Fintan O'Toole's magnificent history of Ireland in his own time.
'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
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.
The disintegration of the old alliance of Catholic church and state is mapped in a series of dramatic episodes. Certain themes recur – of things that were known but could never be acknowledged, of cruelty and corruption hidden in plain sight. 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.
There is a quiet and sober anger in O'Toole's description of child abuse at every level of the state and educational system, the punishment of women as sexual beings, the IRA's psychological ability to portray themselves as victims of a conflict in which they were the worst perpetrators, and the sheer arrogance of the church's power.
We Don't Know Ourselves is an essential book for anyone who wishes to understand modern Ireland.
'Good journalists like Fintan O'Toole are the ones to look to if you want your lifelines to the contemporary reopened or the jump leads to your ethical sense connected up' Seamus Heaney.
'A witty attack on the fantasies that drove Brexit ... Clever, over the top, but etertaining political writing' The Times Books of the Year, on Heroic Failure.
'Fintan O'Toole in Heroic Failure displays an amazing command of the facts, but what distinguishes his book is the quality of the mind at work, the sharpness of the analysis, the style' Colm Tóibín.
'I loved the book. It's hugely entertaining and engrossing, and great fun too. I loved the link to punk – fascinating ... It's a terrific book' Roddy Doyle, on Heroic Failure.
'A wildy entertaining but uncomfortable read ... He has nailed us to the floor with a nine-inch nail' Jonathan Coe, on Heroic Failure