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Thursday, June 22, 2006

Read Ireland

Read Ireland Book Reviews – Issue 341 ------------------------------------- Bobby Sands: Nothing But an Unfinished Song by Denis O’Hearn (Large Paperback; 20.00 Euro / 25.00 USD / 14.00 UK; 434 pages) At seventeen, Bobby Sands was interested in music, girls and soccer.Ten years later, he led his fellow prisoners on a protest that grabbed the world's attention.Bobby Sands turned twenty-seven on hunger strike, after spending almost nine years in prison because of his activities as a member of the Irish Republican Army.When he died on May 5, 1981, on the sixty-sixth day of his hunger strike against repressive conditions in Northern Ireland's H-Block prisons, parliaments across the world stopped for a minute's silence in his honour.Nelson Mandela followed his example and led a similar hunger strike in South Africa.Bobby Sands' remarkable life and death have made him the Irish Che Guevara.He is an enduring figure of resistance whose life has inspired millions around the world.But until the publication of this book, nothing has adequately explored the motivation of the hunger strikers, nor recreated this period of history from within the prison cell.Denis O'Hearn's powerful biography, which contains an enormous amount of new material based on primary research and interviews, illuminates for the first time this enigmatic, controversial and heroic figure. ------------------------------------- The Provisional IRA in England: The Bombing Campaign 1973-1997 by Gary McGladdery (Large Paperback; 30.00 Euro / 36.00 USD / 24.00 UK; 272 pages) In this revealing and fascinating account, the impact of the Provisional IRA's bombing campaign in Britain on both British government policy towards Northern Ireland and the internal politics of the republican movement, are examined in detail. The book highlights the early thinking of the British government and draws on recently released public records from 1939, 1973 and 1974. It makes extensive use of television documentary footage to offer a broader analysis. The book also examines republican rationale behind the campaign, the reasoning behind the use of particular tactics and the thinking behind atrocities, such as the Birmingham bombings. Using a range of new evidence, the book highlights the bankruptcy of republican strategic thinking and challenges the notion that successive British governments appeased republicans because of the threat of bombs in London. The analysis of the campaign is placed within the wider context of the ongoing violence in Northern Ireland as well as the history of republican violence in England dating back to the nineteenth century. ---------------------------------------- The Northern IRA and the Early Years of Partition 1920-1922 by Robert Lynch (Large Paperback; 30.00 Euro / 36.00 USD / 24.00 UK; 246 pages) The years 1920-22 constituted a period of unprecedented conflict and political change in Ireland. It began with the onset of the most brutal phase of the War of Independence and culminated in the effective military defeat of the Republican IRA in the Civil War. Occurring alongside these dramatic changes in the south and west of Ireland was a far more fundamental conflict in the north-east, a period of brutal sectarian violence which marked the early years of partition and the establishment of Northern Ireland. Almost uniquely, the IRA in the six counties were involved in every one of these conflicts and yet, it can be argued, was on the fringe of all of them. The period 1920-22 saw the evolution of the organisation from peripheral curiosity during the War of independence to an idealistic symbol for those wishing to resolve the fundamental divisions within the Sinn Fein movement, which developed in the first six months of 1922. The story of the Northern IRA's collapse in the autumn of that year demonstrated dramatically the true nature of the organisation and how it was their relationship to the various protagonists in these conflicts, rather than their unceasing, but fruitless war against partition, that defined its contribution to the Irish revolution. ---------------------------------------- Myths and Memories of the Easter Rising: Cultural and Political Nationalism in Ireland by Jonathan Githens-Mazer (Large Paperback; 30.00 Euro / 36.00 USD / 24.00 UK; 238 pages) This book examines the political transformation and radicalisation of Ireland between the outbreak of the First World War, August, 1914, and Sinn Fein's landslide electoral victory in December, 1918. It argues, through a novel application of theories of ethno-symbolism and social movement theory, that the myths, memories and symbols of the Irish nation formed the basis for interpretation of the events of the Easter Rising, and that this interpretation stimulated members of the Irish nation to support radical nationalism. The book calls this phenomenon the Cultural Trigger Point. Through an examination of a variety of sources, the book traces, in particular, the impact of the Great War on cultural and religious nationalism, and its role in the rise of radical Irish nationalism. ------------------------------------- The GPO and the Easter Rising by Kieth Jeffery (Large Paperback; 25.00 Euro / 30.00 USD / 20.00 UK; 222 pages) All existing accounts of the GPO in 1916 concentrate on the Volunteers who occupied the building on Easter Monday. But what of those Dubliners and others who were working in the Post Office that morning? Their experiences have been largely ignored in all subsequent historiography. While not neglecting the rebels, this book tells their story too, using hitherto unpublished material drawn from the treasure-trove of documents relating to the Rising held in the British Post Office Archives, which has remained unexplored for ninety years and never before exploited by historians. This material complemented with further important unpublished material from the British National Archives, as well as other vivid eyewitness accounts first published shortly after the Rising. This book brings a strikingly fresh perspective to the history of the Rising. ------------------------------------------- A Destiny That Shapes Our Ends: Florence and Josephine O’Donoghue’s War of Independence edited by John Borgonovo (Large Paperback; 30.00 Euro / 36.00 USD / 24.00 UK; 252 pages, with an 8-page black-and-white photo insert) Historian and IRA leader Florence O'Donoghue describes his experiences as head of intelligence in Cork city during the Irish War of Independence (1919-1921). He candidly assesses the leaders of this period, including Tomas MacCurtain, Sean O'Hegarty, Terence MacSwiney and Michael Collins, and critically examines the evolution of the Irish Volunteer citizen-soldiers. He also details his wife, Josephine's role as the top IRA spy in Cork's British Army headquarters, working for the rebels in exchange for the return of her eldest son, lost in a bitter custody battle with her in-laws. After O'Donoghue kidnapped the child and reunited him with his mother, the two collaborators eventually fell in love and were secretly married in the spring of 1921. Forty years later, the couple presented their story to their children in order to explain the family secret that had haunted their domestic lives. The first part of the book is O'Donoghue's and his wife's account of their activities in the Anglo-Irish War, written in 1961; the second part is composed of 47 letters in diary form, written by O'Donoghue to his wife, while he was 'on the run' during the last ten weeks of the Anglo-Irish War, from May to July 1921. They provide a rare snapshot of the daily life of fugitive IRA guerrillas. ---------------------------- New in Paperback This Week: -------------------------- Last of the Celts by Marcus Tanner (Large Paperback; 20.00 Euro / 25.00 USD / 14.00 UK; 300 pages, with 16 page black-and-white photo insert) A cultural tour spanning the Celtic world from the Outer Hebrides of Scotland to Brittany, and from Cape Breton to Patagonia, this book sets out to find out what has happened to the Celtic peoples in a world where pressure to conform to Anglo-American culture has grown ever stronger. Taking the form of a journey that starts in the wilds of north-west Scotland, before proceeding through western Wales, the Isle of Man, troubled Northern Ireland, the western seaboard of the Irish Republic and The French region of Brittany, the author weaves solid historical research into the language, religion, music and customs of the peoples concerned with first-hand encounters with a host of priests, ministers, government officials, cultural activists, musicians and writers. The author finds talk of a Celtic revival much misplaced, for while the term "Celtic" is banded around as never more, largely to suit the needs of commerce and tourism, the fragile cultures the word actually refers to in the north-west of Britain, Ireland and France are closer than ever before to extinction. As the author discovers on his journey, the tide is going out at different speeds in different places. While Welsh culture and language are (relatively) robust, the rich culture of the Bretons is heading for almost certain oblivion in a decade or two at most, as relentless, centuries-long pressure to "be French" reaches its climax. Nor are the prospects much brighter for the small Celtic communities in the New World. As the author travels from Cape Breton in Canada to Patagonia in Argentina, he finds the once sturdy communities of Gaelic and Welsh speakers facing exactly the same threats of assimilation and ultimate disappearance. It is a development that impoverishes us all. -------------------------------------- Dublin’s Lost Heroines: Mammies and Grannies in a Vanished City by Kevin C. Kearns (Large Paperback; 15.00 Euro / 18.00 USD / 10.00 UK; 330 pages) Kevin C. Kearns, the acclaimed author of "Dublin Tenement Life" and other oral histories, has now prepared a masterly work of reminiscence, celebration and dignity. Based on interviews he has conducted during annual visits to Dublin extending over thirty years, he has drawn together a unique picture of women's lives in the old Dublin slums. The slums of Dublin were among the worst in Europe, rivalled only by Glasgow. Tall town houses, originally built as elegant homes for the rich in the eighteenth century, fell into the hands of avaricious and pitiless landlords who filled them to bursting point with the desperate and impoverished urban poor. Conditions were often unspeakably vile, with massive over-crowding and utterly inadequate sanitation. Yet out of these dreadful tenements, families were reared, households kept together and human dignity maintained. As with most impoverished societies, this was overwhelmingly the work of women, the mammies and grannies of the Dublin slums whose voices course through this remarkable book. They tell of how they lived, of the difficulties they faced, of the grinding poverty, the unemployment, the fecklessness of their men folk and always of their heroic struggle to maintain the basic decencies of human life in inhuman conditions. ----------------------------------------- Available Again: ---------------- Dublin Tenement Life: An Oral History by Kevin C. Kearns (Large Paperback; 15.00 Euro / 18.00 USD / 10.00 UK; 237 pages) This book is based on the original oral histories of the survivors of the old Dublin tenements. For nearly 150 years, the wretched, squalid, tenements of Dublin were widely judged to be the worst slums in all of Europe. By the 1930s, 6300 tenements were occupied by almost 112,000 tenants. Some districts had 800 people to the acre, up to 100 occupants in one building and 20 family members crammed into a single tiny room. It was a hard world of hunger, disease, high mortality, unemployment, heavy drinking, prostitution and gang warfare. But despite their hardships, the tenants poor enjoyed an incredibly close-knit community life in which they found great security and, indeed, happiness. As one policeman recalls from 50 years ago, they were "extraordinarily happy for people who were so savagely poor". This book captures their social life, their wit, their rousing wakes and their incredible sense of community solidarity. In their own words, the last of the tenement dwellers bear testimony to the rich human mosaic of a bygone world. Their accounts are sometimes tragic and emotionally wrenching but equally they are an inspiring chronicle of struggle and survival. -------------------------------- New Edition: ------------ Tracing Your Irish Ancestors 3rd edition by John Grenham (Large Paperback; 25.00 Euro / 30.00 USD / 20.00 UK; 525 pages) This third edition of "Tracing Your Irish Ancestors" retains the three-part structure of earlier editions, but updates and improves the material already included while adding new sources which have emerged since publication of the second edition in 1998. The bibliographies - an important element of the book - are more comprehensive than ever before. With the growing use of Internet searches, the number of sources has grown dramatically since the last edition. John Grenham has a specific chapter on the Internet, with detailed references to online transcripts in the source lists. In addition, the invaluable index has been completely revised and updated to take account of the 35 per cent increase in the extent of this new edition over the previous one. 'A book which has already established itself as the standard reference book for genealogical researchers, professional or amateur, who are dealing with Irish sources' - "Ireland of the Welcomes". ' The most authoritative book on the subject' - Cara. 'Books on how to trace your Irish ancestors pour from the presses. Here is a really worthwhile one, comprehensive, clearly laid out and interesting to read.' - "Books Ireland". ------------------------------------------ Highlights from the Previous Issue: ---------------------------------- Ludmila’s Broken English by DBC Pierre (Trade Paperback; 14.00 Euro / 18.00 USD / 11.00 UK; 317 pages) DBC Pierre's second novel charts the unlikely meeting between East and West that follows Ludmila Derev's appearance on a Russian brides website. Determined to save her family from starvation in the face of marauding Gnez troops, Ludmila's journey into the world and womanhood is an odyssey of sour wit, even sourer vodka, and a Soviet tractor probably running on goat's piss. Thousands of miles to the West, the Heath twins are separated after 33 years conjoined at the abdomen. Released for the first time from an institution rumoured to have been founded for an illegitimate child of Charles II, they are suddenly plunged into a round-the-clock world churning with opportunity, rowdy with the chatter of freedom, democracy, self-empowerment and sex. A wild and raucous picaresque dripping with flavours of British bacon and nasty Russian vodka, Ludmila's "Broken English" is a tale of tango-ing twins on a journey into the unknown. A ride so outrageously improbable it just may happen, DBC Pierre's second novel confirms his place in the ranks of today's most original storytellers. -------------------------------------- An Irish History of Civilization volume Two by Don Akenson (Hardback; 40.00 Euro / 50.00 USD / 30.00 UK; 696 pages) 'Some of these stories are accurate; all of them are true...' In his "An Irish History of Civilization", Don Akenson, the world's leading scholar of the Irish Dispora, fuses history and fiction into a remarkable narrative of the people and their influence around the globe. "An Irish History of Civilization" is about the Irish at home and abroad, the great and the small, the noble and the depraved, the saints and he sinners, adventures and idealists. As Akenson follows his chosen people on their odyssey around the globe, the lines between history and fiction become irretrievably, beguilingly lost in the mists of time. Volume Two begins with the Great Famine and goes on to show the Irish adapting, improvising and innovating in Ireland and overseas - in North America, Australia, New Zealand, Polynesia and South Africa. The book ends by demonstrating the centrality of both Catholic and Protestant Irish culture to the United States. --------------------------------------- The Lightning Tree by P J Curtis (Paperback; 16.00 Euro / 20.00 USD / 11.00 UK; 275 pages) This is a haunting novel based on the life and voice of an old "wise woman" and healer. The year is 1954. The place is the Burren, a wild, rugged limestone region on the west coast of Ireland. This is a world of old customs, strong traditions and deeply-held religious and social values. It is also a pagan place, of ghosts and spirits, old beliefs and superstitions. In this time and place lives Mariah, an old woman of considerable powers, the last of a long line of renowned healers. Some say her power is a gift from God; others that it comes from the devil, that she is a witch. In this unique novel a voice from the past speaks with remarkable contemporary relevance. Mariah's views are refreshingly alternative at a time when we may be coming full circle to an appreciation of old healing arts and the concept of contentment with a simpler life. -------------------------------------- The Picture She Took by Fiona Shaw (Hardback; 21.00 USD / 26.00 UK / 16.00 UK; 342 pages) How far will a man go in war? And how far will a woman go to bring him back? In a bombed-out village, on the Western Front, Jude nurses the wounded in her cellar hospital. War is the making of her, and she records all she can, taking photographs of everything, capturing life in the midst of death. Survivor of a very different conflict, Daniel has come home from Ireland a haunted man. Signed up to the hated Black and Tans, he is disfigured by a campaign he fought in but didn't understand. A few years later an innocent photograph exposes an extraordinary tale. A chance snapshot, two soldiers sharing a cigarette, brings together Jude and Daniel and propels them on a strange journey. People travel a long way from themselves in battle and some never return. This searching, beautiful novel is about the wars we wage against others and against ourselves; it is a powerful story of memory, flight and desire. -------------------------------------- Tell Me Your Secret by Deirdre Purcell (Large Paperback; 15.00 Euro / 18.00 USD / 11.00 UK; 342 pages) A powerful and thought-provoking novel about women's lives from the high-profile journalist and writer. An evocative and dramatic novel told in the voices of two narrators: Violet, who in 1944 is imprisoned in the tower of a rambling country house by her family; and Claudine, a modern-day property negotiator who becomes involved in handling the sale of the derelict Whitecliff in 2004. Violet's story is of young innocent love for a local lad taking an unfortunate twist, while Claudine is a thoroughly twenty-first-century character: daughter of a loving father with a less loving stepmother, she marries in haste after her father's death, and is at a turning point in her life when she starts to find out the true story of Violet. Is happiness a possibility for these women in their separate and very different worlds? ----------------------------------- Pretending by Caroline Williams (Large Paperback; 13.00 Euro / 16.00 USD / 9.00 UK; 390 pages) Martina is in love with Cuan. Eleanor used to be in love with Cuan. In fact, sooner or later, everyone falls for Cuan. But Cuan knows he can't fall in love with anyone, and he wishes people would stop looking for something he can't give. Now Eleanor is on the verge of falling in love with someone who isn't Cuan, but she still can't stop herself obsessing about him. And Martina can't bring herself to fall out of love with him either. Sooner or later Cuan is going to have to come clean about why he won't do what comes naturally to everyone else. And they're all going to have to learn that true love doesn't follow any rules. "Pretending" is a tender and addictive story of love, secrets, confused identities and learning to see people for who they really are not what they pretend to be. ------------------------------------- Object Lessons by Eavan Boland (Paperback; 20.00 Euro / 25.00 USD / 14.00 UK; 272 pages) 'I have put this book together, not as a prose narrative is usually constructed, but as a poem might be. In turnings and returnings. In parts which find and repeat themselves and re-state the argument until it loses its reasonable edge and hopefully becomes a sort of cadence.' In "Object Lessons" Eavan Boland meditates on womanhood in the specific places and times of her life. She engages, in a scrupulous and evocative prose, the issues of nationhood as well, clearing a space within Ireland where to be a woman and a poet has seemed in the past a contradiction in terms. The book functions in her work as Wordsworth's "Prelude" does in his, though Boland does not allow herself the luxury of rapture: to say no more or less than she means, she focuses on particulars, on 'obstinate details' that contain and represent larger meaning, connection and force. The autobiography here is not of a confessional kind: the facts which connect with other voices, other lives, matter. What the London Review of Books called Boland's 'radical but undoctrinaire feminism' informs all the related meditations in "Object Lessons", an enabling document of our time. Unease with Modernism, a concern with the erotic in time, and at every point a sense of continuities, mark the book as a portrait of a critical imagination of deep integrity finding a way among history's obstacles, finding itself in and through the lessons of the objects - particularly artifacts and poems - that it encounters. ---------------------------------------- A Perfect V by Mary O’Malley (Paperback; 14.00 Euro / 17.00 USD / 9.00 UK; 100 pages) The poems in Mary O'Malley's new collection focus on legal separation: of Northern from Southern Ireland, of written Irish from its original script, and of husband from wife. The book explores a season in hell when the verities vanish, the love we live by dies, and the ramparts that shore up our existence are demolished. A marriage breaks down, children leave home, love itself is questioned. What is home now? Where is it? And how do we live when we cannot return? The personal is examined through the lens of the greater human chaos. This is a book about eviction, an examination of the nature of home that is both private and political, written out of a sense of the barbarism that threatens to overwhelm the deep song of Ireland. ---------------------------------- Collected Poems of Greg Delanty (Paperback; 22.50 Euro / 27.50 USD / 15.00 UK; 256 pages) This volume brings together twenty years of the acclaimed Irish poet's work. Each of Greg Delanty's six books so far published is an entity in itself, a single-seeming movement. Bringing the books together in a single volume, juxtaposing them as it were, reveals the enormous resourcefulness and wit of this unusual poet who keenly interweaves material and themes drawn from his reading, writing and living (there is no real line between them). Marriage, childbirth, friendship, landscapes Irish and Indian and American, real and imagined, politics, the personal and private and the public...we are organised as a word and a line and a stanza are made from a tray of type, as in a tapestry the unseen sewing happens and holds, as in growth a foetus evolves into a child. Things fall apart, too, and there is pattern and method in that process as well. The poems draw on a rich inheritance from the different worlds that Delanty moves in: Ireland and America, Gaelic and English, traditional verse forms and modern colloquial. Past and future, their people and places, inform and interpret one another. ----------------------------------------------- Thank you for your continued support. It is vital for the continuation of this service! I respectfully request that if you are considering ordering any of these books that you do so through Read Ireland. I very much appreciate your patronage. To order books from the Read Ireland Book Review – simply return the Newsletter by clicking your reply button. Please DELETE the books you do NOT want and LEAVE the books you DO WANT to order. Alternatively, you can send an email to the order department at: Please be sure to include your full mailing address and credit card details including expiration date. You might like to split this information into 2 or 3 emails for security. You can of course also post your order to: Read Ireland, 392 Clontarf Road, Clontarf, Dublin 3,Ireland. Telephone and Facsimile number is: +353-1-853-2063. Read Ireland Web Site Home Page: or I have added a new feature to the Read Ireland website. It is a page listing ONLY the newest books added to or updated on the website. This new feature page will itself be superseded at least 3 times per month (next update 7 June). Checking this page on the Read Ireland website is an ideal way to keep abreast of what is happening in the world of Irish Interest publishing. Please visit often! If I can be of any further assistance, please do not hesitate to contact me. Thank you very much for your continued support and custom. Sincerely, Gregory Carr @ Read Ireland --------------------------------------------------------
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