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Hart (The I.R.A. and Its Enemies) is to be commended for his research, but his revisionist view of Irish revolutionary Michael Collins (1890–1922) is fraught with misconceptions. For example, he describes how dispirited the "G" Division (or Special Branch, in charge of political intelligence) of the Dublin Metropolitan Police was in 1919, giving the impression that its members were harmless—and innocent. Yet later on he says the "Special Branch was indeed responsible for murder and torture." This is key to the legacy of Collins, which completely eludes Hart. Collins knew he could not win the revolution on a grand scale. Thus, the battle for Ireland's freedom would come down to an event known as "Bloody Sunday." On November 21, 1920, agents of Collins's infamous Squad assassinated 14 British secret service agents in one morning. Hart dismisses the importance of Bloody Sunday—he gives it two pages— as a messy, almost fruitless endeavor. But the Fenian math is irrefutable: 700 years of British occupation ended within 54 weeks of Bloody Sunday. Hart has an irritating way of inserting himself into the biography, throwing in asides that only lessen the effect of the narrative. This book is best utilized after reading the outstanding biographies of Collins (such as Tim Pat Coogan's Michael Collins), which allow the reader to at least put Hart's assumptions into proper historical perspective. Map. (Feb. 20)
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A triumph . . . Insights abound . . . Reads like a le Carre thriller. (The Irish Book Review)
This is the book that will unquestionably be the starting point for all future reflections on Collins. (The New Republic)
[Hart] succeeds in demystifying a legend. (The Boston Sunday Globe)
A fine biography . . . written with immense verve. (The New York Times Book Review)