We Don't Know Ourselves: A Personal History of Ireland Since 1958 (Paperback)
  • We Don't Know Ourselves: A Personal History of Ireland Since 1958 (Paperback)

We Don't Know Ourselves: A Personal History of Ireland Since 1958 (Paperback)

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Paperback 624 Pages
Published: 01/09/2022
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Waterstones Says

Chronicling the decades of immense transformation in Ireland from 1958 to the present day and rooting the political to the personal with immense insight, We Don't Know Ourselves is a myth-dispelling, razor-sharp analysis of Ireland's recent past from the author of Heroic Failure and Three Years in Hell.

Waterstones Irish Book of the Month for September 2022

We Don't Know Ourselves is a very personal vision of recent Irish history from the year of O'Toole's birth, 1958, down to the present. Ireland has changed almost out of recognition during those decades, and Fintan O'Toole's life coincides with that arc of transformation. The book is a brilliant interweaving of memories (though this is emphatically not a memoir) and engrossing social and historical narrative.

This was the era of Eamon de Valera, Jack Lynch, Charles Haughey and John Charles McQuaid, of sectarian civil war in the North and the Pope's triumphant visit in 1979, but also of those who began to speak out against the ruling consensus - feminists, advocates for the rights of children, gay men and women coming out of the shadows.

We Don't Know Ourselves is an essential book for anyone who wishes to understand modern Ireland.

Publisher: Bloomsbury Publishing PLC
ISBN: 9781784978341
Number of pages: 624
Dimensions: 198 x 129 mm


A clear-eyed, myth-dispelling masterpiece. Engaging, analytical, insightful, fascinating, this is a hugely important book. Rooting the politics in the personal makes a potentially overwhelming read into a book that reads as easily as a novel - Marian Keyes

While his sweeping, authoritative and profoundly intelligent book sees modern Ireland through the lens of his own life and that of his family, it also offers sharp and brilliant analysis of what form change took when it arrived in Ireland - Colm Tóibín, Guardian

Scintillating... Combines personal with political on a journey to the heart of Irish identity' - Business Post

A remarkably original, fluent and absorbing book, with the pace and twists of an enthralling novel and the edge of a fine sword, underpinned by a profound humaneness - Diarmaid Ferriter, Irish Times

Our leading public intellectual has written the bible on incorrigible Irish roguery - Irish Independent

Fintan is now routinely described as 'Ireland's leading public intellectual'... If we must have a hegemony, the best by a long way is the liberal kind. And to know how it happened here, this is the bible' - Sunday Independent

At heart, it's an investigation of the arrival of modernity in Ireland and just how much upheaval it caused - Herald

Ireland's past is here painted by Fintan O'Toole mainly through villains, victims, eccentrics and scandals - BBC History Magazine

An enthralling, panoramic book, a personal history of six decades of Irish life, from one of the foremost chroniclers of contemporary Ireland. With his customary deep erudition and sly wit, O'Toole weaves together an astonishing array of material... Jostling with anecdotes and arresting statistics, We Don't Know Ourselves is a feast: a deeply absorbing chronicle of the 'known and unknowable' and of the profound transformation of a place' - Patrick Radden Keefe

A sweeping thesis about Irish identity... We Don't Know Ourselves may well be the best thing he's ever written' - Sunday Business Post

A personal and empathetic account of the social upheavals his country has weathered since 1958... This is an uplifting, almost playful read, with suggestive analysis lying beneath skilful vignettes' - Financial Times

An illuminating, provocative and very entertaining look at how Ireland has changed over the author's lifetime, with the massive social, economic and political changes since his birth in 1958 linked to episodes in his own story - RTÉ

There's no shirking the stark reality of postwar Ireland, as Fintan O'Toole takes us on a personal journey that mirrors Ireland's seismic shift to modernity... This book's early chapters are among the best I've read about Ireland in the decades after the Second World War, at once evocative, moving, funny and furious' - Sunday Times

Told in beautiful, crisp prose and enlivened by anecdotes from the front line, We Don't Know Ourselves is the story of that victory – with all its ups and downs. Balanced and fearless, it is essential reading for anyone who wants to understand modern Ireland – or thinks they already do - Irish Examiner

A wonderfully readable account of the Irish State's turbulent coming of age and, to my mind, it is the nearest we will come to making sense of who we are how we got here - Irish Independent

This is an essential read for anyone who wishes to understand modern Ireland - The Clare Champion

I'm sure we all have books we're looking forward to over Christmas. Fintan O'Toole's We Don't Know Ourselves [...] is top of my stack - Sunday Independent

An astonishing book, fresh and passionate. Deeply moving but often funny and wry, a chronicle for our times. The most remarkable Irish nonfiction book I've read in the last 10 years - David McRedmond, Irish Times

Truly, this is a book for the ages - Maria Dickinson, Irish Times

Masterly, fascinating and frequently horrifying - TLS

Only a writer with O'Toole's experience and finesse could pull off a memoir as audacious as this - Meath Chronicle

A brilliant interweaving of memories (though this is emphatically not a memoir) and engrossing social and historical narrative... An essential book for anyone who wishes to understand modern Ireland - Irish Central

An essential read for anyone who wishes to understand modern Ireland - The Clare Champion

It is a mark of O'Toole's intense gaze that while he does cover the northern tragedy by far the greater part of this powerful book is devoted to the Republic in which he grew up in a working-class Dublin family in the late 1950s - Slugger O'Toole

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“Ireland as we know it”

A lovely read, great photos, brought back happy memories, would recommend to anyone with Irish parents/grandparents the link is here for us to read.

Hardback edition
Helpful? Upvote 35

“Fascinating sweep of recent history”

This is a blistering, insightful look at the last 60 years of Ireland-Fintan O’Toole starts with the year he was born, 1958 and chronicles his country through the tumultuous years of the 2nd half of the 20th century... More

Paperback edition
Helpful? Upvote 20

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