Books

Briefly noted

Going Up the Holy Mountain by Gary Hastings (Columba, £12.50). Hastings, currently rector of St Nicholas Collegiate Church, Galway, has written a spiritual guidebook for those in quest of God, using Croagh Patrick as an extended metaphor for this pilgrimage. Each chapter is divided into subsections for readers to explore. These should be seen as little resting-places on the ascent. Chapters include “Mountains”, “Stations” and “Meditation”, with a final section on the topography of Croagh Patrick, the holy mountain which St Patrick is traditionally said to have climbed to pray.

One Crimson Thread by Micheal O’Siadhail (Bloodaxe, £12). Acclaimed Irish poet Micheal O’Siadhail pays tribute to his late wife, Brid, who had suffered from Parkinson’s disease for many years. This is a sequence of love sonnets chronicling her last two years. Describing Parkinson’s as “Mr P. The thief”, the author writes with unself-pitying brevity and passion, recalling that “For forty-four sweet years all thoughts were swapped” and recording the “unwanted schism” that inexorably pulls them apart. This is poetry that is deeply human and accessible, beautifully observed, honest and technically controlled.

The Silent Dead by Claire McGowan (Headline, £13.99). The third in McGowan’s Paula Maguire series finds the Irish police forensic psychologist pregnant and trying to trace the reasons for her mother’s mysterious disappearance during the Troubles. At the same time, perpetrators of a historic Omagh-style bombing are being kidnapped and executed. Maguire, burdened by extra weight and bad memories, tries to unravel the abductions. Are these vigilante killings or the Real IRA mopping up? McGowan captures the creepy atmosphere of Ireland well, as well as the bitter aftertaste of a long, drawn-out civil war.

Malta: Women, History, Books and Places by Susanna Hoe (Holo Books, £19.99). Malta has always been a fascinating crossroads of culture, stuck between Christian Europe and the Muslim lands. Hoe takes us through the gripping tale of Malta’s famous women, beginning with Maria de Dominici who was born in 1645. She was an artist who had a crater on the planet Mercury named after her. Hoe narrates the history of Malta refracted through the lives of such extraordinary women as Vera Brittain and Florence Nightingale.