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The Truth About the Irish

3.54  ·  Rating Details ·  187 Ratings  ·  32 Reviews
If you're looking for a field guide to leprechauns, The Truth About the Irish is not the book for you. But if you can handle a frank and funny look into the minds and hearts of Irish people, you've been touched by that fabled Irish luck. Covering all things Irish from Blarney to Yeats, renowned literary and cultural critic Terry Eagleton separates the myths from the realit ...more
Paperback, 192 pages
Published February 27th 2001 by St. Martin's Griffin (first published 1999)
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Bill  Kerwin
Jan 22, 2015 Bill Kerwin rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition

What is the truth about the Irish? They don't come from "a dear old land of fairies and wondrous wishing wells", for starters. All that "begorrah" crap is inspired by sentimental Irish-Americans and sustained by those Irish who profit from the tourist trade. As Eagleton--a well known literary critic with a brisk, delightful style--emphasizes (italics his): Ireland is just as modern as wherever you come from.

Eagleton wrote this in 1999, before the "Celtic Tiger" peaks and the valleys to follow,
I knew Eagleton from other literary criticism, so I figured this would be a well-reasoned approach to the common misconceptions of the Irish, and it was...a bit cheeky in parts, so I couldn't really go 4 stars, because I got a bit exasperated behind it a few times.

But it did answer a nagging question about why my friends Gaelic Footie team is called the "wild geese"; apparently it describes Irish revolutionaries who fled home to France to fight alongside the French against the Brits. So that was
May 28, 2012 Tim rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Eagleton's book is a little out of date (from 1999), though it is funny, in a grim way, to read him anticipating trouble even during Ireland's economic ascent. This is a book written with alphabetical entries and it offers debunking and history written by the literary critic. It is didactic at times, but generally good humored (by which I mean the cranky kind of humor I most enjoy). Good for the little bits of Irish blood in me.
Apr 12, 2009 Cris rated it really liked it
Shelves: humor, cultural, ireland
I'll admit I sometimes wasn't too sure how seriously to take Eagleton, but I certainly enjoyed the ride. The humor was sometimes sarcastic, sometimes deadpan, sometimes understated, and soemtimes completely unexcpected. The book is structured rather like an encyclopedia with entries on famous Irish people, events, terms, etc. This is a fun and easy book to read in snatches.
Rashers Tierney
Feb 13, 2015 Rashers Tierney rated it it was amazing
A likeable and balanced account of what the modern Irish are really like. Varied and entertaining, with entries on everything from Irish politics to farming--as well as our complicated historical interactions with the English.
Dec 20, 2010 Matty rated it liked it
Had some interesting information, but too dull.
Maura Collins
Sep 12, 2012 Maura Collins rated it really liked it
A very funny book, written by a brilliant man, who surprisingly can also be pretty silly when he wants to be.
When the book came out in 1999, the Irish economy was thriving, and the Irish people were looking forward to a bright future in which they would not have to emigrate to find work and prosperity. Unfortunately, times have changed. Thus, parts of this book sound cynically dated. Nonetheless, it has lots of useful information on Irish history, society, language, culture and mentality, written with insight and a wonderful undercurrent tone of irony.
D. Eric
Mar 11, 2009 D. Eric rated it liked it
Shelves: non-fiction
If you are looking to find out about the real Ireland then this may be the book for you. It goes through an alphabetical listing of relevant Irish topics and debunks some of the myths while offering some keen insights into what has become an almost fantastical view of the "magical" country of Ireland.
Apr 06, 2012 KT rated it really liked it
Read this while anticipating a trip to Ireland. Liked the politics, history, culture, and insight into Irish feelings, attitudes. Although discovery is part of the joy of travel, I also like to have some background so that I can appreciate things that I see and hear at a deeper level, rather than superficially. Entertaining.
May 24, 2016 Ktmholm rated it really liked it
I picked this up from a St. Patrick's Day display at the library and have been reading it a little bit at a time ever since--easy to do, as it consists of short essays on various aspects of Irish life, history, and mythology. Though sections on 'modern' Ireland are now slightly outdated (written in 1999), I found it both entertaining and enlightening.
Sep 17, 2009 Lisa rated it liked it
An ABC book for grown-ups interested in Irish culture. The first entry is "Alcohol" and the last entry is " Zoological Gardens, Dublin." Some interesting stops along the way include "bogs," "debunkery," "Dublin 4," "emigration," "God," "GUBU," "Happiness," "Wake," and "west."
Jul 23, 2016 Jean rated it it was ok
More like The Sarcastic Half-truth about the Irish. If I had noticed that this was written in 1999 I would have skipped it. The history was interesting, but the cultural info was of course out of date.
Mar 08, 2013 Wkwv rated it really liked it
1999 view of modern Ireland by an English writer who has written previously more serious books about Irish subjects. His perspective is lovingly sarcastic, trying to debunk foreign misimagination. Light reading in a short encyclopedia format.
Daniel Wojtak
Apr 13, 2015 Daniel Wojtak rated it really liked it
Read it before studying abroad in Dublin. The accuracy is uncanny and will prepare you more than 95% of the people who come to visit the country. Gives you a nice insight into what to expect in a humorous manner.
Feb 18, 2011 Charity rated it liked it
It's a bit dated but now I am able to say with authoirty that corned beed and cabbage is not Irish nor do they say "begorrah" since having a grandfather who was Irish apparently has no authority.
Dec 02, 2016 rated it liked it
Irreverent review of life in Ireland in 1994.
Jan 16, 2016 Chloe rated it liked it
Shelves: culture
I don't know how much of the "truth" was "true," but it's amusing.
Jun 08, 2015 Ryan rated it really liked it
3.5 stars... Very slight and somewhat out-of-date book. I loved the inherent conflicting duality of the Irish. It seems to seep into every aspect of the culture in some way or another.
victor harris
Feb 24, 2014 victor harris rated it it was amazing
An entertaining, witty commentary on the Irish, fleshing through the myths and the truth, all in a rollicking manner.
Dec 31, 2013 Christopher rated it really liked it
Shelves: history, essay-memoir
A very humorous, intelligent look at the Irish. Well worth the read, especially if you do business with the Republic.
Nancy Taylor
I started reading this book to learn about Irish people. I could not follow the author, so I stopped reading and didn't finish.
Jan 17, 2009 Marie rated it really liked it
Shelves: nonfiction, comedy
Terry Eagleton writes like the love child of Terry Pratchett and Richard Armour.
Jun 20, 2007 Joeji rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: Those who want to read an encyclopedia but just haven't found the right one yet
Hilarious encyclopedia of wry Irish entries. If you need to cut through the BS, The Truth is a great way to do it. A great A-Z read.
Jun 07, 2015 Nancy rated it liked it
Useful information on Irish history, society, language, culture and mentality, written with insight and an undercurrent tone of irony.
Dec 26, 2015 Dianne rated it it was amazing
I borrowed this book from the library for some research on my upcoming novel. I loved it! Funny, educational and extremely enjoyable read!
May 27, 2011 Phil rated it liked it
Shelves: leisure
Funny and informative, even though sometimes I can't tell what he's joking about and what he's being serious about. Got it from Border's last day; easy, quick read.
Sep 16, 2010 Cathy rated it it was amazing
An ABC about Irish culture done with wit and humor.
Aug 28, 2009 Cynthia rated it liked it
I was suprised at such an easy, breezy read from the Lit Crit titan. Thanks for the loan, Erica!
Ju Ribeiro
Apr 14, 2009 Ju Ribeiro rated it it was amazing
Shelves: favorites
Joyful reading. The author talks about interesting things in a good conversation mood. For those who love Ireland and the Irish, and also for those who don't - IF these people exist.
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Widely regarded as Britain's most influential living literary critic & theorist, Dr Eagleton currently serves as Distinguished Prof. of English Literature at the Univ. of Lancaster & as Visiting Prof. at the Nat'l Univ. of Ireland, Galway. He was Thomas Warton Prof. of English Literature at the Univ. of Oxford ('92-01) & John Edward Taylor Prof. of English Literature at the Univ. of Ma ...more
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