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Like so many younger, third generation Irish-Americans, I've always been fascinated by Ireland. With its 15 millennia of complicated social and political situations, it can seem too foreign to wrap your head around, yet at the same time strangely familiar. The little "Irish stuff" you see is goofy plastic Paddy knick knacks that are sanitized to the tastes of an older generation desperate to assimilate. I would bet that while George Washington is known across Ireland, maybe one in ten Irish Americans could tell you who Collins or De Valera are. Material I've come across on the revolution or civil war or partition have struck me as some combination of sentimentality and propaganda. You certainly don't get a sense that you're part of a global diaspora.
This book, well narrated, really helped me get a sense of what life was like across Ireland just before and at the outset of the modern world. With current affairs in America, one very interesting aspect of the book is as a case study in a police state that sees itself as at war against their fellow citizens.
All in all this felt to me like a pretty straightforward, fascinating survey of the events that shaped Ireland at the time many of our families decided to emigrate.
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