Today marks the beginning of the Leaving Cert, the final school exams in Ireland before you head off to college. It’s the sixth anniversary of when I sat my own exams, meaning I’ve been out of secondary school now for as long as I was in it. Kids starting their Leaving Cert weren’t even in secondary school when I sat my own exams. And that, readers, is how you feel old.
In honour of this great moment, I took a look at the texts and tomes I studied for my own Mental Torture™. The greatest feat will be if I can actually remember them. In this, I’ve included my studied prose – this would enter into thesis levels if I rattled off all the poetry and poets I focused on.
The Cinnamon Tree
Look, it’s been almost ten years since my Junior Cert, ok?
We kept a diary of this book as we studied it and I really wish I could find it now because I have a vague to slim recollection of this book’s plot. It follows Yola, from Africa, whose leg is injured in a landmine accident and needs to be amputated. She travels to Ireland to be fitted with a prosthesis, and soon meets a young boy named Fintan. The pair are soon involved in a deadly arms race.
The title comes from Yola’s memory of an overpowering scent of cinnamon as she stood on the landmine. If my English teacher Mr Dolan (who taught me the whole way through from second year to Leaving Cert and is a firm favourite) I can only apologise for my intense forgetfulness of the plot of this book. It in no way reflects his teaching.
The Merchant of Venice
The other classes got to do Romeo and Juliet and Julius Ceasar and I was kind of jealous. Until I started this play and realised it had everything you could want to entertain a 15 year old student.
You’ve got romance, deceit, bromance, action, revenge, and a court case. It’s like a 16th century episode of Coronation Street.
The Lion King, but with humans. Hamlet is Shakespeare’s longest work but I was hooked on the story from the word go.
Hamlet, the young prince of Denmark, is visited by the ghost of his father tasked with avenging the old king’s death. The only problem is the murderer was Claudius, young Hamlet’s uncle, now the new king and married to Hamlet’s mother. And Hamlet must prove his uncle’s guilt.
Lies of Silence
This book focuses on the effects of The Troubles on the lives of those living in Northern Ireland. Michael, a hotel owner, and his wife Moira are taken hostage in their home. This event brings a lot of secrets to light – including Michael’s hidden affair.
Dancing at Lughnasa
Set in a small Irish village in the mid 1930s, Michael tells the audience of living with his mother and aunts, the return of his uncle from the African missionaries, and the year they got a radio.
What stories did you study for your exams?