by Frank Delaney


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In the winter of 1951, a storyteller, the last practitioner of an honored, centuries-old tradition, arrives at the home of nine-year-old Ronan O'Mara in the Irish countryside. For three wonderful evenings, the old gentleman enthralls his assembled local audience with narratives of foolish kings, fabled saints, and Ireland's enduring accomplishments before moving on. But these nights change young Ronan forever, setting him on a years-long pursuit of the elusive, itinerant storyteller and the glorious tales that are no less than the saga of his tenacious and extraordinary isle.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780061244438
Publisher: HarperCollins Publishers
Publication date: 02/05/2008
Edition description: Reprint
Pages: 576
Sales rank: 124,063
Product dimensions: 5.31(w) x 8.00(h) x 0.92(d)

About the Author

Frank Delaney was born in Tipperary, Ireland. A career in broadcasting earned him fame across the United Kingdom. A judge for the Booker Prize, several of his nonfiction books were bestsellers in the UK, and he writes frequently for American and British publications. He now lives with his wife, Diane Meier, in New York and Connecticut. Ireland is his first novel to be published in the United States.


New York, New York, and Kent, Connecticut

Date of Birth:

October 24, 1941

Date of Death:

February 21, 2017

Place of Birth:

Tipperary, Republic of Ireland

Place of Death:

Danbury, Connecticut


Thomastown National School 1947-54; The Abbey School, Tipperary, 1954-60; Rosse College, Dublin, 1960

Read an Excerpt


By Frank DeLaney

Harper Paperbacks

Copyright © 2008 Frank DeLaney
All right reserved.

ISBN: 9780061244438

Chapter One

Wonderfully, it was the boy who saw him first. He glanced out of his bedroom window, then looked again and harder - and dared to hope. No, it was not a trick of the light; a tall figure in a ragged black coat and a ruined old hat was walking down the darkening hillside; and he was heading toward the house.

The stranger's face was chalk-white with exhaustion, and he stumbled on the rough ground, his hands held out before him like a sleepwalker's. He looked like a scarecrow deserting his post. High grasses soaked his cracked boots and drenched his coat hems. A mist like a silver veil floated above the ground, broke at his knees, and reassembled itself in his wake. In this twilight fog, mysterious shapes appeared and dematerialized, so that the pale walker was never sure he had seen merely the branches of trees or the arms of mythic dancers come to greet him. Closer in, the dark shadows of the tree trunks twisted into harsh and threatening faces.

Across the fields he saw the yellow glow of lamplight in the window of a house, and he raised his eyes to the sky in some kind of thanks. With no fog on high, the early stars glinted like grains of salt. He became aware of cattle nearby, not yet taken indoors in this mild winter. Many lay curled on the grass where they chewedthe cud. As he passed, one or two lurched to their feet in alarm and lumbered off.

And in the house ahead, the boy, nine years old and blond as hay, raced downstairs, calling wildly to his father.

The stranger's bones hurt, and his lungs ached almost beyond endurance. Hunger intensified his troubles; he'd eaten one meal in three days. The calm light in the window ahead pulled him forward in hope. If he held their attention, he might get bed and board for a week - and maybe more. In the days of the High King at Tara, a storyteller stayed seven days and seven nights. Did they know that? Nobody knew anything anymore.

With luck, though, the child in this house would help. Children want stories, and the parents might stretch their hospitality, fired by the delight in the boy's eyes. Unlike last night's billet; high up on a hill farm, he had slept in a loft above the cows, where the east wind got at his bones. The ignorant people there, who had no use for stories, gave him no food and closed their fireside to him. It happened more and more.

But this house would surely prove better; and it was, after all, Halloween, the great time of the year for telling stories, the time of All Souls', when the dead had permission to rise from their graves and prowl the land.

Over the last few hundred yards the fog dispersed into flitters and wisps. At the house, a small white gate opened from the lane into a country garden, which in summer would shine with bunched roses and morning glories and tresses of sweet pea. The tall man in the black coat rapped twice on a brass knocker. Immediately, the husband of the house opened the door.


The stranger and the householder exchanged a solid handshake, eye to eye. Behind his father, the boy waited in the hallway, jigging from foot to foot.

"God save all here," said the stranger; he hunched his shoulders nervously.

Over the years, his voice had grown deep and rotund. His manner and speech had an unusual formality, with trace elements of stately English from an earlier century and a hint of classical learning. Consequently, his language rang generally more colorful than the speech of the people he met every day.

The man of the house smiled and stood aside.

"Come in. You brought clear skies to us."

"With your permission, I'll bring clear thoughts too."

"Your coat is wet - let me take it."

The man extended a cold, bony hand to the boy peeking around his father's waist.

"A fine boy. God save you too, ma'am!" called the Storyteller to the woman of the house.

She looked irked, and he guessed that he, this stringy, unwashed man, with skin like canvas, would disrupt her rigorous household; nonetheless she set a place for him while her husband, pleased and comfortable, poured the visitor a drink.

The boy watched the stranger attacking the food like a tired hound. He sensed that the man's hunger fought with the man's decorum. Nobody spoke because the newcomer seemed too famished to be interrupted. The boy examined the man's face, saw the long, thin scar, wondered if he had been in a knife fight, perhaps with a sailor on some foreign quayside.

And the sodden boots - in his mind he saw the stranger fording streams, climbing out of gullies, traversing slopes of limestone shale on his endless travels across the country. Did he have a dog? Seemingly not, which was a pity, since a dog could have sat guard by the fire at night. Did the man ever sleep in caves? They said that bears and wolves had long been extinct in Ireland - but had they?

That evening, in that white house among the fields, a boy's most passionate dream came true. His father had long talked of the traveling storytellers. He said they possessed brilliant powers; they brought the long-gone past to life vividly, without what he called "the interference of scholars. Those professors," he said. "They dry out history in order to put it down on paper." In his father's view, a tale with the feeling taken out of it had "no blood and was worth very little."

But the old stories, told by traveling storytellers round the fireside on winter evenings - they came hurtling straight down the long, shiny pipeline of the centuries, and the characters, all love and hate and fire, "tumbled out on our own stone floor."


Excerpted from Ireland by Frank DeLaney Copyright © 2008 by Frank DeLaney. Excerpted by permission.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

What People are Saying About This

Jack Higgins

“An absolute masterpiece. With this extraordinary novel Frank Delaney joins the ranks of the greatest of Irish writers.”

Edward Rutherfurd

“A remarkable achievement....Frank Delaney has written a beautiful book.”

Customer Reviews

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Ireland 4.2 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 135 reviews.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Author of Shannon and Tipperary, Frank Delaney's passion for writing novels about Ireland has reached its pinnacle. Ireland is a page turning story of a boy who searches for a storyteller who rested at his house for a while. Ronan, the boy, is so enthralled with the storyteller and his stories that he sets out to find him. The storyteller wanders the countryside, staying with people who will feed him and give him shelter in exchange for telling stories. This starts the journey for Ronan to collect the stories of Ireland, find the mysterious storyteller and uncover his, and Ireland's history. The history of Ireland pours through Ronan's journey revealing the beauty and painful history of his country. This book is an excellent read for teenagers and adults. Whether you need a novel for school or something to read on an airplane, Ireland is an excellent choice with only one major flaw, its length. It appears discouraging at first, but when that back cover is closed for the last time, you almost have the urge to read the whole thing again. It is rich with the history and stories of a great nation. I especially enjoyed the beginning because of the stories told by the old man. The wording and imagery were unparalleled and it gave me the desire to keep reading. I too gained the desire to search for the nameless storyteller just as Ronan had while reading the book. For any high school student reading this review, this is a great example for the coming of age theme. Other themes could include the epic journey, self-discovery and tradition. This was an enjoyable read and a great page turner. When I came to "Of love and truth" I would not put the book down until the last word of the story was read. I believe this book is a classic and everyone that is interested in Ireland should read it. Why should you read this book? There is nothing to lose, only wonderful knowledge to gain.
Sstock More than 1 year ago
In "Ireland" Frank Delaney captures the very bittersweet air of his beloved country. For anyone who has heard the stories of Ireland, whether about Newgrange or leprechauns, this book tells those stories within the context of the characters and their lives. Delaney's writing style is lovely and as reminiscent of the Irish people as was Frank McCourt's. He tells the Storyteller's tales, as in the chapter that explains "how poetry came to Ireland," in ways that make those familiar with the history of Ireland feel they are standing on the shores of the Emerald Isle. A native of Ireland might weep to read these pages. It is the only book that I have read in recent memory that I will gladly read again.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This is one of the best books I have read in a long time. In the voice of a storyteller, I have learned more about Ireland than I ever knew and both the writing and the suspense in the novel have kept me glued to the book, which I am almost finished I would recommend this book to anybody and will probably buy additional copies for my children to teach them of their distant heritage.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I can only begin by saying that I wish I had read this book prior to taking my vacation to Ireland a few weeks ago. I found this book to be a joy to read as Irish history was being revealed through the storyteller and his anointed one Ronan. There is a lot to learn from Irish history and what a great way to receive this history through a series of stories told by the storyteller. The characters were very likable and were wrapped around several subplots that added richness and subtlety to the novel.
baxter1946 More than 1 year ago
When I began this book, I saw first the # of pages. But, I decided to begin anyway. I love the storyteller theme. We have a friend from Ireland & he is the new & improved storyteller. All the history, counties, & description of the area was so real to me - just like our storyteller. At first I didn't see the connection to the characters, but as I read along it began to unravel. It's a beautiful book and I will read anything Frank Delaney writes. I called our storyteller & recommended it to him. First thing he did was start telling me a story of him when he was a little boy. I knew right then I had fallen in love with Ireland.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
As a person raised in an Irish family of storytellers, I found this book to be wonderfully crafted. I loved settling down with the storyteller as he crafted his yarns, the storyline was intriguing and it held up well. Recommend without reservation.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I purchased this selection for my St. Patrick's Day reading weekend. Overall, I would recommend the book, although I had hoped for a little bit more of a background storyline woven in than what I feel is there which is why I only gave it four stars. I am enjoying the tales and legends of the Irish people, some of which I had not read about in the past.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
A great story about a story-teller, and his would-be apprentice... along the road, the reader is treated to a home-spun History of Ireland... for an added treat, try the audio version, read by Frank Delaney himself, repleat with his glorious Irish brogue.
NTFall More than 1 year ago
After reading this book it definitely intensified my desire of wanting to go to Ireland. I thought it was very good insight about the Irish as a people and their history. Out of all the stories told by the Story Teller, my favorite was the story of Finn MacCool and the Mountain of Women. I've already recommended this book to all my friends.
LindsayCB More than 1 year ago
An excellent read, my first intro to Irish History never covered in school. Delaney gives a brief sketch of the history and flavor of this somewhat mysterious country through wonderful tales, admittedly with a little blarney from time to time. Each tale covers an area of the country, its history and its people, hardships and triumphs, with a warmth and tenderness makes you anxious to read the next. I have missed this author but definitely will read him again.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Frank Delaney is already well known in Ireland and Britain. Now this wonderful, painstakingly crafted bit of lore comes to us in the States. It is hyper-literate and makes beautiful use of the language, as a story teller develops a relationship with a boy that lasts till his adulthood, and then ends with an interesting twist. If you have a love of Irish history and legend, or just appreciate a really well-told story, treat yourself to this beautifully written work. Snuggle in by the pool or fireside. It's nothing to rush through, but rather to savor.
Old_Ranger_Fan More than 1 year ago
A story about a story-teller. It has some interesting insights into the history of Ireland, fables, stories, personalities, etc. However, it is long on repetitive story telling. The book story itself was good, but could have been about 100 pages shorter with fewer details and insignificant details
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Anonymous More than 1 year ago
A loving and detailed trip through the history of Ireland, told in an engaging manner.
blondestranger on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
The story of Ronan and his small family is fantastic. The stories of Ireland woven throughout the book are also great. However, I found myself wishing that we weren't skipping around from story to story as much as the author was. It is an excellent book in concept but I didn't find the Storyteller's fables quite as entertaining as all the audience of the book - who were all transfixed by the marvels he spoke of. I felt myself longing to get back to the story of Ronan and his family and felt interrupted and at times annoyed by the return of the story teller and his tales. Overall an enjoyable book but not one that I'm likey to return to in the future.
judithrs on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Ireland. Frank Delaney. 2008. What a delightful way to learn Irish history! A storyteller appears unexpectedly at young Ronan home in 1951. Ronan is mesmerized by the tales and the teller. The storyteller leaves, and Ronan spends years looking for him. Ronan¿s search for the storyteller is is interspersed with legends and stories of Irish history from the beginning to the Easter Uprising and Ronan family history. Delaney has written other novels about Irish history that I plan to read.
puttsplace on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
This book has three parts to it: it is the story of Ronan O'Mara, a history-obsessed only child growing up with his doting father, abrasive mother, and fun-loving aunt in a small town in Ireland. One night, he looks out his window to see a man walking up the path, looking like 'a scarecrow that abandoned his post'. Enter the storyteller.The Storyteller stays for a few days and enchants Ronan, but his mother, Allison, doesn't want the man in her house and kicks him out. Thus begins Ronan's search for the Storyteller wonderful mix of history and fables, lore and fact. We meet St. Patrick, Finn MacCool, Brian Boru, Jonathan Swift and Edmund Spenser among others like Brendan the Navigator. Delaney introduces the reader to the Book of Kells, a fantastical artistic creation of medieval monks.
ddelmoni on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
I've come to believe that whatever Frank Delaney novel you read first, becomes your favorite Frank Delaney novel! Mine was Venetia Kelly.Ireland was very enjoyable. No matter how hard I try and how unfair this may be, however, Ireland pales by comparison to Venetia Kelly.
roydknight on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
I began this novel prior to a trip to Ireland with my wife and friends earlier this year (2010). I read some of it while I was there....and finished it when I returned. Delaney is a fantastic writer. He tell the story of a small boy who is mesmerized by the Storyteller, an itinerant man who travels around the countryside telling stories about the history of Ireland. It is fascinating way to learn about the wonderful history, people, and geography of the Emerald Isle. All the while we hear stories by the Storyteller, another plot that unfolds in the life of young Roman O'Mara with an almost predictable ending (at least for some). His life and the life of ther Storyteller become inextricably interwoven. It is one of the most enjoyable reads I have come across. The central characters are engaging, the plot intriguing and believable, and the book -- as I said -- concludes with a satisfactory understanding of the role of "story" in each of our lives.
Alliebadger on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
A very interesting read and a must for anyone who loves Ireland. The book alternates every other chapter between the story of a boy growing up in Ireland and finding the mysterious Storyteller who came to his house at the age of 9, and stories that make up the history of Ireland. Some of the stories can get a little dense (especially if you're not too familiar with Irish history), but they're worth it. And the story of Ronan growing up is genuinely intriguing. This is the kind of book that you have to make time to sit down and read--if you don't, it may cross over into that period of "will this ever end?". But trust me, the ending is worth it. I wish I had read it with a book club or for a class; there's really so much to discuss.
peggyar on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
I loved this book. I wanted to go to Ireland when I was finished reading it and I was very proud of my Irish roots. There was so much history that I didn't know and the storyline was also interesting. What a unique way to intertwine history with current events. I highly recommend this book.
kathygarrelts on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
excellent story about a storyteller, I passed on this book for a long time and loved every minute of it when I did read it.
anterastilis on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
I plucked this book from the "New Fiction" shelf at my library, based purely upon the previous nights' conversation with a friend about her honeymoon in Ireland.This book has three parts to it: it is the story of Ronan O'Mara, a history-obsessed only child growing up with his doting father, abrasive mother, and fun-loving aunt in a small town in Ireland. One night, he looks out his window to see a man walking up the path, looking like "a scarecrow that abandoned his post". Enter the storyteller.Back in the Olde Days, Storytellers would wander the roads of Ireland. Households would take them in and house them for a short time in exchange for evenings filled with wonderous tales of the history and people of Ireland. Ronan had always dreamed of a Storyteller happening upon his house, and when he was nine, his dream came true.The Storyteller stays for a few days and enchants Ronan, but his mother, Allison, doesn't want the man in her house and kicks him out. Thus begins Ronan's search for the Storyteller.This book alternates between the life of Ronan, his family drama and his obsession with finding the storyteller; and the stories that he hears as time goes on. There is an excellent balance between storyline and tale, it doesn't seem at all like Frank Delaney didn't have enough to fill a book so he put in some lore to add a chapter or two. The tales are written as an Old Storyteller would relate them - making it all the more charming and engaging.
dougwood57 on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Frank Delaney weaves a masterly tale of Ireland with a multi-layered voice. The main narrator, Ronan O'Meara, tells of his encounters, beginning as a young boy, with a Seanchai ("Shana-key"), a traveling storyteller. Ronan pursues the elusive storyteller across the island. The storyteller relates the history of Ireland in a variety of vignettes. Other narrators fill in the story, such as professor T. Bartlett Ryle. A wonderful mix of history and fables, lore and fact. We meet St. Patrick, Finn MacCool, Brian Boru, Jonathan Swift and Edmund Spenser among others like Brendan the Navigator. Delaney introduces the reader to the Book of Kells, a fantastical artistic creation of medieval monks. Reminiscent of Edward Rutherfurd's recent two-volume Dublin Saga, but the reader feels both more warmth and alienation in Delaney's telling, particularly as Ronan searches to find himself in this world. Most highly recommended, especially for readers with an interest in historical novels or Irish history.