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

3.72 of 5 stars 3.72  ·  rating details  ·  451 ratings  ·  57 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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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
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
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
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
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
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
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.
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.
Well-written,engaging history of Ireland
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
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
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
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
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
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.
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
Dave Koch
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.
A great cursory history of Ireland, from the legends of the Celts, the Norman invasion, and heavily focused on the last two hundred years. Highlighting specific personalities and their impact on major events, it's an easy read but has enough historical context to keep it interesting.

It's a bit sad to read the last few chapters: they speak of hope, of the dawn of a new age in Ireland culture and economy. Published before the current economic crises, you can't help but feel the "happy" ending is
Jonathan Jones
Brief & scattered but friendly history
I found this book difficult to read in large part due to the choice of type (font) used; it was quite small and, perhaps to relate to Gaelic writing, not readily legible. Also, the book went into far more detail than the casual reader might want/need. The use of the Gaelic spelling of both names and places, most of which were unpronouncable by this reader posed another stumbling block.
I appreciated the author's writing style - a bit light-hearted, but decided to call it quits after about 100 pag
Leave it to an Irishman to write a history of Ireland that is both well-researched and enjoyable to read. While many many history books are so dry that I feel parched just reading the intro, this book is an enjoyable and highly informative tour through Ireland's history as well as highlights of the lives of all the key players along the way. It's written objectively yet with a keen understanding of the passion of the Irish for their land, country and beliefs (whether religious or not).
Faith Justice
A history of Ireland through the lives of 50 men and women (most during the past 200 years). I enjoy McCourt's writing and learned a lot about Irish history. I was especially interested in "the Troubles" which occurred during my lifetime. I remember the headlines and sense of despair that Northern Ireland would never get over its period of violence. I think I'd like to get a more academic history for the older portions I'm interested in, but McCourt is good for the more modern eras.
What a delightful history by someone who is not an historian! McCourt's Ireland is magical, with much time spent discussing great figures in Irish history.. don't pass this up,, just terrific.
I started this book and was very impressed by the credentials of the author, but alas his style is dull and vague. It's as if someone recorded him chatting about Irish history in the pub and then wrote them down. It has a very conversational flow, but very light on details and the stories are often hard to understand.

Needless to say I didn't continue reading it...
I really wanted to like this book. Really really. But I found it difficult - I stopped around Queen Elizabeth, which was frustrating because at least then we were in a history I already knew, with players with whom I was already familiar. I think I would've done better with an audio version, and had it really feel like stories.
The individuals he writes about are fascinating. I was a bit frustrated that he would refer to events but not explain. I would read the book with the internet opened so I could look things up.
I liked the book well enough. Some parts I had a hard time getting through. Just like any history book. I like that the history was done by people and not just by age. I think it made it a little easier to understand. I did not know Ireland had that type of history. I do want to pick up another book of his to read.
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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...
A Monk Swimming Singing My Him Song The Claddagh Ring: Ireland's Cherished Symbol of Friendship, Loyalty, and Love Danny Boy: The Legend of the Beloved Irish Ballad Voices of Ireland: Classic Writings of a Rich and Rare Land

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