December Books 13) Don't Mention the Wars: A Journey Through European Stereotypes, by Tony Connelly
A well-written account for an Irish audience of the characteristics of ten European countries - Germany, France, Spain, Italy, Denmark, Sweden, Finland, Hungary, the Czech Republic and Poland. In each case Connelly has done some of the essential academic background reading, and interviews locals (and in the earlier chapters also Irish emigrants) to flesh out what makes the Poles Polish, the Germans German, and so on. In addition, he is honest about the fact that the Irish perception of many of these countries is mediated by English media (there is a painful scene in Brentwood with a German standup comedian). I felt he was particularly good on Germany and France, though rather weaker on Italy (where he spends too much time on Sicily). The one country on his list that I haven't visited myself is Poland, and I learned a lot from his chapter on it (though the main point is to go and read Norman Davies' book). If Connelly's journalism is as good as this, then RTÉ have an important asset - not just for the domestic Irish audience, but for explaining Europe better to the English-speaking world (a job which the British media dismally fails to do).