A fierce, mordantly funny and perceptive book, from the author of Ship of Fools, about the act of national self-harm known as Brexit. A great democratic country tears itself apart, and indulges in the dangerous pleasures of national masochism.
Fintan O'Toole is a historian, biographer, literary critic and political commentator. His acclaimed columns on Brexit for the Irish Times, the Guardian and the New York Review of Books have been awarded both the Orwell Prize and the European Press Prize. His books include A Traitor's Kiss, his life of Richard Brinsley Sheridan, Judging Shaw and White Savage. His investigative, polemical books have all been bestsellers: Meanwhile Back at the Ranch, Ship of Fools and Enough is Enough. He is writing the authorised biography of Seamus Heaney and, for Head of Zeus, a history of Ireland in his own time.
'[O'Toole] is a sharp thinker and he makes many good points ...
There is also a lot to learn from his incidental arguments. This is
a literary book and I was delighted' The Times.
'The psychopathology of Brexit is at the heart of Fintan O'Toole's compact counterblast' Times Educational Supplement.
'A witty attack on the fantasies that drove Brexit ... Clever, over the top, but entertaining political writing' The Times, Books of the Year.
'Fintan O'Toole's searing polemic [is] expertly researched and full of unexpectedly funny vignettes' Sunday Business Post, Books of the Year.
'What gives this book its distinction is the fact that [O'Toole] is as adept at analysing character (as revealed by language) as he is at marshalling statistics ... O'Toole uncovers and dissects it with the deliberate, affectless skill of a virtuoso surgeon. The result, for me, is a wildly entertaining but uncomfortable read. In short, he has nailed us to the floor with a nine-inch nail. It's certainly not easy bein' English these days, and O'Toole, with this pitilessly brilliant book, has just made it at least fifty shades harder' Jonathan Coe, Irish Times.
'[The Euro] is what British conservative thought has feared since the 1970s. Readers interested in exploring these fears, and pretty much everyone else, should read [this]' Sunday Business Post.
'O'Toole offers a central, sexual metaphor for the fall, in which England alternately dominates and submits' Guardian.
'Britain's psychodrama, as Fintan O'Toole reminds us in his brilliant book, is almost entirely about its reaction to winning World War II, but losing its empire' Sunday Business Post.
'O'Toole has been one of the most astute commentators on Brexit, and here he offers his analysis on the forces in the English psyche that brought it about. Nor does he pull any punches ... He writes to devastating effect, his framing of Brexit as a "weird psychodrama" raising some uncomfortable questions' Herald.
'Fintan O'Toole [...] displays an amazing command of the facts, but what distinguishes his book is the quality of the mind at work, the sharpness of the analysis, the style. O'Toole even makes you feel sorry for the Brexit leaders and that is no small achievement' Colm Toibin, Irish Independent, Books of the Year.
'Excellent ... Heroic Failure has many lessons about political backstabbing' Martina Fitzgerald, Dublin Sunday Business Post, Books of the Year.
'O'Toole is never knowingly understated, and these essays are best enjoyed as intellectual comfort food for anyone who agrees that Brexit has no redeeming features whatsoever. Stylishly presented ... They are the work of a skilled debater' Dublin Sunday Business Post.
'A quite brilliant dissection of the cultural roots of the Brexit narrative. It is a love letter to the best of Britain and a demolition of the fantasies of the worst' David Miliband.
'Of all the wonderful things I devoured over the Xmas break, I enjoyed this the most. Best book about the English that I've read for ages, it explains how their post-imperial neurosis led to Brexit' Billy Bragg.
'A brilliant exploration of the Brexit psyche and, as one would expect, it is written beautifully as well' Belfast Telegraph.
'The most entertaining book about Brexit - and in times this dark we must give thanks for the laughter it occasions' Tablet.
'The argument is brilliantly made in Fintan O'Toole's very funny Heroic Failure' Kevin O'Rourke, Guardian.
'O'Toole shows, sometimes in provocative fashion, how anxieties about British decline spawned a topsy-turvy story' Financial Times.
'Full of acute cultural observation and includes a hilarious take-down of Boris Johnson' New Statesman.
'[Heroic Failure's] arguments are well made. O'Toole is very good at analysing the "camp" style of Brexiteers such as Boris Johnson, who wave serious economic objections away with "references to Dunkirk or the Blitz", while presenting "bans" on bendy bananas as vital "tests of national freedom"' The Week.