This book was a big surprise, I bought it more or less on a whim because although I read a lot of history, I very rarely read anything about my own country. This will change now as Ernie O'Malley has made me want to learn more about this much-mythologised but little-known period of Irish history - a pivotal period in Irish history, of which most people actually know very little.
Ernie O'Malley was a medical student in Trinity College when the Easter 1916 Rising took place, before this he was largely unsympathetic to Irish separatism but during the rising - seeing that people were willing to risk their lives for lofty ideals (albeit relatively few people) he changed his mind and joined the Irish Volunteers - the forerunners of the IRA.
This book is his personal account of travelling around Ireland between 1916-1921 to organise the Volunteers locally to fight against the British for an independent Irish republic. O'Malley is an incredible writer and gives a great sense of what the country was like in this era for the majority of the people who lived there and the not always 100% committed 'freedom fighters'.
His writing style is very matter-of-fact, no Bravo Two Zero style posturing or pretentious 'self-confessed war junkie' type 'confessions' a la the likes of Anthony Loyd et al. O'Malley never pulls his punches or talks up events, telling them in a very understated manner, from his torture in a Dublin prison at the hands of the British to his execution of three British officers in the countryside, this is a gripping and somewhat shocking story, beautifully written. Buy it and you won't be disappointed.