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

3.8 out of 5 stars 14 customer reviews

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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: 1,250,055 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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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Top Customer Reviews

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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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: 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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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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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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found this book clearly written. I grew up in Ireland during the war years and so I found it nostalgic reading. Good insights into the reasons for Ireland's neutrality and the author dispels the myths surrounding it. Also deals with the cultural negatives of neutrality and the adverse effects on the rural population. She brings out the importance of war-time neutrality in forming the Irish psyche and subsequent national policy. An excellent read in my estimation.,
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This book gives a very thorough, interesting and balanced account of how the Irish Free State (now Eire) was affected by World War 2. Very importantly, it describes events and developments in Irish society during the years leading up to the war, and then goes on to describe the many ways that the war caused changes in the life of the country. It contains a great deal of information and it is not judgmental. There is a thorough coverage of the political situation, and of the dominant role of De Valera. De Valera had to try to appear impartial and not show preference for either of the belligerents, although he took a very hard line with the IRA. However, the book emphasizes constantly the many effects on Irish society, and in particular the ordinary people. This is a very fine book indeed.
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