I'm a big fan of historical novels. Last summer I read Fall of Giants by Ken Follett which follows five families (Russian, German, English, Welsh and American) leading up to, and during World War I. It is the first book of a trilogy about the 20th Century. (Follett also wrote one of my all time favorites, Pillars of the Earth about the building of a cathedral in England during the middle ages.) To me, there’s nothing more relaxing than a good book. I have a large library of reference books on Ireland and other places, but they typically aren’t what I want to read on vacation, nor do I want to read a history book...give me a good novel.
So how does that fit with genealogy? Historical novels provide a great deal of background information about the time and place in which our ancestors lived. You probably have some concept of southern life just before and during the civil war from Gone with the Wind. There are excellent novels set in Ireland. One of my favorites (and on my recommended list for anything doing Irish research) is The Dublin Saga: The Princes of Ireland and The Rebels of Ireland by Edward Rutherford. These two novels cover the period from the druids through the Irish civil war in the 1920’s. Since many of us will never be able to trace our ancestors in Ireland earlier than the 1800s, these books give a picture of what life was like and traces the roots of the “troubles” that exist in Ireland today. If your ancestry isn’t Irish, check out some of Rutherford’s other historical novels (none are lightweight <g>)...London, Sarum, Russka and New York all provide a fascinating history (similar to Michner).
Another author who writes about Ireland is Frank Delaney. His novel, Ireland, is about an Irish storyteller or seanachi. Shannon is the story of a priest, who, suffering from “shell shock” after World War I, visits Ireland in 1922 to try and trace his family, knowing only that they came from the area of the Shannon River (sound familiar?). This fragile individual is set down in Ireland at the time of the Irish civil war, and like all novels, although the story is fiction, the historical facts (including the death of Michael Collins) are real. Another of his books about Ireland is Tipperary and his newest book is The Matchmaker of Kenmare.
Not all of my reading is about Ireland. I thoroughly enjoyed The Physick Book of Deliverane Dane, the story of a grad student who discovers the story of her ancestor, killed as a witch. I read this book on my iPad using the Kindle reader. I also have the Nook reader, iBooks and most recently OverDrive, which allows me to take out eBooks from my local library for free. When I'm traveling, it sure beats carrying a bunch of books (and I will have a bunch of books on it for my upcoming trip). Another book on my iPad is Enemies of the People: My Family's Journey to America by Kati Marton. This autobiographical novel of life in communist Hungary delves into the history of her journalist parents of Jewish descent and their escape to Washington, DC.
Check out your library catalog searching on Ireland or Irish (or any other ethnicity or location) to learn about the times that shaped your ancestors lives. You can also order these books from Amazon through my store.