It was taken over by the Irish Volunteers on Easter Monday 1916 and held for nearly a week. But the rebels finally surrendered the GPO to the Crown forces after heavy gun bombardment, and the ensuing conflagration reduced the building to an empty shell and destroyed much of the centre of the city. Clair Wills' rich and rewarding book recounts the dramatic events of Easter Week. But she also tracks the obsession with Dublin's iconic edifice through literature, film and art, exploring the twists and turns that the myth of the GPO has undergone in the last century. It has stood for sacrifice and treachery, national unity and divisive violence, for the future and the past.
Dublin 1916 was chosen as Book of the Week, Irish Mail on Sunday, April 2009; Book of the Month, The Guardian; Book of the Year, Irish Times 2009
The Guardian: A distinguished scholar of Irish literature as well as a formidably accomplished social historian, she is alert to the loaded implications of words and symbols. Her title is correspondingly significant: this is a book about the theatre of the GPO, the effect on Dublin and the resonances cast forward by the event....Wills's stylish, suggestive and highly intelligent book provides a riveting commentary on that process...
Irish Independent: Clair Wills, in this fascinating study, shows how the building itself waxed and waned in the imagination as the state tried to identify itself, and how, later, a more mature society veered between remembering and forgetting. In a magisterial review of the sources (and, helpfully, of the literature in an extended bibliographical note) she focuses attention not on the Rising, but on the Post Office as the main centre of activity, the headquarters position where the general staff actually came under fire and, in the front line shared, the heat and burden of the day, the locale for the foundation myth of the national narrative... The week of the Rising is dealt with in fascinating detail, drawing on personal diaries and memoirs, contemporary newspapers and reports of official commissions.
Irish Daily Star: Clair Wills has painstakingly gathered eye-witness accounts, diaries and newspaper reports from the period in order to paint a detailed picture of one of the most fascinating few days in Ireland's history...Essential reading.
The Scotsman: his is an elegant, intelligent and literate account, taking in the historical blow-by-blow, cultural background and enduring (and enduringly contested) significance for Ireland and the world
Morning Star: Wills' potent historical monograph - a study in the elusive fabric of history - is complemented with numerous illustrations and a splendidly annotated further reading list.
Sunday Herald: In this short and punchy account... Wills makes an ideal guide. Not only is she steeped in the history of modern Ireland... but she is able to take the subject by the scruff of the neck and replace some wishful thinking with hard-nosed reality. She also possesses a fine line in irony... At a time when Ireland is still struggling with its republican past and the ghosts of previous struggles, this is an intelligent addition and one which will tickle a few brain cells.
Irish Mail on Sunday: (Book of the week) Wills writes with verve...her book is full of challenge and interest.
BBC History: Clair Wills guides us expertly from one commemorative stepping stone to another, charting the shifting meanings of the rising and the GPO in response to the exigencies of the present... The subtext of this fine study might be: history is much too important to be left to the historians.
The Sunday Business Post: Wills' highly readable study...Wills' book is not only timely, but should be required reading in classrooms the length and breadth of the country.
TLS: [S]he brings a cool impartiality to heated political territory, and her book resists the binary thinking that has reduced understanding of the Rising... Clair Wills cannily observes how such transactions mutated over the decades in this elegant, savvy and absorbing book.
Socialist Review: In this short and lively account Clair Wills looks at the iconography of the revolt...this succinct book has found new and genuinely interesting things to say on the politics of the rising.
Literary Review: She is to be congratulated on retelling that narrative with originality, economy and erudition.