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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
on 8 June 2009
This version of the Táin was recommended to me by a friend and it has not disappointed.
I found the prose to be very much alive and easy to read.
Sometimes epics (or portions of) of this age can be rather dry and daunting but I am glad to say that there was a nice rhythm to the book.
It almost had a feel of being told a story which for me is the ultimate ideal in this case.
As the older Irish stories are largely an oral tradition this is a fantastic achievement in my opinion.
If Kinsella were to turn his hand to being a seannachaí, He's welcome at my fireside any day of any week.
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16 of 18 people found the following review helpful
on 10 August 2004
This was the second translation of this story I had read, so much of it was familiar to me. It is a brilliant read, sometimes too complex to fathom in your mind, but brilliant anyway.
The unfamiliar names and pronunciation is a small issue that just takes a little time, and when it comes to the crunch it's the essence of the book that matters to me, not my lack of linguistic skills.
The book is a piece of art, not fully understood by the reader, but full of colour and descriptions, ideas from lost times, and more than anything a glimpse of a world or a way of thinking that is long gone. I'll return to it many more times.
Pick this book up as time travel is possible, just jump in and lose the 21st century for a while.
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16 of 19 people found the following review helpful
on 8 November 2007
And I have read a lot of books. Literature, too, not just crap!

Seriously, though. I read this book as an undergraduate literature student in my first mythology class, and this is where I got hooked. Since then I've read everything - Gilgamesh, the classics of Greek literature, the Aeneid, Orlando Furioso, the Arthurian legends, the Ramayana, North American Coyote tales, Welsh tales, even other Irish tales, the Fenian cycle...Heaney's Beowulf translation comes closest...but nothing beats Kinsella's Tain.

It's the humor and the imagination, mainly, that set it apart. It's funny, it's accessible, and it's action-packed, if that matters to you. Kinsella's translation brings across the sense that the original tellers of these tales told them for entertainment. Our hero, Cuchulainn, is about the toughest mythological hero around, and he knows all the tricks: the hero's salmon leap, the apple feat, the riding of the sickle chariot, the feat of the shield rim - and watch out for that warp spasm! The final battle with Ferdia is the most epic battle ever committed to print.

I read my copy once a year. Speaking as someone with a BA in English Literature, as a writer, and most of all as a reader, I must tell you, this is my favorite work. If you are at all interested in mythology, especially Irish mythology, do yourself a favor and pick up this translation. It doesn't get any better.
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TOP 500 REVIEWERon 18 January 2011
This epic poem is as central to Irish culture as Homer's Illiad and Odyssey are to Greece, and they are roughly contemporary with each other. If you want a window into how the ancient Celts saw the world, this is probably the best book to read.

The aim of Kinsella in this translation is to retain the full tone of the original; minimal misty romance, maximal warlike vigour. Here he shows us how the warrior caste of Celtic society thought and acted; the motives that drove them and the obsession with honour and reputation that meant that the individual was all, the concept of nation non-existent. Probably most pre-Roman Celtic societies, including those of Boudicca's England, were very similar; from these tales we understand why the Romans won and they lost.

The book is written in the language of the bards and there is a lot of flowery metaphor and repetition for dramatic effect, even though I understand Kinsella has edited it down a bit. You can't really read it like a novel; read it more as poetry. It was originally a verse story meant to be recited, like Beowulf. This book should appeal to readers seriously interested in European pre-Roman culture, in oral literature (especially if you've studied Beowulf), and comparative anthropology.

If you'd like an easily readable version of the whole Ulster cycle of tales, written originally for teenagers but pulling few punches, try The Hound Of Ulster (Red Fox Classics) by Rosemary Sutcliff, author of The Eagle of the Ninth
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on 4 May 2015
I found this book a wonderful description because it includes the seven pre-tales to the Táin story/epic which provide the context for the events that happened. I used this for an interpretation of the Táin called 'Awakening the Beasts of the Dream' (Shannon Pot Books 2015) which uses these seven pre-tales and adds in one other story which is recognised as a precursor -the Cattle Raid of Fróech (Táin Bó Fróech). Together all of these seem to present us with a 'creation myth' - the way that the ancestors understood the creation of the world before the coming of Christianity and we must remember that the scribes were writing down the tales in the new culture and philosophy. I am grateful to Kinsella for his brilliant and clear translation which as he explained in the book's notes - altogether took a lot longer and was more complex a task than originally thought - I can well understand why as he had to take the 'mangled' remains of old texts and place them into a sequence that makes sense to the modern reader. A great work, for which we are eternally grateful.
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on 2 August 2013
This is a great little book and the illustrations by Louis Le Brocquy from his series of tapestries An Táin (The Táin). Next step I'll be buying the hardback, but this is a great introduction to a great epic.
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on 3 December 2014
Not the easiest book to read. It was good to get a reminder of some of the stories I heard in school, but I did find this tough to get through at times.
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1 of 2 people found the following review helpful
on 17 July 2010
I really enjoyed this. Not for the actual story itself, although it is interesting, but for the language used throughout. The story is set way back when the High Kings and Queens of Ireland and local warriors ruled the land; and when pride, honour and cattle - yes "cattle", or in this case a bull, was worth going to war over. Queen Maedhb and her "friendly thighs" and Cúchulainn's death defying combat skills contribute to the sense of drama and almost humour about the book, which is sometimes more of an account of Irish folklore characters and the march across Ireland into Ulster to obtain the prize of a bull. It's not the traditional 'start, middle and end' kind of story, but rather it's an example of Medieval Irish writing at its best. I got a couple of laughs out of it.
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10 of 17 people found the following review helpful
on 12 April 2001
The Tain was recommended to me during a visit to Sligo in Ireland. I was very excited to read it, having heard from the locals that it was a beautiful story, action-packed with mythological heroes. I found it very difficult to follow, even though I am familiar with other Irish myths. It would have been a smoother read if more pronounciations where given for people and place names, as they are all in Gaelic (as they should be). I would only recommend this book to someone who is familiar with Irish mythology, or else the story can be confusing.
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