Ulick O'Connor,
Michael Collins & the Troubles:
The Struggle for Irish Freedom 1912-1922

(W.W. Norton & Co., 1996)

Ulick O'Connor's book, Michael Collins and the Troubles, is not written in objective third person. The author sets the pace in the introduction by discussing his own familial ties to the Troubles. He also continues by mentioning interesting tidbits "as told to this author." His footnotes also avoid the aridity of historical writing by being interesting, and the reader actually looks forward to reading them.

This personal viewpoint while unique, makes more human the names to which the more historically penned tomes so soullessly allude. The pictures are also much appreciated and further add to the humanization of the people involved with the liberation of Ireland. The author's intent appears to make real not only the people but their degradation and abuse by the British government. In this, O'Connor is successful; his approach makes the story more of a seanachie's tale told on a winter evening rather than a propaganda piece with its attendant aims and activities. This is not to say that the book is not propaganda; it is far more subtle, however.

Not so subtle, however, is my one problem with this book. Perhaps the author should borrow from Britain's Monty Python comedy troupe, who in Monty Python and The Holy Grail list among the cast a certain Sir Not Appearing in This Film. O'Connor could title his book Michael Collins is Not the Subject but is Mentioned Several Times in This Book.

It is understandable that a certain amount of setting up is necessary so that the reader may understand the events that lead up to the making of the man, but since the book indicates that it is focusing on him as main subject, he should appear sooner, be much more of a centerpiece, and/or be in a far larger book. This does not make the book less worthwhile; it just has the title character making all too brief cameos in his own story. Although somewhat disappointed as the book continued on with no Big Fella stepping into the limelight, it more than adequately atones by making human the names and giving faces to the men and women of the Irish Rebellion. I found this book to be an excellent read and well worth its purchase price.

[ by Debbie Gayle Rose ]
Rambles: 29 June 1999

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