Canada is home to many citizens of Irish ancestry. Between 1825 and 1970, 1.2 million immigrants arrived in Canada from Ireland. By Confederation in 1867, they accounted for 24 per cent of Canada’s population. Immigration continues today, and several authors now call Canada home.
Born and educated in Dublin, Emma Donoghue is the youngest of eight children. After receiving her PhD in England, she moved to London, Ontario in 1998. Although she has written several novels and short stories, Donoghue is perhaps best known for her novel Room, which was published in 2010. The novel is narrated by five-year-old Jack, who lives with his mother, held captive in a single room. The book was an international bestseller and shortlisted for the Man Booker and Orange prizes for fiction, and Donoghue wrote the screenplay for the award-winning movie adaptation.
Donoghue’s most recent work, The Wonder, published in 2016, was shortlisted for the ScotiaBank Giller Award for best Canadian fiction. Set in Ireland in the 1850s, it is the story of an English nurse who is sent to a small village to observe a young girl who is said to have survived without food for several months. Her first book for middle graders, The Lotterys Plus One, will be published this year. The novel will centre on a large, unconventional family and the Victorian house they call Camelottery.
A resident of Salt Spring Island since 2010, Patrick Taylor was born in England but raised in Bangor, Northern Ireland. From a young age, he knew that he wanted to be a doctor like his father. While working in a Belfast hospital in 1969 he wrote a short story about the Irish Troubles and he did a locum in Ontario that same year. The political situation in Northern Ireland gave him the incentive to seek permanent work in Canada and he soon settled in Calgary.
While writing a medical humour column for a Canadian medical journal, a friend encouraged Taylor to write a novel. His first two published books, a collection of short stories and a novel called Pray for Us Sinners, were about the Troubles. After retiring in 2001, he was able to devote more time to writing and the characters for which he is best known: Dr. Barry Laverty and Dr. Fingal Flahertie O’Reilly, who live in the fictional Northern Ireland village of Ballybucklebo in the 1960s. Laverty is a young doctor working with the older, cantankerous O’Reilly. The Irish Country series now numbers ten novels about the doctors and the quirky, colourful residents of Ballybucklebo.
Continuing on the popularity of the series’ characters, Taylor’s An Irish Country Cookbook has just been released. Told from the perspective of the beloved housekeeper Kinky Kincaid, ten short stories are combined with more than 140 Irish family recipes. The cookbook is sure to be popular with fans of the series as well as new readers.
Happy St. Patrick’s Day! Whether you have Irish roots or not, why not read something by an Irish-Canadian author.
Frances Thomson is the community librarian at the George Mackie Library. For more information about books and events at the library, visit fvrl.bc.ca.