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Malachy McCourt's History of Ireland (paperback) Paperback – January 29, 2008

4.1 out of 5 stars 45 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

McCourt (A Monk Swimming) breaks down Ireland's history into 16 sections and, through biographical vignettes, uses famous Irish men and woman to define each epoch. For example, he explores ancient Ireland by profiling the three most prominent Irish saints: Patrick, Brigid and Columcille. Each brief, colloquial sketch provides not only historical background but also colorful conjectures. Moving through history, readers encounter Brian Ború, the Irish king credited with expelling the Vikings and unifying Ireland; Strongbow, who led the Norman invasion of Ireland; and Hugh O'Neill, who battled Elizabeth for Irish freedom before succumbing in the Battle of Kinsale in 1601. Modern Ireland is represented by the likes of Theobald Wolfe Tone, a member of the (Presbyterian) United Irishmen, who led the unsuccessful revolution of 1798; and Daniel O'Connell, the Liberator, who brought religious freedom to Ireland's Catholics. Of course, modern revolutionary Ireland is represented by Michael Collins and Eamon De Valera, and there are also looks at writers W.B. Yeats and Samuel Beckett. McCourt takes us up to the present with portraits of Sinn Fein leader Gerry Adams and rock star Bono. Interesting for the neophyte, this volume will be old news for the veteran reader of Irish history.
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

About the Author

County Limerick native Malachy McCourt is the authority to tell the history of Ireland. He has written several books, including the best-selling A Monk Swimming, Singing My Him Song, Danny Boy, Voices of Ireland, and The Claddagh Ring. Complementing his literary work, McCourt is also a skilled actor. He appeared in the television series Oz and in feature films such as The Bonfire of the Vanities. He lives in New York City.
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Product Details

  • Paperback: 432 pages
  • Publisher: Running Press (January 29, 2008)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0762431814
  • ISBN-13: 978-0762431816
  • Product Dimensions: 6 x 1.3 x 9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.1 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.1 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (45 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #466,682 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Hardcover
To tell the history of Ireland, one needs to not only capture the truth of Ireland, but also the spirit of Ireland. What a tragedy it would be to tell Irish history in a boring or dry fashion. Fortunately for readers, McCourt not only captures fascinating historical details, but he is able to convey the story in an entertaining and rollicking fashion...as befitting the subject matter. The cast of characters here is huge and varied, ranging from St. Patrick to Yeats to Bono, and the book feels a bit like a friendly night at the pub with a nice fire, some songs, and a pint or two. McCourt takes an epic history, filled with triumph and tragedy, and brings it down to a personal level. This is a must-read for all who are Irish and all who are Irish at heart.
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Format: Hardcover
as one with virtually no knowledge of irish history, i bought this book with hopes of learning more about the interesting past of ireland, and especially about the complicated politics of 20th century ireland. this book was not one that fulfilled those hopes.

i'm not sure who mccourt's audience is - if you know a lot about ireland and its past, it seems like this book would offer you nothing new save prhaps a few interesting anecdotes. if, like me, you are looking for a starting point into irish history, i don't think this is a great book for you either. mccourt expects his readers to have a basic understanding of many events and political factions that are relevant to the past hundred years of ireland - if you don't have this knowledge, you may find yourself feeling you're missing large parts of the big picture.

mccourt's history is focused on important irish individuals, which helps his story-telling style by giving him the chance to bring these people to life with his descriptive tales. but it hurts the book as a history, because he ends up bringing up events from a person's life before he gets to explaining them as part of another person's life. this was somewhat confusing.

this isn't a terrible book - it paints interesting pictures of various figures from irish history. but if you want to gain an understanding of the whole of irish history, and especially if you're hoping to understand the forces at play in ireland's 20th century struggles for independence and unity, this is definitely not the book to read.
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
I can tell you that the best thing about McCourts wideranging view of Irish History is that he has painted a balanced history. There is no leaning one way or the other to highlight Cathlic vs Protestant, English vs Irish, Native vs Settler, Irish Clanship vs English Aristocratic, Native vs Old Irish vs Settlers vs Sinn Fein vs IRA vs Provisionals... because they all have their place in the telling. I come away from it much more appreciative of people from all those various factions who, risked their lives and careers not so much for their fundamental beliefs as their recognition that they all are Irish and were proud to be Irish, even if to many they had to become exiles to preserve what they knew was the best of it. Yes, if you were to close your eyes and envision Ireland as it is... you will get a much better picture of it after this book than after reading a score of books written from the perspective of any one else representing history from any one of the parochial histories that I just mentioned. Jim
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Format: Paperback
Anyone who wishes to get a basic understanding of the rise of English colonization should begin with a history of Ireland.
With multiple players involved, including rivalries between Gaelic chiefdoms, feuding Hiberno-Norman overlords, and Catholics versus Protestants; Irish history can be challenging to dissect.
What Malachy McCourt does achieve in 'A History of Ireland,' is provide the reader with glimpses of the complexity of this history through the eyes of some of its major players, tracing into the mists of the mythic past the legends of the Cuchulainn cycle, the story of St. Patrick and the spread of Christianity, and Brian Boru, the last high king of a united Ireland.
He follows this history through the incursion of Viking raiders, Norman Invaders, and the gradual weedling away of Irish independence by the English colonialist; introducing the reader to such characters as Turlough O'Connor, Silken Thomas, and Hugh O'Neill.
McCourt then brings Ireland into the contemporary age, relaying how the tragedy of the great famines of the 1800's welcomed in the movement for Irish independence in the 1900's; through the likes of men such as Charles Parnell, Douglas Hyde, James Conolly, Pedraig Pearse, players in the Easter rebellion of 1916.
Then, creating a minor diversion, he familiarizes the reader with the lives of some of the great Irish literary figures that influenced contemporary English literature; including William Butler Yeats, James Joyce, and Samuel Beckett.
The reader gets a sense of the troubles in Northern Ireland through his retelling of Bloody Sunday, and Bobby Sands, the Northern Irish political prisoner who gained fame through his fast protesting prison conditions.
Inside of these pages we also meet Sonny Bono, the lead singer for U2.
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