A penetrating study and celebration of Northern Irish literature—telling the region’s story through the extraordinary novels and poetry produced by decades of conflict.
Northern Ireland is one hundred years old. Northern Ireland does not exist. Both of these statements are true. It just depends on who you ask. How do you write about a place like this? THE STRANGERS' HOUSE asks this question of the region’s greatest writers, living and dead. What have they made of Northern Ireland – and what has Northern Ireland made of them?
Northern Ireland is roughly the same size as the State of Connecticut, yet has produced an extraordinary number of celebrated poets and novelists. Louis MacNeice, too clever to be happy, formed by his childhood on the shores of Belfast Lough. C. S. Lewis, who discovered Narnia in the rolling drumlins and black rock of County Down. Anna Burns, chronicler of North Belfast and winner of the Booker Prize. And Seamus Heaney, the man of wry precision, the poet with the gift of surprise.
As well as household names, Poots also examines writers who may be less familiar to an American readership. These include the dark and bawdy novels of Ian Cochrane, a celebrated raconteur obsessed with Columbo, and Forrest Reid, a man who saw Arcadia in the Irish countryside, and who was, perhaps, the North’s first queer author. Reading the work of these writers together produces a testament to over one hundred years of literary endeavor and human struggle. THE STRANGERS' HOUSE is the story of how men and women have written about a home divided, and used their work to move, in the words of Seamus Heaney, “like a double agent among the big concepts.”
Authors and works discussed… C. S. Lewis – Surprised by Joy Seamus Heaney – North Anna Burns – Milkman Louis MacNeice – Autumn Journal Forrest Reid – Brian Westby Derek Mahon – A Disused Shed in Co. Wexford Michael Longley – Kindertotenlieder Medbh McGuckian – Drawing Ballerinas Patrick Kavanagh – The Green Fool Ian Cochrane – F for Ferg
About the Author
Alexander Poots was born in London in 1985. After studying at the University of Manchester and Magdalen College, Oxford, he worked as a bookseller. The Strangers’ House is his first book. He lives in Belfast.
“A magnificent book from Alexander Poots that succeeds in analysing the extraordinarily rich and complex world of poets and writers in the North of Ireland. With questions around identity, place and home, and writing itself, THE STRANGERS’ HOUSE, is brilliantly insightful, its own prose beautiful. A great work.”—Enda Walsh, award-winning Irish playwright and screenwriter
“A highly learned but lightly worn literary history of Northern Ireland that reaches beyond books into political and cultural turmoil… An essential guide to contemporary Irish letters.”—Starred Kirkus Review
“Poots demonstrates a masterful knowledge of Northern Irish authors and his prose is at turns funny and poetic…This powerfully evokes the beauty and complexity of Northern Ireland and announces Poots as an author to watch.”—Publishers Weekly Starred Review