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On an Irish Island

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3.79 of 5 stars 3.79  ·  rating details  ·  104 ratings  ·  26 reviews
On an Irish Island is a love letter to a vanished way of life, in which Robert Kanigel, the highly praised author of The Man Who Knew Infinity and The One Best Way, tells the story of the Great Blasket, a wildly beautiful island off the west coast of Ireland, renowned during the early twentieth century for the rich communal life of its residents and the unadulterated Irish ...more
Hardcover, 336 pages
Published February 7th 2012 by Knopf (first published January 1st 2012)
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Barbara
This was an amazing book. Kanigel has woven the history of the rise of 20th century writing in Irish, and the Great Blasket Island. I discovered that there were a number of outsiders aside from Robin Flowers, whose name I knew, who helped launch the literary movement on the island. A number of islanders wrote works in the Irish language starting with The IslandmanTomas O'Crohan. I didn't know that Irish speakers at the turn of the 20th century were not literate in Irish, though this makes sense ...more
Joan
A wonderful book about the people of the Great Basket during the first half of ,the 20th century, both the islanders and those few men and women who went to study the language and became part of the story. The hard lives of the island folk, their love of singing and dance, and story-telling contrast with the lives of the scholars who spend brief weeks with them, but are deeply moved and influenced by those times. It's the story of change and courage, and a tribute to the people who brought the i ...more
Steve Smits
I read "The Islandman" years ago when living in Ireland after visiting Slea Head on the Dingle peninsula and seeing the Blaskets across the sound; it's intriguing to imagine the tiny community on that desolate island, abandoned only in relatively recent times. The imagery of place and times conveyed by Tomas O Criomhthain is wonderous enough, but the language is what makes the book so marvelous. It has a luminosity and lyricism -- through Flower's superb translation from the Irish -- that is spe ...more
Susan
If you drive far enough around the Dingle Peninsula, you will come to the amazing Blasket Island Center and a fascinating story of what life was like before the last of the inhabitants left these remote Irish-speaking lands in the 1950s. To some extent this book is the story of the islanders. However, any insight into their way of life is limited because they relied on an oral tradition and few could read and write. The few exceptions created a subgenre of literature that is still important toda ...more
Carolyn Stevens Shank
This is a moderately interesting book about life on the idyllic Great Blasket Island, off the coast of Ireland. Set during the early Twentieth Century, the isolated spot was the site of a purer Irish culture before the onset of literacy, technology and emigration, eradicated the 18th century based customs, values, and communality.
The book is somewhat academic for most tastes, unless one is a student of Irish literature or of Irish history. Much of it concerns the incredible literary output of
...more
Liam O'Shiel
The story of educated English and Irish authors immersing themselves in the isolated, Gaelic-speaking culture of the Blasket Islands circa 1900 - 1930. Occasionally a little hard to follow as the author moves from one writer to another - but always absorbing and well-written. The best account I know of the now-vanished Blasket culture.
Chris
We want stories of isolated life to be mysterious and uplifting. This story was sometimes enticing, sometimes plodding. It's the sort of book to read only if you have a compelling interest in the topic.
John Benson
The topic of this book was something completely new to me. Off the west coast of Ireland is an island called Great Blasket, where about 150 people made their home till the early 1950s. The book tells the story of different influential visitors who formed connections with these islanders and had some of them share their stories which then became mainstays of Irish literature. The book brings out the impact of these visits to both the visitors and the islanders and the positive connections that de ...more
Tammy
This work is a unique combination of telling the story of a way of life that is gone, a language and word origin study, how writers are affected by location and people and the shared love and admiration for a particular set of islands, the Blaskets.

This story is set mainly of the Great Blasket, an island off the west coast of Ireland, known during the early twentieth century for the communal life of its residents and the unadulterated Irish they spoke. With the Irish language vanishing all throu
...more
Rae
I have a long standing fascination with the Blasket Islands - their beauty, their isolation, their story.
The roofless jumble of stone houses perched on the steep slopes of the island look out on the tip of the Dingle Peninsula. It's only a 3 mile boat trip but such a treacherous one that the last inhabitants choose to abandon their homes forever in 1953. Only a few hundred of people ever lived there but their impact on Irish language and literature is remarkable. Irish schoolchildren have learne
...more
Shonna Froebel
This book looks at the legacy of the Blaskets, islands in the north west of Ireland. As the Irish language was vanishing throughout Ireland, these islands drew scholars and writers to them. A pocket where Irish was still the language spoken daily, this area drew a variety of visitors that elevated the islands both nationally and internationally. From J.M. Synge, the playwright to Carl Marstrander, a Norwegian linguist, the area drew both writers and scholars of the Irish language.
Some of these v
...more
Deb W
I was enamored with this book at the start, but like a young schoolgirl in the throes of her first love that she married in haste; I had the remainder of the book to repent at leisure. At the end -- and it took a l-o-n-g time coming, I felt acrimonious toward the author for even writing it.

It seems there have been a number of books published about the Blaskets off the west coast of Ireland's county, Kerry and Kanigel thought he would string together enough loosely connected stories about persons
...more
Gail
Interesting book. The author writes this history almost as a novel, and I feel as if I know some of the "characters" quite well. He relates the history is an almost spiral style, introducing people, leaving them, then coming back to them as their work or something else about them relates to another person or a later event. It's at times a bit confusing, but it's an effective device.

If you're at all interested in Ireland, Irish history, Gaelic as a language or separator of men, this is a fascina
...more
Amy
Jan 23, 2014 Amy marked it as to-read
DNF. This was recommended to me at my library's ebook page. It's an interesting read, but I had a difficult time reading it on my computer. It just wasn't engaging me. I think it would be better in book form without the pressure of finishing it by a certain date and with the ability to read it anywhere. Definitely will give it another try another time.
Brighid O'Sullivan
A little dry but a lot of great history and information.
Caroline
At first was painful getting thru this bk but once I got used to the difficult Celtic words, it got better as the story progressed. This bk was one of those that you appreciated more once you started discussing it in a group. There was a lot of discussion, the mtg lasted about 3 hrs. Definitely was evocative & struck everyone in different ways. Anyone who's ever pondered escaping to a simpler faraway place will find this bk interesting. I made Irish soda bread which was a little on the hard ...more
Jim Willse
It’s a book about books about an island. It’s about visitors to the Blaskets, the westernmost islands of Ireland, off the Dingle Peninsula, in Kerry. It covers the years from 1905, when the islands were visited by John Millington Synge, until 1953, when the last inhabitants left. Synge was the first of a series of visitors who came in search of a pure form of the Irish language, and the thread of the story is how those visitors came to affect life on the island, and how it affected them.
Jill
Fascinating history of the Blasket Islands, the people who lived there, and the writers who visited. Informative and well-written, it also described the magic of island life without being naive. I also appreciated how he examined what it is about the "simple life" that draws us, even today. A great book about seeking youth and beauty, and the pull between modernity and simplicity, even today. I'm adding the Blaskets to my list of places to see on my next travels through Ireland.
Abbey
BOTTOM LINE: Lovely history of a once-inhabited island off the west coast of Ireland that is now empty, but had been home to a small village for centuries. Tells the story of various anthropological and social history types that came to visit and study the inhabitants starting in 1905. Not as clinical as that sentence makes it seem, this is actually a bit of a love poem to the lifestyle and the people, written by one of the last outsiders to "come visit".
Carmen
A story about the Blaskett Islands in Ireland, this story combines the myths with the realities. Characters I have read in other stories, such as Peig, come back in this one. Brings wonderful memories of the vacation I spent in that part of Ireland. Just the right blend of the sadness of the poverty and the happiness about the richness of the culture.
Micki
Another book I bought for my sister who loves Ireland and languages. There was a balance between the wonderful (kinship,music and dancing every night) and hardships ( the isolation and lack of creature comforts) in a community that was evacuated more than a half century ago.
John
This was a fact filled book about an island.(Blasket) The book is dry and not a good read. If you want to learn about the Irish language and in the purest form this is a good book. Not for fun reading.
Nick Light
On a remote island in the west of Ireland, ancient norms and languages persist through the modern era, and scholars and poets come to record the old ways there before they disappear. Excellent history.
jane
Apr 03, 2013 jane added it
I enjoyed the book and discovered where the Island of Blakesley is near Ireland. An island which brought in Irish writers and academics. Looking in a guide book it looks lovely but untamed.

Zzee
Beautiful, a real surprise.some of the poetry is exquiste. My fav.Robin Flower early 1900s.i love this book !

Sharon
Nice, but slow, account of the Blaskets. Will have to reread this.
Justin
Justin added it
Apr 21, 2015
Orla Skeffington
Orla Skeffington marked it as to-read
Apr 20, 2015
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