Irish Nocturnes contains eighteen essays ranging in subject matter from the Siege of Derry to Buddhist philosophy, from owls and kingfishers to fear of the dark, from sheepdogs to how we acquire language, from learning things by heart to coping with a sense of exile, from the origin of life to making linen, from bits of bone to Japanese bells. Underlying this diversity is a common origin. In the Foreword the author says that his essays “are rooted in the same parts of Ireland as I am. They took shape where I was born and grew up. Inevitably, they derive much of their tone and colour from the places, people and events that constitute my background. To the extent that writing has a voice, they speak with the same accent whose inflection and intonation mark every word I utter.”
The book’s title, Irish Nocturnes, is derived from John Field, the Irish composer who created the nocturne form and who wrote eighteen nocturnes.