After a summer spent waiting with anticipation for a return to campus come September, and a very abnormal past academic year, many of us have taken to reading Trinity-based novels to help us imagine walking around Front Square, studying in the library, or sipping a pint in the Pavilion Bar (the Pav). Following the boom of Sally Rooney’s Normal People, writers and readers have been inspired and motivated to engage in more Irish literature. So, as we pack our suitcases in preparation for our return to Dublin, here are some of the best Trinity-based books to read before uni begins.
“The publishing of Normal People even brought about a “Normal People Bounce”, which resulted in over 40,000 applications to college”
First and foremost, Normal People (2018) must be mentioned for obvious reasons. If you haven’t already, the number one Trinity-based book to read is this. Beginning in Sligo, Rooney follows the complicated love story of Marianne and Connell as they move to Dublin to attend Trinity. Rooney herself attended Trinity, graduating in 2013. In her work, you can picture campus as you turn the pages, and the imagery of the grounds of Trinity certainly made us all long to return as we read the novel at its peak during the first lockdown. The publishing of Normal People even brought about a “Normal People Bounce”, which resulted in over 40,000 applications to college, or an 11% rise from 2019 statistics. The familiarity of reading such a well-constructed and accurate depiction of the college we love and miss so much brings about a warm comfort.
Another of Rooney’s Trinity-based novels is her debut Conversations With Friends (2017). Rooney follows the platonic and romantic relationship between Francis and Bobbi, two students who attend Trinity. Written in a similar style to Normal People, Conversations With Friends explores love, lust, jealousy, and desire. Rooney again depicts the city of Dublin and the grounds of Trinity with great accuracy, from local pubs to something as simple as walking through college. While this novel may not have been as popular as Normal People, it is a highly recommended piece of modern Irish literature.
“Tender follows the lives of young people in late 1990s Ireland and all of the changes occurring in the country at the time.”
As a book set in the 90s, Tender by Belinda McKeon (2015) details pre-millennium Trinity and follows two friends who met in Dublin. As well as attending Trinity, the recurring theme of relationships and love crop up in this novel. Tender follows the lives of young people in late 1990s Ireland and all of the changes occurring in the country at the time, such as the Good Friday Agreement and other major political events. It is a novel that some of us may be able to relate to, as the main character Catherine moves from rural Ireland to the big city. McKeon, born in Longford, attended Trinity, so her descriptions and imagery are all too familiar to readers.
Described as both an Irish twist on The Da Vinci Code and The Secret History, Barry McCrea’s The First Verse (2005) is a Dublin-based psychological novel that follows a Trinity student’s journey and exploration of a secret society in college. Having studied at Trinity, McCrea is able to accurately describe Halls, college life and the wonders that the city of Dublin has to offer. Following the character of Niall, The First Verse recalls that familiar feeling of leaving home and delving into student life. From partying to making new friends to romance, McCrea pins down the relatable emotions for those reading. A journey of self-discovery, mental illness and academic mystery — a must read for all!
“Between Dog and Wolf discusses explicit themes, such as sex — an element of college life that has often been pushed under the carpet by older generations of writers.”
Finally, told from the point of view of three Trinity students, Elske Rahill’s Between Dog and Wolf exhibits student life in Dublin. Published in 2013, Between Dog and Wolf explores contemporary topics that students deal with, such as sexuality, romance, self-discovery and the wildness of youth. Having graduated from Trinity herself, Rahill recounts experiences that many of us can empathize with, making her novel hard to put down. Described as a raw, honest novel, Between Dog and Wolf discusses explicit themes, such as sex — an element of college life that has often been pushed under the carpet by older generations of writers, yet features openly in many contemporary novels.
Make sure to pick up these novels next time you are going to your local bookstore; they will teach you about the wonderful student journey that we embark on in our own unique ways. Novels such as these help us to learn not only about ourselves due to their relatable content, but also about those around us in college. Happy reading!