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What’s new: Irish books and music

February 16, 2011

By Staff Reporter

THE ANATOMY SCHOOL

Bernard MacLaverty

Acclaimed Belfast author Bernard MacLaverty — “Cal,” “Grace Notes” — is writing about familiar ground in his latest novel. The setting is Belfast in the 1960s, the main character Martin Brennan, a quiet teenager attempting to deal with his fast-approaching adulthood even as the life of his home town starts going up in smoke. Humor and irony runs through the pages as Brennan faces the contradictions and conflicting traditions all about him. W.W. Norton. 355 pp. $25.95.

THE KENNEDYS AT WAR

1937-1945

Edward J. Renehan Jr.

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Did Joe Kennedy Jr. die because he volunteered for a dangerous mission simply because he was furious at the apparent easy success in life of his kid bother Jack? The answer is yes, according to the author in this study of the Kennedys up to and through World War II, a conflict that killed the eldest Kennedy son and injured the second eldest while helping propel him ultimately to the White House. Renehan sets about his mission with a strong academic rigor. The John Kennedy who emerges is a more complex individual than some more sensational works would have him be. The future president was, in the author’s view, a man of moral courage, great intelligence and extraordinary physical bravery. Doubleday. 353 pp. $27.50.

BLACK POTATOES

The Story of the Great

Irish Famine, 1845-1850

Susan Campbell Bartoletti

A nicely presented and well-illustrated account of Ireland’s Great Hunger for younger readers aged 9-12. Bartoletti, a former teacher, Pennsylvania resident and winner of the 2002 Robert F. Sibert Award, traveled to Ireland to conduct her research for this explanation as to why the Famine occurred and what its consequences were. What followed is a clear and well-written account. Houghton Mifflin. 160 pp. $18.

HE STANDS ALONE

Dr. Randy Lee Eickhoff

“He Stands Alone” relates the tale of the legendary Cuchulainn in contemporary prose. It is based on book five of the Ulster Cycle, here translated and woven anew by Texas-based Eickhoff, whose academic focus is ancient languages, Irish obviously included. Eickhoff has previously written accounts of the other main stories in the Ulster Cycle including “The Raid,” and “The Sorrows.” Forge Publishers. 224 pp. $23.95.

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