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That Neutral Island: A Cultural History of Ireland During the Second World War Hardcover – 15 Mar 2007

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Product details

  • Hardcover: 480 pages
  • Publisher: Faber and Faber; First edition edition (15 Mar. 2007)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 057122105X
  • ISBN-13: 978-0571221059
  • Product Dimensions: 16.4 x 4.1 x 24.1 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 3.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (14 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 88,592 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Product Description

Review

'An excellent cultural history.' -- Guardian

'An impressively thorough account of an overlooked aspect of the Second World War.' -- Observer

'Engaging and comprehensive.' -- Sunday Times

'Wills ... reminds us in this wide-ranging and nicely researched account that for the Irish neutrality was certainly not the same as peace.' -- Sunday Telegraph

'Wills' impeccable history of Ireland's uneasy neutrality [is] an impressively thorough account of an overlooked aspect of the Second World War.' -- Observer

'[An] excellent cultural history.' -- Guardian

It's hard to imagine a fairer-minded guide...Her book not only
fills a gap...it is a model of exhaustive research and illuminating
example. -- Blake Morrison, Guardian

Sweeping in its scope, packed with telling details, written in an
easy, fluid style, this is a highly original book about a fascinating
period... Brilliant. -- Sunday Telegraph

What a pleasure to read...Simply the best ever social and cultural
history of Ireland during the second world war...This is a quite
outstanding book. -- Irish Independent

[A] fascinating, brilliant cultural history of Ireland during the
second World War. -- Irish Times

Book Description

When the world descended into war in 1939, a few European countries remained neutral. Of the neutral states, none was more controversial than Ireland.

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Customer Reviews

3.8 out of 5 stars
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

9 of 9 people found the following review helpful By Aine on 17 Aug. 2008
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
My late parents were both from "The Free State" but spent the majority of WWII working in Britain and Northern Ireland, as did many of their generation. Anyone who wants a flavour of the lives of "ordinary" people in extraordinary times would find this of interest.

I would agree with some comments from another Amazon user on the author dwelling for too long and with too much emphasis on the writers of the period.

However, I would take issue with his comments about the other aspects of this book. I am not an historian, and perhaps there are better books than this about the "Emergency" - but I learnt a lot about Ireland's attitudes and politics in this period of history; and the effects of the war and de Valera's policies on Irish people at home and abroad.
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21 of 25 people found the following review helpful By MarkK TOP 1000 REVIEWER on 1 July 2007
Format: Hardcover
As an event, the Second World War was impossible to escape. Though many countries sought to distance themselves from the fighting, nearly all were affected to one degree or another by the global conflagration. One of those was Eire, the nation that had only recently wrested itself from the British empire but now found itself facing the conflict by its proximity to Great Britain. Though the politics and the policies of Ireland during the war have been the subject of numerous books, Clair Wills has written something different, a cultural history which examines the impact of the 'Emergency' (the name the Irish government gave to the situation) upon Irish life.

Wills begins by setting the scene with a portrait of Ireland in the 1930s. With it, she illustrates just how rural and primitive much of the island was, with a growing contrast between the 'traditional' Ireland of poor farms and the 'modern' Ireland of towns and cities. It was in this context that Ireland was grappling with modernity on its own terms, with much of the resistance dictated by the influence of the Catholic church and attitudes of its adherents. Ireland was also only just beginning to emerge from the shadow of British rule, developing its own identity as a nation and dealing with such legacies as the remnants of the Irish Republican Army.

All of this underscores just how unprepared Ireland was to deal with the emerging war on the European continent. Wills reminds readers that Ireland's stance was no different from that of other small European countries such as the Netherlands, Belgium, and Denmark, none of whom had the resources (let alone the desire) to be drawn into a large-scale conflict.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By A. Mcsean on 8 April 2013
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Dr Wills writes about a complex and difficult subject, about which many tons of over-simplified, prejudice-reinforcing rubbish has been written down the years. It's great to read a book on a topic you think you sort-of understand, and find that your preconceptions are thoughtfully and clearly undermined and rearranged. It is thorough scholarly analysis written with a charm and lucidty that make sure have no "how did that work again" moments. One tiny cavil is that more weight is given to the sometimes dull opinions of minor literati, most of whom would have profited from writing lessons from this author.
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Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
I bought this to find out what life was like in Ireland during the Second World War. This book hardly did that. It is huge on detail about what the Irish, British and US governments were doing and saying. The book also devotes far too much time on the literature and poetry from Irish authors, the inteligensia and the academic life of the country. It does explain in vague and impersonal details of the problems of the ordinary people but it is all written at a great and seemingly disinterested distance. For example; the book mentions that Dublin did suffer an air raid yet hardly goes into any detail about it - yet the same book went into extraordinary detail about a poem concerning a lonely farmer living in the West of the country. It is also very long winded - explaining the same things from many different angles. Very often I gave up with a chapter and skipped ten or twenty pages. Also, it does mention that many Irish people, despite their government's neutrality, joined the British armed forces - but that is all it says. There is no mention of any specific individual, soldiers, sailors or airmen, their heroism or how their families and communities reacted. I am somewhat wiser but mostly I feel that I want to find a better book on the subject.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By petomane on 20 July 2013
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This is without a doubt the most authoritative book about Ireland during World War 2 that I have read .It gives a lot of background information that helps to give an understanding of how things were then.
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That Neutral Island is an outstanding book and eminently readable. It paints a vivid picture of life in Eire in World War 2, the living conditions and the attitudes of the people, and appears to give a very fair and balanced account of the reasons for de Valera’s desire to remain a neutral. I do not understand the criticisms of some previous reviewers that the book depends too heavily on the views of writers. Who better to convey the nuances of what it was like to live in Eire during the war years? Highly recommended.
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