manager. And, believe it or not, that’s just the beginning in this sequel to A Star Called Henry, the middle volume in Roddy Doyle’s picaresque The Last Roundup trilogy, which concludes withThe Dead Republic.

The Kitchen House
by Kathleen Grissom

In 1791, seven-year-old Irish orphan Lavinia becomes an indentured servant at Tall Oaks, a tobacco plantation in Tidewater Virginia owned by Captain James Pyke. Entrusted to the care of Belle, Pyke’s illegitimate and enslaved daughter, Lavinia lives and works with the slaves in the plantation’s kitchen house. Eventually, she’s summoned to the big house to tend to her opium-addicted mistress, a turn of events that will endanger both Lavinia and Belle. If you enjoy this compelling character-driven family saga, keep an eye out for the forthcoming Glory Over Everything: Beyond the Kitchen House, which follows the next generation.

by Mary Beth Keane

In 1883, Irish immigrant Mary Mallon arrives in New York to pursue her dream of becoming a cook. Success seems within reach when she’s hired by a wealthy Manhattan family, but quickly recedes when her employers fall violently ill. She flees, but the pattern repeats itself and the death toll rises until the New York Department of Health catches up to her. As an asymptomatic carrier of salmonella typhi, the strain of bacteria responsible for typhoid fever, Mary is healthy yet capable of infecting others. Dubbed “Typhoid Mary,” the city’s notorious patient zero is placed under quarantine and spends the rest of her life alternately campaigning for her freedom and, despite the danger to all involved, attempting to return to the work she loves.

Galway Bay
by Mary Pat Kelly

In 1839, 17-year-old Honora Keeley is on the verge of entering a convent when a handsome man emerges from Galway Bay and sweeps her off her feet. It’s love at first sight for blacksmith Michael Kelly as well, and the couple marries and settles down to a life of farming. Then the potato blight arrives, causing widespread famine and death. Could emigrating to America save Honora and her growing family? This gripping saga of the Great Starvation should appeal to fans of Ann Moore’s Gracelin O’Malley and its sequels.

Brooklyn: A Novel
by Colm Tóibín

Wanting more opportunities than 1950s Ireland can offer, Enniscorthy native and aspiring bookkeeper Eilis Lacey leaves her mother and sister to start a new life in Brooklyn, where she attends school and finds work — as well as romance. But when devastating news reaches her from home, Eilis must return to Enniscorthy and settle family affairs. Will she have to sacrifice her new life (and love) in America to resume the existence she’s left behind? Recently made into an acclaimed film starring Saoirse Ronan, this novel received praise from The New York Times for showing “how place can assert itself, enfolding the visitor, staking its claim.”

List created 3/28/16 – James Hartmann

Adapted from Nextreads.

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