If you’re interested in Celtic mythology but don’t want to wade through dry epic literature, try Wild Irish Roses by Trina Robbins. This is a fun, and often funny, romp through parts of the Irish mythology and history. Definitely a cliff notes version of long, lyric myths and dry biographies, Wild Irish Roses cuts to the chase about the women who made history from the Emerald Isle.


Trina Robbins’ previous books include Eternally Bad: Goddesses with Attitude, and the heroines of Wild Irish Roses do not disappoint in the attitude department, either. Ms. Robbins clearly knows her material, so she can narrate this select anthology with wit and vigor. The women are consistently smarter than the men, but then, in the ancient Irish traditions, women fought alongside the men, and were permitted to choose their husbands.


I had to laugh when I read this book, because I can see these women, whether legendary or real, talking in Ms. Robbins’ down-to-earth style.


Beside the legendary queens and Sidhe, we’re also treated to an overview of the more prominent Irish women of history.  Lady Wilde, known by her pen name of “Speranza”, wrote fiery poetry calling for an armed uprising against the British. Constance Gore-Booth, born an Anglo Protestant, shocked her social set by marrying the Catholic Count Markievicz, joining Sinn Fein and founding Fianna Eireann, an Irish militant version of the Boy Scouts. In 1910, the Countess was arrested for burning a British flag, launching her career of revolutionary-related imprisonments.


On this side of the ocean, we’re treated to a brief but reverent chapter on social reformer and humanitarian Mother Jones. Born in Ireland, Mother Jones emigrated to North America with her family, spent her adult life in the United States, much of it as an advocate for labor reform.  And finally, there is a brief tribute to the fictional Scarlett O’Hara, perhaps a throwback to those Wild Irish Roses of legend.


Entertaining and informative, this is a great book that packs highlights from history into a very readable form. It made me want more from this author, so I’ll be looking for a copy of Eternally Bad, while I wait for her next offering.


~review by Karen Phillippi

Author: Trina Robbins

Conari Press, 2004

pp.215, $14.95

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