In a somewhat tongue-in-cheek introduction, the authors of this work discuss the need for an "Irish Brewer" providing a fuller account of all aspects of Irish life and culture than that in the traditional Brewer volume. The result is a compendium recording people, places, and events in the tradition of its parent, Brewer's Dictionary of Phrase and Fable (16th ed., HarperCollins, 2000).
In keeping with its lineage, this dictionary is quite eclectic, beginning somewhat surprisingly with Aachen (the German city of the Holy Roman Emperors, here included because of the influx of Irish scholars) and ending with Zozimus (the nickname of balladeer Michael Moran). McMahon, editor of volumes such as the recent Derry Anthology (Blackstaff Press, 2002), and O'Donoghue, coauthor (with McMahon) of The Mercier Companion to Irish Literature (Mercier Press, 1998), fill in the intervening pages with entries as diverse as Collins, Michael; Linen Hall Library; Philadelphia, Here I Come (Brian Friel's first play); and Smithereens. Entries read in the usual informative, casual style typical of the Brewer family of reference works.
Each entry is completely cross-referenced within the volume. For example, the entry on Irish revolutionary Michael Collins points to those of others involved in the Irish fight for independence, the places and events of the period, and the cultural resurrection he underwent after the eponymous 1996 film of his life. The volume is not just limited to the Irish Republic, drawing as it does on some of the people, places, and events of the Northern Ireland Troubles (for example, events in Derry are cited under entries such as Bloody Sunday 1972; Bogside, Battle of the; and the Burntollet ambush).
As a volume documenting Ireland, its history, people, culture, places, and events, this is a worthy addition to any general reference collection. John Doherty
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