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Malachy McCourt's History of Ireland
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Malachy McCourt's History of Ireland

3.74  ·  Rating Details  ·  634 Ratings  ·  71 Reviews
In the successful tradition of Thomas Cahill’s modern-day classic, How the Irish Saved Civilization , here is an authoritative and completely engaging one-volume account of Irish history by County Limerick native, gifted storyteller, and bestselling author Malachy McCourt. Its pages are populated with figures from myth, legend, ancient history, and current events, from Cu ...more
Hardcover, 400 pages
Published September 7th 2004 by Running Press
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Nov 10, 2011 Nicol rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I love West Ireland which to me is completely separate from Dubliners and the Northern Irish. It's quiet, countryside and rough-tumble coastline was branded into my brain the moment I set foot in Killarney. I've visited the churches, the castles and the pubs from Dublin to Dingle and from the Cliffs of Moher to Cork. I fell in love with the land and the people. Now I wanted to know the history. Malachy McCourt is a real storyteller. There's no dry history recital here. From the early Irish kings ...more
Nov 12, 2011 Angela rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
While I appreciate McCourt's laid back approach to Ireland's history, his style revolved around individuals and I feel that there is so much missing from his narrative. I didn't actually get a sense of the Irish people themselves or any of the major events.

McCourt explains events such as the Easter Rising and Bloody Sunday only in contexts of who was involved. This tactic resulted in a vague and disjointed telling of the story, as well as a lot of redundancies. I read a review that questioned th
Juliet Doubledee
Malachy McCourt's "History of Ireland" leaves the reader both amazed at the rich history of the country, and laughing as he takes a light-hearted approach to telling the story of it's people. It's refreshing how McCourt demonstrates the ancient art of "storytelling" throughout this book, making it seem as if he personally chatted with each of Ireland's heroes, be it St. Patrick, Michael Collins, or U2's Bono. His mastery of the language and flair with words will enthrall all that pick this book ...more
Apr 16, 2013 Paula rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This was a wonderful book. McCourt chose to view Irish history through stories about prominent people from various eras of history in Ireland. And this was a very enjoyable way to read history. In addition to reading the usual history of invaders and battles, we get a view into individuals and what motivated them, so it's a cultural history as well.

Ireland has had the misfortune to be invaded and overthrown again and again over the centuries by various peoples, which makes for a brutal and sad t
Urey Patrick
This a a Cliff's Notes version of Irish history - brief, easy to read, enjoyable. McCourt covers 2000 years of Irish history, from early mythology to modern politicians and the Good Friday agreement. Each chapter covers a specific individual and era - each chapter is brief, but informative and entertaining. Along the way, McCourt educates, amuses and engages the reader. There are odd little facts and observations, and the book is pleasant - easy to read, put down, pick back up and not lose inter ...more
Thomas Higgins
Oct 17, 2015 Thomas Higgins rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: history
Not your typical history book. This read more like a conversation with a learned Irishman over a pint in the pub, and over the course of a few hours, and as many pints, your Irish companion shares his thoughts about the pivotal moments in Ireland's history. This really is Malachy McCourt's History of Ireland. I found his style and substance informative and interesting - a fairly easy read. But this was a purely linear historical account and in some cases, I found myself getting confused when Mal ...more
Jul 10, 2010 David rated it liked it
Shelves: non-fiction
While no means a scholarly history of Ireland (as confessed by the author), this is still an entertaining read. It's more a history told in the form of traditional Irish storytelling with short chapters about well-known characters ranging from (St.) Patrick, to Michael Collins, to Bono. I'd have given it four stars except the format tends to lead to quite a bit of repetition. The library edition I read could have used some better editing as well.

I'll be spending a week of evenings (after confere
Apr 12, 2009 Adele rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I bought this for my son Christopher because both of us are on again/off again Irish historians, trying to make sense out of an enormously complex and convoluted story. I wound up borrowing this back from him and enjoyed it more than I can tell you. The McCourt family story-telling ability is the best and for once the material was presented in a way that was not only readable but understandable and enjoyable as well. I found myself looking forward to the next chapter as if I was reading a good f ...more
Mar 18, 2012 Christian rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
While this is not a textbook on the history of Ireland it does provide a great introduction to those with no knowledge of the country. McCourt does an excellent job telling a story, an Irish story, about the myths and legends from the Celts through the Seventeenth century. The sections following those however are told by association with individuals he has chosen to include in the book which creates some overlap and unnecessary redundancies. I enjoyed the fact that he gave a short bio on many fi ...more
Jun 12, 2012 Kate rated it liked it
I alternately skimmed and slogged through the first 2000 years. However, I really appreciated the stories of the lives of leaders in the 19th, 20th and 21st centuries. McCourt's selection of Bono of U2 was a fitting finale. "He is lyrical and has the Irish way with language. He is full of practical and engaged spirituality. He is political and willing to fight for the issues he believes in. He is musical and energetic and full of life. And more than anything else he represents, on an internation ...more
John Lucy
One of the reasons I picked up this book, other than that I wanted to learn about Ireland's history, is that McCourt is supposed to be a great storyteller. As McCourt himself says in the introduction, Ireland has a history of storytellers, so wouldn't it be great to read a history of the nation by a storyteller? The reality was a little disappointing.

Other than the first dozens of pages, concerning the myths and legends of Cuchulainn and others, up until about the time of St. Patrick, whatever M
Two stars for what I did read: history-slash-biography, all okay. Unfortunately I only made it a bit past the 100 page mark, as those first 100 pages failed to engage me, so much so that at one point I forgot I was reading this and started an entirely different book. I'm leaving the bookmark in place when I put it back on the shelf, so maybe I'll come back to McCourt's book some day. Maybe.
Jan 29, 2009 Neel rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
History told with a story teller's technique and a focus on people. You won't get a chronological perspective per se, since this is really a set mini-biographies, but it's fun perspective and very readable. It reads more like an oral history... a series of stories told to you by a person who had them told to them. I liked it.
Dec 16, 2009 Maya rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: people interested in Irish History but not dry scholarly books
Recommended to Maya by: My uncle
Shelves: celtic-history
Please Read my short review of the book at my website: Malachy McCourt's History of Ireland
Well-written,engaging history of Ireland
Feb 24, 2016 Joseph rated it really liked it
Not really a history, but an engaging read nonetheless.

McCourt spins yarns of some of the more famous, influential, and generally representative figures in Irish history, exploring common themes of intellectualism, struggle, and passion in constructing his story of Ireland. Discussing Irishmen and Irishwomen as varied as saints, scholars, warriors, landlords, rebels, and rock stars, McCourt's work serves as a fairly thorough and compelling exploration of Irish-ness.

It is not without its faults,
May 01, 2015 Robert rated it really liked it
This is a look at the history of Ireland through the stories of about 50 people who have influenced, defined, created and have become the Irish. I must admit i didn't know a lot about Irish history, despite being of Irish heritage, in much of any detail before reading this. I knew about Saint Patrick, Michael Collins(because of the Liam Neeson movie), Frank McCourt(Pulitzer winner brother of the author) and of course U2. If you were to quiz me on Irish history before hand I'd fail miserably. I'd ...more
Aug 13, 2012 Audrey rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
While reading the James Joyce section, I was was very confused to read that he was born in 1892, and in 1904 he began his romance with his future wife. The age of 12 seemed a bit young for a lad to be living on his own, publishing stories, and seriously courting a woman. After further research, I found that Joyce was born in 1882, not 1892.

Also, in the Samuel Beckett section, there is another glaring error. McCourt says that Dream of Fair to Middling Women was published in 1992, three years afte
Dec 06, 2011 Greg rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Having picked up this history of Ireland, I found an approach that was novel and engaging, and also disappointment as I made my way through its 400 pages. On the positive side, McCourt is quintessentially Irish and a born storyteller. He chose to tell this history the way the Irish tell it, in legends that give meaning to history as opposed to the facts. In so doing, he very ably transports the reader to the place and to the way of thinking that has so defined the Irish in the hearts and minds o ...more
Jan 28, 2013 Anna rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2013, celtic
I enjoyed the concept of this book as a collection of biographies of the people who made Ireland what it has become through 2,500 years of history.

However, if you are new to Irish history, this is not the book for you. It gives the details without much context, as it assumes you have a working knowledge of Ireland's history. It felt like looking at a pointillism painting up close: sure, the play of colors is interesting, but what does the whole picture look like. I had to supplement my reading
Jacob Frank
Oct 14, 2013 Jacob Frank rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
So, it is the history of Ireland told through 50 short biographies. They are written in such a way that they could each be read alone, such that much of the historical context is reiterated multiple times from slightly different perspectives. I actually found this helpful, as by the fourth or fifth time something was recounted I felt reasonably sure that I would retain it. I don't know if this was the intent.

Among the most noticeable features of the book was the poor proofreading. I must have s
Feb 07, 2014 Elizabeth rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Here is a comparatively short history of Ireland from Cuchulainn to Bono told by a storyteller.

The story is told about the men and women who changed Irish history--the fighters, politicians, playwrights, poets--by Malachy McCourt, whose charming personality permeates the prose.

It is eclectic and filled the author's asides, but it is clear and to the point and fun to read. It might be a good first step for people who want to read further into Irish history.
Jay Dewey
Jan 25, 2015 Jay Dewey rated it liked it
Malachy McCourt begins by the obvious, he is not a professional historian. He claims rightly so that he is a story teller -- and I'm guessing that he "tells" better than he writes. I am really enjoying the book; the information is most interesting and well put. I like building the history around individuals. The book is not well edited however, though this seems to be more a problem in the beginning than toward the last half -- where the biographies sound more like articles rather than narrated ...more
Jan 09, 2011 Heather rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
It always takes me a while to get through a history book--lots to read and process. This one was particularly well-written, though, and an enjoyable read. McCourt has a lyrical writing voice, and I always respond to history as shown through the eyes of individuals. I liked and disliked how he told the story, though--because some of the people he wrote about were contemporaries, there was repetition, and it also made it hard to follow at times. However, I would take it any day over a dry recitati ...more
Jun 13, 2015 Margaret rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Malachy McCourt's History of Ireland is an easy to read documentary of the history of this country and its struggle for independence. It is written with humor and sometimes side comments. I understand much better the conflicts in Northern Ireland which originated when Henry VIII divorced his first wife and took Anne Boleyn for his second wife. I understand the struggle that Ireland has had to claim its independence from Britain. It has been such a joy to read and I strongly recommend it.
Dave Koch
Nov 02, 2014 Dave Koch rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Well written and held my interest. It this book the history of Ireland is told through the stories of some 50 figures in 2,500 years of Island Ireland. Of particular interest are the insights provided by his introduction of the influential characters shaping Ireland's history over the last 100 years.
Dec 08, 2015 Tyler rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This book presents a whirlwind tour of Irish history, spanning some 2,000 years in about 350 pages. Anyone who believes in the phrase "luck of the Irish" might want to read this book and reevaluate that statement.
Dec 01, 2015 Argum rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: irish
Really great book. Really a collection of short biographies organized into time periods with introductory information for each period. The magic though is that Malachy McCourt takes these people and bios and tells a real story with each one. It is less biography and more vignette a real sense of the person comes across. At the end of the book a real sense of the Irish comes through and furthering the storytelling lyric nature of the people is McCourt's own storytelling. Really just like sitting ...more
Mary Law
Mar 26, 2015 Mary Law rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2015
I enjoy reading about the history of Ireland and history in general. This book was just OK. You could tell the people he enjoyed writing about. You could also tell the people he wasn't that interested in. You'll need to read the book to find out which ones are his favorites.
Les Reynolds
Oct 07, 2015 Les Reynolds rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I loved the way this told the history of Ireland, through the stories of important figures. It gave a great overview, without being dry and boring.
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Malachy Gerard McCourt is an Irish-American actor, writer and politician. He was the 2006 Green party candidate for governor in New York State, losing to the Democratic candidate Eliot Spitzer. He is the younger brother of Frank McCourt.

Malachy McCourt also wrote two memoirs titled A Monk Swimming and Singing my Him Song, detailing his life in Ireland and later return to the United States where de
More about Malachy McCourt...

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