Wednesday, December 28, 2016
STONES OF DUBLIN
Why did I buy this book and me already with a pile of unread books stretching from floor to ceiling.
Well, I got a present of a substantial book token and I had read and enjoyed immensely Lisa's (and Ciarán Wallace's) book, Grave Matters. Not only was that one full of resonances for me but Lisa had included one of my photos in it. On top of which, she was on the team which hosted a contribution from me on that wonderful blog Pue's Occurrences (now sadly no longer active but still hosting a series of fabulous posts online).
I was also a bit intrigued as to what an introduction to Dublin through ten buildings would amount to. Would it be all architectural or a sort of dry partial history hitting the place in spots.
I need not have worried. This is a fabulous book about Dublin. The idea of using ten prominent sites as anchors for exploring the many dimensions of Dublin's history and present situation works like a dream. Not at all obvious at the outset until you see how skillfully the fabric is woven and how bright are the colours of the dyes.
The style of writing is easy and engaging and the production values are high, from the front to the back covers and in between. A quick look at the bibliography tells you how deep and wide the story goes and the copious footnotes are well laid out and include chapter headings which make them quickly findable.
It really is a page turner and you end up even more fond of Dublin than when you started.
I'm going to list the sites and I'll bet you'll wonder how you could make a comprehensive and balanced history out this lot:
1. Christ Church Cathedral
2. Dublin Castle
3. Trinity College Dublin
4. Parliament House (now Bank of Ireland)
5. Dublin City Hall
6. St. James's Gate Brewery
7. Kilmainham Gaol
8. General Post Office (GPO)
9. The Abbey Theatre
10. Croke Park
There, I told you. A patchy lot they look, don't they?
But the skill is not only in the choosing but in the telling. Each site, apart from its own intrinsic merit, is just a kicking off point for a ramble through a series of interconnected aspects of Dublin history. Not only will you be entertained and educated over this vast canvas but you will never pass any of these sites again without its history jumping out and grabbing you by the neck.
There is real pleasure in watching each of these sites develop against a wider historical backdrop and in realising how the actual outcomes were just one among many possible alternatives.
In other words the Stones of Dublin were not actually set in stone from the outset. Things could have been very different from what they are. And it is this tension that the book captures so well and holds your attention.
The type font is also very relaxing on the eye. I knew it wasn't Times Roman and found on the flyleaf, or whatever that page is called, that it is Berkeley. Lets have a bit more of it.
I won't spoil the book for you by going on any more about it. Get a copy and read it for yourself.