Synopses & Reviews
A trenchant look at the ways the Irish and others have told the "Story of Ireland," from W.B. Yeats to Frank McCourt
Roy Foster is one of the leaders of the iconoclastic generation of Irish historians. In this opinionated, entertaining book he examines how the Irish have written, understood, used, and misused their history over the past century.
Foster argues that, over the centuries, Irish experience itself has been turned into story. He examines how and why the key moments of Ireland's past the 1798 Rising, the Famine, the Celtic Revival, Easter 1916, the Troubles have been worked into narratives, drawing on Ireland's powerful oral culture, on elements of myth, folklore, ghost stories and romance. The result of this constant reinterpretation is a shifting "Story of Ireland," complete with plot, drama, suspense, and revelation.
Varied, surprising, and funny, the interlinked essays in The Irish Story examine the stories that people tell each other in Ireland and why. Foster provides an unsparing view of the way Irish history is manipulated for political ends and that Irish poverty and oppression is sentimentalized and packaged. He offers incisive readings of writers from Standish O'Grady to Trollope and Bowen; dissects the Irish government's commemoration of the 1798 uprising; and bitingly critiques the memoirs of Gerry Adams and Frank McCourt. Fittingly, as the acclaimed biographer of Yeats, Foster explores the poet's complex understanding of the Irish story "the mystery play of devils and angels which we call our national history" and warns of the dangers of turning Ireland into a historical theme park.
The Irish Story will be hailed by some, attacked by others, but for all who care about Irish history and literature, it will be essential reading.
"Erudite and acerbic." Kirkus Reviews
"Foster is a formidably funny and exciting writer, and it is a joy to watch as he charmingly herds each sacred cow to the slaughter." Craig Brown, The Mail on Sunday
"The outpouring of literature from Ireland has ever been enormous, and nothing seems to stem it, or to reduce the excellence of the best of it. Occasionally, amid that plenitude there emerges a book that startles and provokes to the point of demanding extraordinary attention. Such a book is The Irish Story....I can think of no book that more clearly, provocatively and intelligently delineates the important underlying contemporary truths of Ireland and the Irish than this insightful, courageous and splendid work." Michael Pakenham, Baltimore Sun
"Interesting, suggestive, mostly urbane, sometimes scathing." Wall Street Journal
"Roy Foster is one of the most elegant and probing writers on Irish topics and also one of the most controversial. In Ireland itself, where history matters, Foster attracts Cornel West-scale publicity. He's the leading figure in a generation of 'revisionist' historians who have chipped away at what they describe as Irish myths. American readers are about to get a fresh taste of his stiletto pen and icon-smashing habits when his latest book, The Irish Story hits these shores." Chris Shea, Boston Globe
"This engaging collection of 12 essays challenges what the author calls the penchant of the Irish to use overly simplistic techniques, such as nostalgia and cliche, as a means of understanding their history....Foster's writing, which is lively and unsparing, has already inspired much commentary in the UK and in Ireland." Publishers Weekly
"A very brave and provocative work that deserves to be read." Irish Post
"Anyone truly interested in real Irish history can do no better than to read Foster's latest, which could be subtitled 'Corrections in Irish History.' It is both hugely informative and much fun." Library Journal
About the Author
Roy Foster is Professor of History and a Fellow of Hertford College, Oxford. He is the author of W. B. Yeats: The Apprentice Mage and Modern Ireland, and is the editor of The Oxford History of Ireland.