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Mysterious World: Ireland (Mysterious World (Mysterious World Press)) Paperback – 15 Sep 2006
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"Mysterious World: Ireland" represents the next generation of travel guides. More than just a listing of names, numbers, and dates, "Mysterious World" takes readers behind the scenes to help them understand the history and the mystery of this sacred isle. The book delves deep into Ireland's legendary past, looking especially at the mysterious people who invaded Ireland time and time again in search of their destinies. The book also covers Ireland's known history up to the time of Cromwell, providing a thorough understanding of what it is to be Irish. In addition, the book presents one man's quest to rediscover mysterious Ireland as he travels throughout the four ancient provinces of Ireland.
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The mythological ("Mystery") portion takes up the first 213 pages and is easily the most impressive work I've ever read on Irish folklore. The text goes into great detail on ancient legends and stories and how they can be seen in the many indicators of the past found throughout the island in the form of dolmens, cairns and rounds. The artwork of Jim Fitzpatrick, a Dubliner whose depictions of early Ireland are unmatched, is sprinkled throughout to give an extra sense of the times. A truly outstanding section.
The second "History" section begins with the advent of Christianity and St. Patrick in the 5th Century and takes the reader through future centuries filled with invasions, battles and turmoil all the way through the Revolution of the 1920's and up past the turn of the 21st Century. While not as comprehensive a section as "Mystery," the 142-page "History" gives a fairly concise look at Ireland over a 1400-year period. You'll have a good idea of what formed modern Ireland.
The final 421-page "Journey" portion is a highly personal trip through as many nooks and crannies as author Ian Middleton could visit over his two-month trip through the country. There are photos and sidebars galore, and he does an effective job of giving the reader an idea of the personality of Ireland. While there are plenty of places for lodging, eating and visiting listed throughout this section, it by no means reads like a typical Frommer's travel guide. I've long held that unless you get to know the PEOPLE of a country, you're just visiting a bunch of snapshot opportunities without really understanding where you are and why things are the way they are. Middleton gets that.
Doug Elwell has done a terrific job editing nearly 800 pages jammed with so much content into a readable form. Of all the books I've read on Ireland over the years, none of them has presented such a synthesis of legend, history, places and people like this one. A bonus is its compact (5"x7")size that makes it easy to stash in a suitcase.
Even if you never visit Ireland yourself, "Mysterious World: Ireland" is worth having on your bookshelf. You truly get a sense of the magic of Eire. You'll never find a better all-round book on the country, and it'll seem like only a page's turn apart from being there.
Even the website ([...]) is dedicated to a lush presentation of things mysterious and beautiful about a country. I have never seen anything like this book or website. Publisher Doug Elwell explains in the book's introductory section that MW does not plan to add a print version of their website articles, as print sources end up in old files, old books, and in out-of-sight places. As a librarian, I can attest to the veracity of his statement. Then why do I hold a big, thick, heavy paperback travel guide in my hand? Take a logical guess: travel. Not everyone wants to carry a laptop on vacation. On trips before, I have known friends to leave their guides at the last stop before heading home. Nope, not so for this book. This guide is a souvenir, a memory book of places visited. "Mysterious Places: Ireland" then becomes a new kind a coffee table book. At home leave it out, dog-eared, worn and torn, and guess how many visitors will pick it up? I dare say virtually every one!
Travel writer Ian Middleton begins his tome with the history of the first people of Ireland, Scythians, who descended from Noah's son Japheth through his son Magog. But it was through the oldest son of Magog that the first Gaedelic Celts descended. It is these Gaels who followed the balance of life: between the light and the dark, the natural and the divine--to become the Irish.
The first 300 pages of this 776 page book are dedicated to the Mystery and History of Ireland: invasions, deities and demigods, sea serpents, monsters, beasts, druids, poets, fairies, fairy tales, folk tales, mythical tales, then the History: the coming of the Christians, ancient cultures, and Ireland today. For full enjoyment of the book and your trip, you might consider reading this half before you go.
The travel section kind of unfolds from the history. There is, however, a clear demarcation between the two. Pick up the book and look at the bottom. The mostly white section is the Mystery; the second half with the dark area is the travel section.
Middleton provides the necessary travel information (clothing, monetary exchanges, etc), but much much more. Remember that archway over the two pages? Alongside each each from top to bottom of the page in a dark green rectangle is listed pertinent local information: where to eat, where to stay, costs, pubs, ferry crossings, and more. Then the pages provide information about out-of-the-way places, mysterious sites, and touristy areas. Also, on each two-page spread is at least one photo, map, and/or illustration. The book really is quite astonishing.
"Mysterious World: Ireland" is unlike other travel guides: it is a mini encyclopedia of a country with a focus on its mysterious past. Publisher Elwell says this is the first of a series he and writer Middleton and staff will put together. There is no dearth of people interested in the mysteries of a place, its world and culture.
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