The operative word in this engaging volume is "change." Foster, the author of an acclaimed history of Ireland from 1600 to 1972, completes the story here, recounting the transformation of an old country. Economically, inward investment boomed, growth took off, trade surpluses accumulated, and disposable income grew to unprecedented levels, turning a poor country into a rich one in a single generation. Socially, mores evolved rapidly on issues such as abortion, homosexuality, divorce, and religious practice, a process engagingly described in a chapter provocatively entitled "How the Catholics Became Protestants." Politically and diplomatically, the decades-long obsession with unification that produced the Irish Republican Army gradually -- but inexorably -- mutated into a widespread acceptance of peaceful reconciliation. And culturally, a country whose artists (and much of the general population) had for decades taken their talent and ambition abroad now has artists who produce their work from within Ireland itself. Foster tells this great story with style, objectivity, and expertise.