1 title per month from Audible’s entire catalog of best sellers, and new releases.
Access a growing selection of included Audible Originals, audiobooks and podcasts.
You will get an email reminder before your trial ends.
Your Premium Plus plan is $14.95 a month after 30 day trial. Cancel anytime.
Buy for $34.99

Buy for $34.99

Pay using card ending in
By confirming your purchase, you agree to Audible's Conditions of Use and Amazon's Privacy Notice. Taxes where applicable.

Publisher's Summary

In We Don't Know Ourselves, Fintan O'Toole weaves his own experiences into Irish social, cultural, and economic change, showing how Ireland, in just one lifetime, has gone from a reactionary "backwater" to an almost totally open society - perhaps the most astonishing national transformation in modern history.

Born to a working-class family in the Dublin suburbs, O'Toole served as an altar boy and attended a Christian Brothers school. He was enthralled by American Westerns suddenly appearing on Irish television, which were not that far from his own experience, given that Ireland's main export was beef and it was still not unknown for herds of cattle to clatter down Dublin's streets. Yet the Westerns were a sign of what was to come. 

O'Toole narrates the once unthinkable collapse of the all-powerful Catholic Church, brought down by scandal and by the activism of ordinary Irish, women in particular. He relates the horrific violence of the Troubles in Northern Ireland, which led most Irish to reject violent nationalism. In O'Toole's telling, America became a lodestar, from John F. Kennedy's 1963 visit, when the American president was welcomed as a native son, to the emergence of the Irish technology sector in the late 1990s, driven by American corporations, which set Ireland on the path toward particular disaster during the 2008 financial crisis.

©2021 Fintan O'Toole (P)2022 HighBridge, a division of Recorded Books

What listeners say about We Don't Know Ourselves

Average Customer Ratings
Overall
  • 4.5 out of 5 stars
  • 5 Stars
    104
  • 4 Stars
    23
  • 3 Stars
    5
  • 2 Stars
    1
  • 1 Stars
    1
Performance
  • 5 out of 5 stars
  • 5 Stars
    100
  • 4 Stars
    16
  • 3 Stars
    4
  • 2 Stars
    0
  • 1 Stars
    1
Story
  • 4.5 out of 5 stars
  • 5 Stars
    93
  • 4 Stars
    22
  • 3 Stars
    3
  • 2 Stars
    1
  • 1 Stars
    1

Reviews - Please select the tabs below to change the source of reviews.

Sort by:
Filter by:
  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    5 out of 5 stars

Brilliant. Pure pleasure.

Rarely have I ever encountered such a thoroughly articulated sense of time and place. Speaking from life experience — and with a startling number of firsthand interactions with key figures — the author lays out a complex, convincing portrait of the world he was born into and how it has changed in his life. It reeks of truth. It conveys complex yet compelling insights any of us would long to convey about our own experience. The best history I’ve read in ages. And the performance is first rate — this was pure pleasure.

5 people found this helpful

  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    5 out of 5 stars

Loving it

So far I am loving this book. I am a first generation Irish catholic with staunch nationalist family, so hearing a different but not entirely oppositional Account of modern Irish history.

3 people found this helpful

  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    5 out of 5 stars

Best book I have read on modern Ireland south & northwest

Totally enjoyable and very informative view of Ireland northwest and south since the 50s. I devour books on our own history literature culture. And I found this books approach to be totally fascinating enjoyable. Weaving so much information in and out in both the topical and chronological order. Additionally, O’Toole is just a wonderful writer a true wordsmith. You may not agree with everything he says but overall fascinating view of Ireland over the last seven years

2 people found this helpful

  • Overall
    2 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    4 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    2 out of 5 stars

Relentlessly Negative

If you despise Ireland this the book for you. O'Toole takes the occasion of this book to hang all his enemies. And his enemies are legion. They crowd off his pages any glimmer of a good person, a worthy deed, or a cultural achievement. Listening to half a dozen of Sienad O’Connor's self-congratulatory screeds against her fellows will give you the whole gist of this author's protracted slouching toward whatever ditch he wants to bury Ireland in. He admires nothing. He is always on the attack. Even the rise of Country music in the Irish seventies is an example of the people as fools, institutions are demonic, and innovation as orchestrated by predators. Perhaps the crowning instance of otoole's malevolence comes when he rants against the substitution of horizontal for vertical windows in new built houses, a sign of people too dumb to know which way is up. (No joke here. I’m not kidding.). I kept going until the end of the book, driven by a lurid fascination with seeing if otoole would keep slouching. He never disappointed.

1 person found this helpful

  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    4 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    5 out of 5 stars

Wonderful mix of personal and national history

Anyone who loves history and good writing should listen to or read this book. Despite my Irish heritage, I had only fragments of the history of Ireland in my life time. This books weaves together these fragments in an engaging and informative manner. Bravo

1 person found this helpful

  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    4 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    4 out of 5 stars

Emerald optimism and its lumps

Here's an interesting idea: Catholicism played the same role in Ireland that Communism played in Russia, and its dominance crumbled for similar reasons. O'Toole takes us along the the path of his own life somewhat as a hiker guides one along a towpath; the big barges of history travel alongside his own ambling way to manhood.

He is enraged at the massive child abuse and sectarian bloodshed that shamed Ireland during his first decades, Yet at the same time O'Toole remains a calm, amiable, and candid talker. He brings us close to the Irish at the time when they got infatuated with American styles, yet remained hard for Americans to understand. I just like the guy.

The book has a couple of chapters that might seem chewy to readers who haven't followed Irish news. But to make up for that, the book is at last happily free from the booze-and-blarney atmosphere that still dominates almost all internationally published Irish fiction. It's clear, bright, and innovative.

1 person found this helpful

  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    5 out of 5 stars

Superb modern history

Extensively researched, brilliantly written and performed. I highly recommend this book. The description of the "unknown knowns" explains a lot about Ireland, and the U.S.

  • Overall
    4 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    3 out of 5 stars

It was hard to finish

it is extremely well written and informative, but can be dry, overwelming, and overly negative at times. Names of people, places, and events are constantly being introduced at such a rapid pace that you get lost; not to mention it jumps from year to year frequently, meaning that, even though the chapter is in 2008, he's talking about something that happened 80s. I also had the problem of asking "is Ireland getting any better yet? no? Ok." and I start to tune out a bit. despite this, I genuinely feel like I have learned about Ireland; things I never knew or didn't realize. I'm grateful for this book. it's demystified the emerald Isle for me and made me appreciate it for the country it is in the modern day.

  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    5 out of 5 stars

Thoughtful, observant, witty

O’Toole weaves together the pieces of recent history that I’d followed (as the child of an ulster man in Canada) but had not put together. He tells the story with a warmth and generosity that supports the idea of reconciliation and future, but also with a raw and hard look at the cruelties and graft of the church and the post independence elite that does justice to them. Kelly tells the story with authenticity

  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    5 out of 5 stars

When I was a young man.

When I was a young man living in Ireland I was aware of some of the happening laid out in Fintan O’Toole’s book. He has told the true story of the forming and making of modern Ireland warts and all. A must read for anyone with a interest in modern irish history.