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Head of Zeus
We Don't Know Ourselves
We Don't Know Ourselves: A Personal History of Ireland Since 1958 by Fintan O'Toole

The #1 Irish Times bestseller

'A clear-eyed, myth-dispelling masterpiece. Engaging, analytical, insightful, fascinating, this is a hugely important book' Marian Keyes

'Sweeping, authoritative and profoundly intelligent' Colm Tóibín, Guardian

'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

'An enthralling, panoramic book ... A deeply absorbing chronicle of the 'known and unknowable' and of the profound transformation of a place' Patrick Radden Keefe.

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.

Head of Zeus, an Apollo book * Modern History
30 Sep 2021 * 624pp * £8.99 * 9781784978280
REVIEWS
'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
Author
Fintan O'Toole
Fintan O'Toole
Fintan O'Toole is the author of Heroic Failure, Ship of Fools, A Traitor's Kiss, White Savage and other acclaimed books. He is a columnist for the Irish Times and the Milberg Professor of Irish Letters at Princeton University. He writes regularly for the Guardian, New York Review of Books, New York Times and other British and American journals.
ALSO BY Fintan O'Toole
Heroic Failure
Three Years in Hell
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