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  • Writer's pictureJulie Mackin

Birth of a Modern(ish) Nation

We Don’t Know Ourselves by Fintan O’Toole

Rating 5/5


I’ve been trying and trying to write a review of this book but I never quite know where to begin. I’m not sure I can adequately distill this book down into a quick review, so I’m just going to give a very broad overview. O’Toole has written a history of modern Ireland starting in the 1950s when O’Toole was born into an upwardly mobile Catholic family in Dublin. O’Toole attended the Christian Brother’s school in Crumlin, a southern suburb, and then on the on to University College Dublin and from there he worked as a writer for various Irish publications.



The history of post World War Ireland is fascinating; so much of what most of us know of Ireland is the IRA, the Celtic Tiger ,and the prosperity that came with the country’s entrance into the European Union. And most of us know about the horrific actions of the Catholic Church, the sexual abuse, the Magdalene laundries, the mother and baby homes. But I didn’t really know much about the political parties of modern Ireland and the stranglehold that various politicians had on the country. And O’Toole’s discussion about the history of emigration and immigration demonstrates how much of an impact it had not just on Ireland but other countries as well.


I listened to this on Audible, narrated by Aidan Kelly, and I think hearing it from a lyrical Dublin accent really added to my enjoyment of the book. Also, the length of the Audible, over 22 hours, meant that it wasn’t a fast listen; I was able to savor the stories and the history that O’Toole wrote so eloquently. If you are interested in Irish history, this is a must read book.


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