The Transformation of Ireland

Diarmaid Ferriter, Author . Overlook $35 (884p) ISBN 978-1-58567-681-1

This book isn't a political history of 20th-century Ireland; it's more a chronicle of the social reaction to the events that shaped that century. Perhaps the most interesting part covers the last 40 years of the century. In 1959 the brilliant Seán Lemass finally became prime minister and set the tone for the future by finding bright, young ministers and letting them run their departments without interference. The dark side of Irish life is also explored: the church/state role in the Magdalen laundries, cleric pedophilia and other secrets that have come to light in the last decade. And a very deep feminist streak informs the text, from the War of Independence, to the fight for birth control in the 1970s, and the election of two women presidents in the last 15 years. No stone of social significance is left unturned, be it the problems of the Traveling People (Gypsies), crooked politicians or the needs of the urban poor. This book can be a rogues' gallery at times and a good knowledge of Irish history is helpful but not necessary. Ferriter (coauthor, The Irish Famine ), a lecturer in history at St. Patrick's College, Dublin City University, has written an informative, funny, at times derisive book that takes a fresh approach to 20th-century Ireland. (Oct.)

Reviewed on: 08/01/2005
Release date: 11/01/2005
Genre: Nonfiction
Paperback - 884 pages - 978-1-58567-882-2
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