A good-natured, noodling walk down the length of Ireland, full of agreeable digressions and historical marginalia, from former Little, Brown editor-in-chief Ginna.
This is a satisfying Baedecker of a book, unhurried and curious, not preoccupied with politics in a land rife with them, though not averse to shoving its oar into the debates that brew in the pubs. Ginna would like to know if the recent technological investments, Euro infusions, and the go-go economy have changed this land he knows and loves so well: the green, bosomy hills; the thatched cottages, peat, and Travelers; the theater and universities; the rural and agricultural. So he takes a walk, from wild Donegal’s Malin Head to Cork. Ginna is good company, happy to stop at the pique of any fancy, with a ready humor (on a gout diagnosis: “I had been living like a mendicant friar. Could this be?”), and only the occasional affectation: “Mike Mullins, for so he was, ushered me in to a large room.” He is also a whiz at local history and will, it is guaranteed, make even those readers without a religious bone in their bodies fascinated by the crumbling monasteries, abbeys, and churches he visits. He is everywhere and all at once, describing ring forts, racehorses, Irish literature, Bronze Age tombs, casting a fly on the Blackwater, perusing the work of the ancient scholar-monks at Clonmacnoise (“neither prudish nor humorless. Thanks to them the lusty sagas of the pre-Christian Irish were preserved”). He does report on the economic development of the country, but he’s more at home in the pubs and ruins and at the Foyle Film Festival.
This Ireland is a place where both society and solitude can be easily had, where the remains of the ancient past can be communed with, and where the present—from the Troubles to the high-tech—is abating and abiding in proper order.