The Greatest Irish "Family, Fiction" Books Since 1900

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This list represents a comprehensive and trusted collection of the greatest books. Developed through a specialized algorithm, it brings together 268 'best of' book lists to form a definitive guide to the world's most acclaimed books. For those interested in how these books are chosen, additional details can be found on the rankings page.

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Family

The "Family" category of books encompasses stories that revolve around the dynamics, relationships, and experiences of families. These books explore the complexities of familial bonds, including love, loyalty, conflict, and forgiveness. They may focus on different types of families, such as nuclear families, blended families, or extended families, and may cover a range of themes, from coming-of-age tales to domestic dramas. Overall, the "Family" category offers a rich and diverse collection of books that delve into the joys and challenges of family life.

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  1. 1. Dubliners by James Joyce

    "Dubliners" is a collection of 15 short stories that portray the life of the Irish middle class in the early 20th century. Each story depicts an aspect of everyday life in Dublin, capturing the complexities of human experiences and emotions. The stories range from childhood to adulthood, reflecting on themes such as the paralysis of routine, the desire for escape, and the failure of both. The book is renowned for its vivid characterization and its exploration of the subtleties of the human condition.

  2. 2. Amongst Women by John McGahern

    "Amongst Women" is a novel that tells the story of Michael Moran, a bitter, aging Irish Republican Army (IRA) veteran, and his relationships with his wife and five children. The narrative explores themes of family, power, love, and the struggle between freedom and control. Moran's domineering personality and the effects of his past experiences in the IRA have a profound impact on his family, shaping their lives and relationships in complex and often destructive ways.

  3. 3. Artemis Fowl by Eoin Colfer

    A 12-year-old genius and criminal mastermind, Artemis Fowl, kidnaps a fairy, Captain Holly Short, for a large ransom of gold with the help of his bodyguard, Butler, to restore his family's fortune. In the process, he discovers an underground world of armed and dangerous fairies. The fairies fight back with magic, cunning, and technological weapons leading to a high-stakes battle of wits.

  4. 4. Paddy Clarke Ha Ha Ha by Roddy Doyle

    Set in 1960s Dublin, the novel follows the life of a ten-year-old boy as he navigates through the adventures and trials of childhood. The protagonist's world is one of mischief, discovery, and familial relationships, but as his parents' marriage crumbles, he is forced to deal with adult realities. The narrative is marked by the boy's growing understanding of the world around him, his loss of innocence, and his attempts to keep his family together.

  5. 5. The Charwoman's Daughter by James Stephens

    "The Charwoman's Daughter" is a poignant tale of a young girl named Mary Makebelieve who lives in Dublin with her mother, a charwoman. The story follows Mary's life as she navigates the harsh realities of poverty, her mother's failing health, and her own burgeoning adulthood. Despite her challenging circumstances, Mary's vivid imagination and optimistic outlook allow her to find joy and beauty in her surroundings, providing a stark contrast to the grim realities of her life. The novel is a touching exploration of the human spirit's resilience in the face of adversity.

  6. 6. The Gathering by Anne Enright

    "The Gathering" is a powerful and evocative family saga set in Ireland, exploring the complex dynamics of a large Irish family following the suicide of one of the siblings. The story is narrated by Veronica, the sister of the deceased, who delves into her family's past, uncovering a traumatic event that has shaped their lives. The narrative is a mix of present events, childhood memories, and imagined scenarios, all of which contribute to a profound exploration of memory, truth, and the bonds of family.

  7. 7. Mary O'grady by Mary Lavin

    "Mary O'Grady" is a poignant tale that chronicles the life of an Irish woman named Mary, who, with resilience and strength, navigates the trials and tribulations of her life. As a devoted wife and mother, she faces the challenges of raising a family in mid-20th century Ireland, dealing with the complexities of love, loss, and the relentless passage of time. The novel paints a rich portrait of a character whose ordinary existence is imbued with extraordinary dignity, capturing the essence of human endurance and the spirit of the Irish community. Through Mary's experiences, the story explores the universal themes of family, hardship, and the unyielding hope that propels one forward.

  8. 8. Netherland by Joseph O'Neill

    "Netherland" is a post-9/11 novel set in New York City, which explores the life of a Dutch banker named Hans. After his wife and son move back to London, Hans becomes immersed in the world of cricket, where he befriends a charismatic Trinidadian named Chuck Ramkissoon who dreams of building a cricket stadium in the city. The novel is a meditation on the American Dream, identity, and the immigrant experience, all set against the backdrop of a city and a country grappling with a new reality.

  9. 9. A Belfast Woman by Mary Beckett

    The book is a poignant collection of short stories that delve into the lives of women from Belfast, Northern Ireland, during the tumultuous times of the Troubles. Through a series of intimate narratives, the author explores the complex emotions, daily struggles, and the resilience of women as they navigate a society riven by political conflict. The stories offer a nuanced portrayal of the female experience, highlighting themes of family, love, loss, and the quest for personal identity against a backdrop of violence and social upheaval.

  10. 10. Loving And Giving by Molly Keane

    "Loving And Giving" is a novel set in early 20th-century Ireland, revolving around the life of a young girl named Nicandra, who is raised in the grandeur of her family's estate, Ardbrack. As she matures into adulthood, Nicandra is confronted with the harsh realities of her family's cruelty and the societal expectations of her time. The story captures her journey of self-discovery and transformation as she navigates through personal betrayal, love, and loss, ultimately leading her to a profound act of generosity that reflects her growth and the novel's themes of compassion and resilience.

  11. 11. The Barracks by John McGahern

    "The Barracks" is a poignant and introspective novel that delves into the lives of a family living in a rural Irish barracks. Set in the 1950s, the story follows Elizabeth Reegan, a widow struggling to find her place in a changing society, and her three children as they navigate the complexities of love, loss, and the search for personal identity. McGahern's lyrical prose beautifully captures the emotional nuances of the characters, painting a vivid portrait of a family grappling with their own desires and societal expectations.

  12. 12. Fools of Fortune by William Trevor

    "Fools of Fortune" is a tragic tale that follows the lives of the Quinton family, an Anglo-Irish family living in Ireland, during the early 20th century. The family's fortune takes a turn for the worse after a devastating fire, believed to be an act of revenge by Irish nationalists, claims the lives of several family members. The surviving members are left to grapple with their loss, guilt, and the political turmoil of their time, leading to a cycle of self-destruction and a desperate search for redemption.

  13. 13. Days Without End by Sebastian Barry

    "Days Without End" is a historical fiction novel that follows the life of an Irish immigrant who enlists in the U.S. Army in the 1850s. The protagonist's experiences include fighting in the Indian Wars and the Civil War, as well as falling in love with a fellow soldier. The novel explores themes of identity, love, and survival in a brutal and unforgiving era of American history.

  14. 14. Death In Summer by William Trevor

    This novel delves into the life of a widower grappling with the sudden loss of his wife in an accident, leaving him to care for their infant daughter alone. Amidst his grief, he encounters a series of potential nannies, each bringing their own complexities and the past into his meticulously ordered world. The narrative weaves through themes of loneliness, the search for connection, and the shadows cast by past actions, as the protagonist navigates the challenges of new fatherhood and the intrusion of an obsessed stranger. Set against a backdrop of everyday English life, the story unfolds with subtlety and depth, exploring the nuances of human relationships and the quiet moments that define and disrupt our lives.

  15. 15. The Heather Blazing by Colm Tóibín

    The protagonist, a respected Irish judge, reflects on his life as he spends his summer vacation in a seaside town in Ireland. As he navigates through the complexities of his professional life, he also grapples with his past, including the loss of his parents and his brother, his wife's infertility, and the changing political landscape of Ireland. The novel explores themes of memory, loss, and the tension between personal desires and societal expectations.

  16. 16. The South by Colm Tóibín

    "The South" by Colm Toibin is a compelling novel that follows the journey of a young Irish woman named Katherine as she leaves her troubled marriage behind and embarks on a new life in Spain. Set against the backdrop of political unrest and cultural differences, Katherine's experiences in the vibrant and mysterious south of Spain shape her identity and challenge her perceptions of love, art, and self-discovery. With rich prose and nuanced characters, Toibin explores themes of longing, transformation, and the complexities of human relationships in this captivating tale.

  17. 17. The Woman Who Walked Into Doors by Roddy Doyle

    "The Woman Who Walked Into Doors" is a poignant and raw portrayal of a woman named Paula Spencer, who recounts her life as a victim of domestic abuse. Through her honest and unfiltered narrative, the book explores the complexities of love, addiction, and the lasting impact of trauma on one's identity. Paula's story is a powerful examination of resilience and the strength it takes to break free from the cycle of violence.

  18. 18. That They May Face the Rising Sun by John McGahern

    This book tells the story of a couple who have moved from London to rural Ireland to live a quiet and peaceful life. Their days are filled with simple pleasures and the beauty of the natural world. However, their tranquility is occasionally disrupted by the complex relationships and struggles of their neighbors. The novel offers a deeply moving exploration of love, loss, and the relentless passage of time.

  19. 19. A Girl Is A Half Formed Thing by Eimear McBride

    "A Girl Is A Half Formed Thing" is a powerful and experimental novel that delves into the psyche of a young woman as she navigates through a tumultuous and abusive childhood, her complex relationship with her mentally and physically disabled brother, and her own journey towards self-discovery and identity. Written in a unique stream-of-consciousness style, the book explores themes of trauma, sexuality, religion, and resilience, offering a raw and unflinching portrayal of the human experience.

  20. 20. Grown Ups by Marian Keyes

    The novel delves into the complexities of family dynamics, personal growth, and the challenges of adulthood through the lens of the Casey family, whose seemingly perfect lives begin to unravel during a family gathering. When one member of the family suffers a concussion and starts revealing all of their secrets, the facades carefully constructed by each family member start to crumble. The story explores themes of love, betrayal, and the facades people maintain, as the characters confront their personal demons and strive to find a sense of authenticity and happiness in their lives. Through humor and empathy, the narrative examines what it truly means to be a grown-up in a modern world filled with expectations and pressures.

  21. 21. Night Boat To Tangier by Kevin Barry

    "Night Boat To Tangier" by Kevin Barry is a darkly comedic novel that follows two aging Irish gangsters, Charlie Redmond and Maurice Hearne, as they wait in a Spanish port for a ferry that may bring Maurice's estranged daughter back into his life. As they reminisce about their past and contemplate their future, the two men confront their regrets, failures, and the toll that a life of crime has taken on them. With poetic language and a keen eye for detail, Barry explores themes of love, loss, and the human condition in a story that is both haunting and humorous.

  22. 22. The Secret Scripture by Sebastian Barry

    "The Secret Scripture" is a deeply moving tale of Roseanne McNulty, a centenarian who has spent most of her life in a mental institution in Ireland. As the institution is about to be demolished, her psychiatrist Dr. Grene must determine whether she's fit to be released. As he delves into her past, Roseanne reveals her life story through a secret memoir she's been writing. The narrative alternates between Roseanne's recollections and Dr. Grene's observations, revealing a tragic and complex history of Ireland's social and political changes, while also exploring themes of memory, identity, and sanity.

  23. 23. The Forgotten Waltz by Anne Enright

    The novel is a poignant exploration of an adulterous affair set against the backdrop of the economic downturn in Ireland. It follows the story of Gina Moynihan as she reflects on her passionate, yet complicated relationship with Sean Vallely, a man she meets at a party and with whom she embarks on an affair, despite both being married to other people. The narrative delves into themes of love, desire, and the consequences of their illicit relationship, particularly in the context of Sean's ailing daughter, Evie, who becomes a symbol of the affair's impact on the families involved. The story is a candid and lyrical examination of the intricacies of marriage, memory, and the choices that shape our lives.

Reading Statistics

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Download

If you're interested in downloading this list as a CSV file for use in a spreadsheet application, you can easily do so by clicking the button below. Please note that to ensure a manageable file size and faster download, the CSV will include details for only the first 500 books.

Download