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A Book of Migrations: Some Passages in Ireland Hardcover – Jan 1997

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  • Hardcover
  • Publisher: Verso Books (Jan. 1997)
  • ISBN-10: 9997633717
  • ISBN-13: 978-9997633712
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (2 customer reviews)

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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By Eleanor TOP 500 REVIEWER on 2 Jan. 2014
Format: Kindle Edition
"A Book of Migrations" is structured around a trip Rebecca Solnit took around Ireland in 1994. Her account of the landscapes she traversed (largely by foot) is buttressed with reflections on ancestry, ethnicity, history, literature, and belonging. Although charmed by the people she meets, Solnit is clear-eyed about the complexities of the country and how it is perceived at home and in her native (a problematic word?) USA. Her own status as a tourist and, by virtue of her emigrant grandparents, Irish passport holder is also interrogated, as Solnit remarks "Tourism, foreignness, is a virus many tourists suspect everyone but themselves of carrying." All in all this is a stimulating, sharp, and lyrical book which does an excellent job of bringing Ireland's ancient and very recent past to life.
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Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
The author once again highlights how the landscape we come from, the culture it helps generates are all part of who we are.

This is book is about a journey through Ireland, it culture, landscape and history. Therefore there are some challenging comments about the English (if you are English, like me) that I broadly agree with, but would challenge the simplicity of the logic and interpretation of how the events unfolded. However, this is another great , thought provoking book that demonstrates RS's research skills, analysis and deep, intelligent thinking; all superbly written
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)

Amazon.com: 8 reviews
18 of 19 people found the following review helpful
This is a wonderful book 29 July 2000
By Jean E. Christensen - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Paperback
This is one of the best books I have ever read. For anyone who has ever been to Ireland or for that matter travelled anywhere at all this should be a marvelous book to read. I love the way she thinks and writes. If I were as well educated and as articulate as Rebecca Solnit, I would write as she does. In the book one minute I'm in Ireland and then back here in the Bay Area on Mount Burdell. I love the way one subject brings her to another and then on from there. She reminds one that we can be in many different places at once...not only the place where we actually are physically at the moment...but in all the places our minds, memories, hearts and souls have been (and have not actually been) and remember. I am going walking in the West of Ireland in two weeks and this is a book I shall carry with me and read for the third time while I'm there. Thank you Ms. Solnit for the gift of your intellect and your spirit.
9 of 9 people found the following review helpful
Enjoyable and thought-provoking 22 Jan. 2002
By P. Lozar - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Paperback
I found this book to be an excellent read: not only is Ms. Solnit a clear-eyed and perceptive observer, but she's also a good researcher into the historical and personal dimensions of the places she visits, and she generally presents this material very well (although a few times I felt that the background information got between her and what she was seeing). Also, as a native Californian who grew up in the same rural-turning-into-suburban landscape as she did, I found her comments and comparisons very apt; I'm not sure that someone from a different background would find them as relevant, but the material is fascinating and the anecdotes well written. However, I was rather annoyed by the vehemence of her dislike for "New Age types" -- granted, some people who fall under that rubric are easy to scoff at, but in that case I wondered why such a gifted and perceptive writer was wasting her time on cheap shots. Maybe it's that she feels threatened by anyone who doesn't agree with her "political activism is the ONLY way to change the world" viewpoint, in which case I think she needs to examine her own biases! Otherwise, the book is a beautifully written description of the West of Ireland (as a recent visitor to many of the same places, I greatly enjoyed her perspective) as well as a meditation on the nature of travel itself, and I feel it's well worth reading.
7 of 7 people found the following review helpful
Insightful but detached travelogue + interrogation of Irish mentalities 4 Dec. 2005
By John L Murphy - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Solnit knows a lot and wants you to know it too, as well as reminding you that she knows it! The weight of research, speculation, and interpretation she loads upon her ostensible travelogue does make for a dense collection of interrelated essays about her migrations circa 1993. In light of the past decade, her observations that only once in her stint had she seen a "hurried motion" and how the Irish kept their stereotypically casual pace up and flaunted their easygoing nature against the sin of efficiency now make for an epitaph about this vanishing (as is always the case in Ireland's west it seems) way of life--before cellphones, motorways, and yuppies.

She blends her own background, neither Irish nor Jewish but just American, and Marin County Californian at that being a rarified species, into her reflections intelligently. I do sense much of the time that as an intellectual rather than the more usual adventure-based travel writer, she tends to look down her nose at the locals and the blow-ins both due to her more elevated level of education and scholarship. This does not weaken the insights she often makes, but it does cast her as rather a cool customer, rather removed from her environs.

But such distancing and detachment works to her advantage as she resists the stereotypical itinerary. Tellingly, she makes no effort to visit the Aran Islands, an "indigenous cultural reservation" in her estimation; she eschews the touristed haunts. If you like this, try James Charles Roy's "The Back of Beyond" for another American scholar's account a few but momentously altered years later of his days as a tour guide in the same Irish regions.
6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
Interesting and visually rich but a bit academic 30 Mar. 2000
By soulcake - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Hardcover
Rebecca Solnit has a unique ability to bring the nuances of place to the reader's imagination. This account of Solnit's solitary walk across the west of Ireland is at times haunting, beautiful,and wistful, yet I felt it had a tendency to get a bit bogged down in the language of academia and deconstruction. Her interior journeys are as compelling as her geographical ones, however, and anyone who is interested in the landscape of this very unique part of the world will enjoy her tales of the Irish west's land and people.
A Book of Migrations 26 Dec. 2013
By Eileen M. Bosshart - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
A Book of Migrations is a search for roots in Ireland, even though the author is a mixture of Irish on one side and Jewish on the other. Her ability to paint with words the scenes and places she visited and the descriptions of the Irish people she met along the way during her walks are evidence of the Irish gift of language that is so evident in Irish culture. It is a book, not to be read in a single sitting or two, but to be savored, one chapter at a time, when one has time to appreciate the thoughts and musings of the author. For example, the sight of a butterfly in a museum in Dublin led to a discourse on Roger Casement, who figured so predominantly in the 1916 Easter Rising. He led butterfly expeditions in the Congo before his political life began. The people and places are all woven together with Irish history.
As a visitor to Ireland twice, I could appreciate the places she described in such beautiful, descriptive language, although it made me wish I would have been more knowledgeable about Irish writers like Joyce, Swift, Synge, or T.S. Eliot who impacted so much of English literature. I gave it only four stars because some of it went over my head, although that was my defect, not the author's. The notes at the end of the book show a great amount of research into each chapter.
The most interesting parts of the book for me were her encounters with the ordinary Irish people as she walked from one town to another. I also learned much about the Travellers, formerly called Tinkers, the Irish nomads who seem to be at the bottom of the social ladder in Ireland. My cousin recently told me that Tinkers had stolen the cherished mantle over the fireplace in my great-grandparents cottage that is still standing near Blarney. The author interviewed a modern Traveller family and gave me a different perspective of these nomadic people who seem to suffer from discrimination, yet want the same rights as the rest of the citizenry. Their horse-drawn wagons have been mostly replaced by modern cars pulling trailers, but still they seem to be a displaced minority that is barely tolerated in Irish society.
There is much to learn about Irish history in this book, and much of it is presented with a poet's flair. There is also much to learn by getting away from the tourist route, walking and speaking to the people you meet along the way. They have stories to tell that you won't find in the tourist guides. I'm happy the author shared them with her readers.
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