As soon as they'd saved up for the three 'S's' - shoes, suitcase and a suit - they left rural Ireland. It might have been the London of the 1950s where 'No Blacks, No Irish No Dogs' was the welcome put out for immigrants, but for the big family that was Anna May Mangan's, it was still better than the poverty they'd hailed from; 'Don't waste today worrying because tomorrow will be even worse' was their motto. But Ireland came with them in the dance halls, holy water and gossip and there was always the warmth of the Irish crowd, in and out of one another's houses 'as if there was no front door'.
This is the first book about the literature of the Irish in London. By examining over 30 novels, short stories and autobiographies set in London since the Second World War, London Irish Fictions investigates the complex psychological landscapes of belonging and cultural allegiance found in these unique and intensely personal perspectives on the Irish experience of migration. As well as bringing new research to bear on the work of established Irish writers such as Edna O'Brien, John McGahern, Emma Donoghue and Joseph O'Connor, this study reveals a fascinating and hitherto unexplored literature, diverse in form and content. By synthesising theories of narrative and diaspora into a new methodological approach to the study of migration, London Irish Fictions sheds new light on the ways in which migrant identities are negotiated, mediated and represented through literature. It also examines the specific role that the metropolis plays in literary portrayals of migrant experience as an arena for the performance of Irishness, as a catalyst in transformations of Irishness and as an intrinsic component of second-generation Irish identities. Furthermore, by analysing the central role of narrative in configuring migrant cultures and identities, it reassesses notions of exile, escape and return in Irish culture more generally. In this regard, it has particular relevance to current debates on migration and multiculturalism in both Britain and Ireland, especially in the wake of an emerging new phase of Irish migration in the post-'Celtic Tiger' era.