The Irish: A Character Study
By Sean O'Faolain
Why this book?
This fine introduction to both the Irish themselves, and their tortured history, was first published in 1947 by this respected commentator. The only way to really understand Ireland is to dissect the many distinctive population groups -- their peculiarities of religion, social outlook, political ambitions, and allegiances -- and then to see how the mixture of these complex streams determined the country's history, with positive but also calamitous results over many centuries. O'Faolain deals with the indigenous Celts, the interloping Normans, the increasingly acquisitive English, and how the tumultuous interactions between them produced the core of Irish society: its peasantry, the Anglo-Irish aristocracy, the clergy, politicians, rebels, writers, and dreamers.
The only thing O'Faolain missed, because he didn't live to see it, was the emergent, and now dominant, middle class of the Celtic Tiger. A beautifully written book.
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