Book reviews in brief

by David Granville

Among those new titles to have landed on the review desk at the Irish Democrat in recent weeks, but which are unlikely, due to lack of space, to get a full review at this stage, the following are worth a closer look:

A Timeline of Irish History by Irish historian Richard Killeen (Gill&Macmillan, £9.99 pbk) is a handsome, easy-to-use and well-illustrated chronological guide to key events in Irish history from antiquity to the present day.

Divided into four main sections: Antiquity to 1169, Medieval Ireland, Early Modern Ireland and Modern Ireland, each is further divided into a total of 44 time periods and number of brief contextualising essays covering key historical developments and events.

Though for many years out of print, the short stories of Cork-born writer, teacher, artist and cultural nationalist Daniel Corkery are regarded by some as among the finest of their genre produced by an Irish writer.

Trinity College English lecturer Paul Delaney and Mercier Press are therefore to be congratulated for producing a new compilation of Corkery's short-story work, The Stones and other stories (Mercier Press, £11 approx.).

Selected and edited by Delaney, the new book includes short stories from four collections originally published between 1916 and 1939: A Munster Twilight, The Hounds of Banba, The Stormy Hills and Earth Out of Earth.

The stories exemplify many of Corkery's key interests and concerns, including the loneliness of human existence and of lives 'hidden' from view. His portraits of peasant life during a period of considerable and irrevocable change, his commitment to the Irish language and his love of the Munster landscape are also central to Corkery's art.

One of the most unsuspected delights to have landed on my desk in recent weeks is a splendid history of the Harcourt Street railway line the by former RTE programme controller Brian Mac Aongusa (Harcourt Street Line: back on track, Currach Press, £13.50 hbk).

This fascinating larger-format book, which is illustrated throughout with historic photographs, many of them taken by the author, is far from being something just for the railway anoraksamongst us.

Mac Aongusa successfully manages to craft an extensive knowledge of Ireland's railway service and public transport policy into a fascinating narrative of the of one of Ireland's major transport routes.

The book takes us from the birth of the Harcourt Street Line in 1859, through its closure in 1958 and up to its partial ‘resurrection’, in 2004, in the form of the Luas Line B from Dublin to Sandyford. Mac Aongusa even manages to include an element of literary history, providing evidence that Samuel Beckett was, for a period,was among the regular commuters travelling to work in Dublin.

Brendan Behan and Myles na Gopaleen (Flann O'Brien) were also regular patrons of the licensed facilities in the refreshment room at Harcourt Street Station, where supposedly bona fide travellers could get a drink outside of normal hours — the once infamous 'holy hour' between 2 and 4pm in the afternoon being particularly popular.

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This document was last modified by David Granville on 2004-05-23 14:49:15.
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