Strumpet City has variously been labelled “the greatest Irish historical novel” (a field many would say isn’t exactly competitive) and, in a new foreword for the “100th anniversary of the Dublin Lock-out” edition published recently by Gill and Macmillan, as “the impossible Irish novel” (who am I to disagree with Fintan O’Toole?)
At 560 pages of dense type, and with a narrative that covers seven years in the lives of various characters across various classes, the one thing it undoubtedly is is an epic.
Originally published in 1969, Strumpet City will be familiar to many mostly through a hugely successful RTE mini-series in 1980, when legendary actor David Kelly helped to make Rashers Tierney a legendary character.
To coincide with the Lock-out anniversary Strumpet City has been chosen as the book of choice for the Dublin City Libraries’ annual month-long “One City One Book” festival, so expect to see several copies of it in the hands of strangers on public transport during April.
Anything that encourages us to read (or reread) older Irish writing can only be a good thing, and having so far overlooked it I’m looking forward to reading Strumpet City over the next few weeks.
Given that we’re all afflicted by so-called austerity, this could also be a fitting time to revisit a book that dealt with one of the most dramatic social schisms in our history.
As it’s a good deal chunkier than previous book-club selections, we’ve decided to give ourselves a bit more time to read it so we’re lo0king at a Monday evening in mid-May for an hour-long internet natter. Or, in the interests of brevity, an internatter.
So if you’d like to pick up a copy and join our little (not to say “exclusive”) online book club ahead of a discussion over the coming weeks, let me know by dropping an email to firstname.lastname@example.org.
The new edition of Strumpet City, published by Gill and Macmillan, is available widely. Try to pick one up in your local independent bookshop.