In today’s installment of our Countdown to St. Patty’s Day, I thought I would assist those who are looking for a good book or two to learn more about Ireland and her history. So let me suggest a volume I feel can serve as a worthy introduction to the subject, Malachy McCourt’s History of Ireland.
A few weeks before I made my own journey across the pond to Ireland, I thought it made sense to brief myself a bit on its history. For this purpose, I chose McCourt’s book only because I was slightly familiar with the author and his sense of humor through a few television interviews I had seen with him. I was hoping his personality would come through to his written word, and I was not disappointed.
If you are a serious history buff and require great detail in your books, this one might not be for you. McCourt is not a historian, but clearly it was not his intention to masquerade as one here. He works his way through the centuries, from Brian Boru and the vikings all the way to modern Irish figures ranging from Gerry Adams and Bobby Sands to Bono and James Joyce. Without bogging you down in a swamp of dates and figures, McCourt offers up just enough of each event and personality. He not only informs you, but he succeeds in heightening your curiosity to learn more about his native home. Perhaps more importantly, after reading History of Ireland, I was simply amazed by the drama and emotion that has made the Emerald Isle what it is today.
If you venture into a pub in Dublin, or anywhere in Ireland for that matter, and ask a friendly local a question about one of the city’s statues or buildings, you likely will get an answer that is all at once irreverent, humorous and informative. This type of legendary storytelling is what makes the Irish so welcoming, and McCourt brings that charm to his book.
I certainly finished this book better informed for my trip, though I couldn’t help but wonder if McCourt wasn’t pulling my leg a bit, which I imagine is exactly what he intended. But do not misunderstand my meaning, there is certainly an appreciation and respect for the people and subjects within these pages. There is an emotional connection here between the author and his subject. But as I learned on my trip, it is a rare Irishman who would pass up the chance to entertain an audience.
By Dave McBride