Books: No Nightingales, No Serpents

THE IRISH (180 pp.)—Sean O'Faolain—Devin-Adair ($2.75).

Irish Novelist Sean O'Faolain (A Nest of Simple Folk and The Great O'Neill) would never call himself a professional historian; his new book pretends to no scholarly grandeur and contains little beyond what O'Faolain had at his finger tips. But there have been few offhand studies of Irish history that manage to be so illuminating or so urbane.

For O'Faolain (pronounced O'Fay-lawn), a great test of the Irish came in the Middle Ages when Ireland tried to graft monastic learning on to the old Celtic sense of the...

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