IRISH JOURNAL is everything one could hope for from a fiction writer on a trip. The descriptions of Irish towns, countryside, and people are vivid, understated, thought provoking, mythical, and warm. The reader is left with a great admiration for the country and the people.
The journey begins with the arrival of the ship in Dublin. Drinking a cup of Irish tea, Boll considers the Irish and their tea; such ruminations color the book throughout. Boll visits a pub, a friend, and St. Patrick’s Cathedral. Readers see and hear the long train ride to the coast, a trip to a village that has been abandoned for seventy years, conversations in a pub in which Boll refutes the locals’ claim that Hitler was not such a bad man, the town of Limerick in the morning while everyone is in church and in the afternoon when it comes to life, the Irish attitudes toward time, and that “When God made time, he made Plenty of it.” Readers see and hear thoughts on Irish rain, a doctor who takes a treacherous trip along the coast in the middle of the night to deliver a baby, the Irish fascination with the weather and the importance of peat, a hilarious tale of two friends who actually meet at the top of the hill between their respective villages, each going to the other’s village to get a beer on Sunday afternoon because the pubs are closed unless one is from another town, what Mrs. D’s ninth child will be doing if she gets to stay in Ireland, a trip to get a bit of film at sunset, a trip to Yeats’s grave, the Irish ability to say “It could have been worse, “ in contrast to the German habit of thinking that whatever happens could not have been worse, a farewell, and an epilogue thirteen years later acknowledging the changes Ireland has seen since his trip.
Throughout these story-scenes, Boll reiterates the themes of loneliness in this underpopulated country, the fact that more than half of the children will have to emigrate to get work, drinking, the weather, the devout Catholicism, and the painfully vivid underlying beauty of the country and its people.