In This Review

Mick: The Real Michael Collins
Mick: The Real Michael Collins
By Peter Hart
Viking Adult, 2006, 384 pp

This enormous biography is interesting for two reasons. First, it provides a cool, unromantic look at the life of the young Irish revolutionary, and particularly at his gradual climb in the ranks of the Irish Republican Army (IRA) after the 1916 Easter Rising and at his decision to accept "the Treaty" that led to the independence of Ireland minus the Northern Ireland enclave. Hart, who teaches Irish studies at the Memorial University of Newfoundland, has used all available archives and has systematically separated the facts from the legend. Second, it is a study in biographer ambivalence. Hart's style is flat, like a police report, and shuns the eloquence that so often marked his subject's oratory. He makes valiant efforts to recognize Collins' strength, charisma, and decisiveness after a long period of deliberation and uncertainty. But he accuses Collins of not fully realizing "the uncontrollability of violence and its transformative power." Hart concludes that Collins was "the most successful politician in modern Irish history," whose triple legacy was independence, partition, and the IRA. It will be interesting to see how Hart's Irish readers react.