Let’s Make it a Little Irish
In 1996, having just completed my freshman year at Brown University, I packed up a backpack and joined three friends on a three-week trip backpacking in Ireland. This was a huge step for me: it was the first trip I planned on my own and took on my own, without any parental involvement or supervision. It was my first trip overseas. Besides all that, it was to Ireland, a place I had been dreaming about visiting for many years.
Ireland, I am happy to say, did not disappoint.
Yes, it is beautiful. Yes, it really is that green. Yes, people are friendly. Yes, you are likely to find a small town with one grocery store, two pubs, and a handful of farms, and not much else. Yes, there is something about it that feels…magic.
As St. Patrick’s Day approaches, I’ve found myself thinking about Ireland and yearning to return. What is it about the country that inspires the imagination? Is it the rich history of storytelling? Is it the sense that you could literally walk over a hill and encounter a fairy or a leprechaun? Is it the picturesque landscapes?
Whatever it is, writers have used Ireland as a setting to convey romance, magic, and charm. In the movie P.S. I Love You, Holly (Hilary Swank) met her husband Gerry (Gerard Butler) while on a post-college trip to Ireland. She returns there with her friends after Gerry’s death and is once again captivated by its beauty and caught up in the sense that anything could happen. At the end of the movie, she returns once more with her mother (Kathy Bates), and her mother simply gasps at the landscape before turning around and meeting an Irish gentlemen with sparkling eyes. Ireland, it seemed, was a place that represented romance, hope, and new beginnings. Could this story have been told using another setting? Perhaps. Setting these moments in Ireland, however, is a shorthand way of enhancing these emotions.*
Romance novelist Nora Roberts — author of well over 200 books — placed multiple stories in the magic of Ireland. The Gallaghers of Ardmore Trilogy (Jewels of the Sun, Tears of the Moon, Heart of the Sea) begins with the first book’s heroine leaving her job and recent divorce in Chicago and going to live in Ireland for three months. From there, the trilogy relies heavily on the sort of faerie myths and legends that are abundant in Ireland to bring together its three heroes and heroines.
Ireland, it seems, is a land where anything can happen, whether by magic actual or perceived. What are some of your favorite stories set in Ireland? What is it about Ireland that stimulates the imagination?
*P.S. I Love You was adapted from the novel by Cecelia Ahern, and in the novel, Holly and Gerry live in Dublin, not in New York City as they do in the film. The adaptation preserved the connection to Ireland but also used it as a representation of Holly’s journey.