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February 16, 2011

By Staff Reporter

THE FIELDS OF ATHENRY

A Journey through Irish History

James Charles Roy

Moyode Castle near the Galway town of Athenry is at the heart of this meditation on Ireland’s tumultuous history. Author and historian James Charles Roy bought Moyode in 1969 and renovated it while also piecing together its past. The castle becomes a powerful symbol for Roy, battered by waves of history, yet timeless and resilient.

The castle dates to the 1550s when it was built by a minor noble family, the Dolphins. During the Easter Rising, the IRA used it as a watchtower. Westview Press. 344 pp. $25.

IDIR AN DA SHOLAS

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Between the Two Lights

Maighread and Triona Ni Dhomhnail,

with Donal Lunny

This was folk album of the year in a poll by Irish Music Magazine in 2000. "Idir an Da Sholas" consists of a fine series of shimmering, delicate songs, covering a wealth of human experiences and interactions. The title is taken from a County Donegal dialect of Gaelic, and it means "twilight," appropriately enough for this often shadowy, delicate, delightful compilation. Donal Lunny produced it, and there are many distinguished guest artists, such as Sharon Shannon and Maire Breatnach, as well as the sisters’ own brother, Micheal on guitar. Green Linnet Records.

THE IRISH TENORS

ELLIS ISLAND

Anthony Kearns, Ronan Tynan

and Finbar Wright

They sure can belt out a song. The three tenors salute the hopes and dreams of America and its immigrants, naming their album after the place where it all started for so many — Ellis Island. The compilation weaves Irish and America songs, from "Danny Boy" to "God Bless America." The first track is about 15-year-old Annie Moore, the first immigrant to be processed through Ellis Island when it opened. "In her little bag she carried/All her past and history/And her dreams for the future/In the land of liberty," words that will stir everyone from recent emigrants to those who have been here for generations. Windmill Lane Studios.

NO NEWS AT THROAT LAKE

In Search of Ireland

Lawrence Donegan

Jaded by London, ex-Guardian journalist Lawrence Donegan decides that the best thing for him is to retreat to the peace and tranquility of Creeslough in County Donegal. But that’s just where his troubles begin. This hilarious romp through the foibles of country and small-town living takes Donegan from an unsuccessful and bloody career as a farmer to his true calling, reporter for the libelous and mud-slinging Tirconaill Tribune, run by two men and a dog. The editor welcomes him aboard by printing a notice that ended, "It will take us a few weeks to see if he’s good enough for the Tribune." Along with uncovering scandal and occasional muck-raking, Donegan meets Meryl Streep and also gets to insult Newt Gingrich, who comes to Donegal to unsuccessfully uncover his Irish roots. Pocket Books. 250 pp. $13.95.

CELTIC FIRE

JIGS, REELS AND WALTZES

John Whelan

This is an unusual album, not least because all the players are youngsters, with the oldest being a mere 29 at the time of recording. It’s an energetic compilation with uileann pipes, tin whistle, fiddles, guitar and accordion. Whelan has brought to prominence a new generation of Celtic musicians, showing that the tradition is alive and well. He’s just the man to do it, given his illustrious career playing with "Riverdance" fiddler Eileen Ivers, and the Echo named him Traditionalist of the Year in 1998. Narada Productions.

THE CATHOLICS OF ULSTER

A HISTORY

Marianne Elliott

It’s a striking title for a book about a people with a long and bloody history. Marianne Elliott traces the development of the Irish Catholics who have inhabited the Northern counties of the island and who were "trapped" in the Six Counties after 1921. She begins her history with the survival and development of Irish Catholicism through the Scottish domination of Ulster, the penal laws of the 18th Century, the political emergence of Irish nationalism in the 19th Century, through to the turmoil of the 20th, ending with the Good Friday agreement. She challenges many sacred cows, including a hard look at how responsible the Protestant landowners were for the Famine, and also attacks the idea that there was ever a united, Gaelic Catholic race of people in Ireland. Basic Books. 642 pp. $35.

DANCE TO YOUR SHADOW

CELTIC HARP AND VOICE

Kim Robertson

A gentle but powerfully evocative experience, the music comes in waves of layered notes, harp mingled exquisitely with pipes, accordion, strings and fiddles — and in a new departure, some electronic sounds as well. Kim Robertson has been playing the harp for 20 years, and this is a new and adventurous twist on many familiar themes, but without disrespecting the traditional. Listen out for the occasional charming and humorous animal noise as well. Narada Productions.

JAMES DILLON

A BIOGRAPHY

Maurice Manning

Former Taoiseach Garret FitzGerald is of the view that James Dillon was Ireland’s foremost parliamentarian of the 20th century, a gracious accolade given the fact that Dillon once quit FitzGerald’s Fine Gael party because he opposed Irish neutrality in World War II. Dillon returned to the Fine Gael fold in 1953 and rose to the leadership of the party six years later. In a political career spanning almost 40 years, Dillon was both well placed eyewitness and a central figure in the emergence of modern Ireland. And FitzGerald is far from alone in considering Dillon to be the best orator the Dáil has ever housed. Author Maurice Manning is one of Ireland’s foremost political commentators and biographers. Irish Books and Media, (800) 229-3505 or e-mail: IRISHBOOK@aol.com. 436 pp. $24.95.

GUARDIAN OF THE PEACE

Conor Brady

Before he edited The Irish Times, Conor Brady edited the Garda Review, the Garda Síochána’s membership journal. It can be taken then that he knows his subject matter well. The Garda Síochána — the English translation is "Guardians of the Peace" — has been a pivotal force in every sense of the word in the birth, survival and ultimate success of the Irish state. Not surprisingly, the force, has also been mired in controversy at various points in its history. Brady, in his assessment of the force’s role in Irish society, chronicles both the ideals and imperfections that form the background to what is still a rarity in global policing: a largely unarmed force. Irish Books and Media, (800) 229-3505. 248 pp. $14.95.

DICTIONARY OF CELTIC MYTHOLOGY

James MacKillop

The Celts continue to draw both general cultural and specialized academic interest to an impressive degree. Indeed, there has been a spurt in Celtic-related studies in recent years so it is timely indeed that a definitive dictionary dealing with one of the most influential peoples in European history is now available. James MacKillop is emeritus professor of English at Onondaga Community College in Syracuse, N.Y., and past president of the American Conference for Irish Studies. Oxford University Press. 454 pp. $15.95.

FORK IN THE ROAD

Denis Hamill

The paperback edition of Hamill’s tale of what the publicity blurb describes as "lust, greed, romance and brutal deception" played against the backdrop of contemporary Ireland and New York. At the core of the story is a romance between an Irish American filmmaker, Colin Coyne, and Gina Furey, an Irish traveling woman who attempts to pick his pocket in a Dublin pub. Hamill, journalist and author, is on familiar ground in both Ireland and the city of his birth and fires up a tale with the ease of a natural writer. Washington Square Press. 480 pp. $14.95.

CONSUMED IN FREEDOM’S FLAME

Cathal Liam

Author Liam is swimming in an unusual direction. His book came out in paperback first and is now available in hardcover. Liam delves here into the Morgan Llywelyn world of mixing true historical figures with fictional characters and the result is a passionately related tale dealing with the struggle for Irish independence from the 1916 Rising to the War of Independence. St. Padraic Press, P.O. Box 43351, Cincinnati OH 45243-0351 or e-mail: mgray64632@aol.com or www.seanchaibooks.com. 421 pp. $24.

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