For those like me who want a single volume that will do justice to the tragic story of Ireland's political strife, this book fills the bill nicely. It chugs along on the express rail, which at times left me wanting some additional detail about personalities, scene-setting and longer literary references. But to keep on his schedule through 800 years of trouble between Ireland, England, Catholics, Protestants, Nationalists, Provos and the dreaded Black & Tans, Paul Johnson does not dwell too long in any one spot.
Johnson is a master historian, with a gift for cutting through to the essence of a situation and describing it with vivid, concise language.
Some reviewers accused the author of bias toward the British point of view, which I did not find. The reader is left wondering why it had to be this way for so long, and blaming the neglectful English for constantly leaving things undone and wrongs unrighted to the point they became festering, lingering resentments. There is no glory for Britain here. Nor is there for the Nazi-sympathizing Irish Republicans, the bigoted Unionists, or the opportunistic "Provisionals" who deliberately tried to kill Catholics in Ulster in order to inflame the situation they claimed to be trying to correct.
That's part of the story, too. No one gets out of this without shame and a blotted reputation. And very few of the country's leading political figures from the 20s-40s managed to die peacefully in their own beds.
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