Anglo Republic by Simon Carswell

“Bankers like to say that their institutions are likeliest to die not of cancer in their loan book but of a heart attack in their treasury operation. This would ultimately prove accurate in Anglo’s case: the cancer would have got it eventually, but the primary cause of death was cardiac arrest.”

Simon Carswell’s account of the decline and fall of Anglo Irish Bank, Anglo Republic was published by Penguin in the first week of September 2011. I suspect I am not the only book blogger to have pre-ordered a copy and I have been reading it compulsively over the last few days. It’s a well-written and coherent account of the amazing growth of Anglo, how difficulties began to emerge, the escalation of those difficulties, the response of the bank’s senior management and board, the  with other banks, the involvement of the State, and the impact on the Irish economy. Even though much of the story is familiar because of the extensive coverage Anglo has received over the last several years, Carswell brings new insights not just to what happened but to how and why some of it happened.

If Tom Lyons and Brian Carey gave us Sean Fitzpatrick’s perspective in The Fitzpatrick Tapes  published by Penguin earlier this year,  Carwell gives us another angle. He has clearly had access to extensive material and the book is rich in detail. He also cites stories by other journalists.

The Fitzpatrick Tapes by Tom Lyons and Brian Carey

The Fitzpatrick Tapes by Tom Lyons and Brian Carey is a good read for anyone with an interest in Ireland’s banking crisis. Published by Penguin in January 2011, it is based on interviews conducted  with Sean Fitzpatrick, the former Chief Executive and Chairman of Anglo Irish Bank.

Written by Sunday Times journalists Tom Lyons and Brian Carey, The Fitzpatrick Tapes is a pacy, well-written and gripping read that provides some real insights into what went wrong in Ireland’s banks, particularly in the later chapters where it goes in to the circumstances surrounding the bank guarantee.

Contemporary accounts based on conversations with key players are interesting because they fill in gaps and provide colour for what we know of the story. It’s also interesting to get a sense of the thought processes of one of the key players. But as every historian knows, sources are rarely objective and so the reader must sift and read more widely for a more rounded understanding of any subject.

If you like this book, chances are you will also like Simon Carswell’s Anglo Republic, also published by Penguin. Kindle editions of both books are also available.

The Bankers by Shane Ross

The Bankers: How the Banks Brought Ireland to Its Knees by Shane Ross is an  interesting read for anyone curious about the reasons behind Ireland’s economic crash. It provides a lot of background and insight to the stories that dominated the Irish media and is one of a number of books published in 2009 that explore the reasons for the collapse of the Irish economy. Shane Ross lays the blame with the bankers and also has harsh words for the regulators. The Bankers is a well-written, fast-paced read, liberally peppered with names that will be familiar to anyone who has read the Irish business pages over the last decade. At just under 300 pages, it covers a lot of ground, is eye-opening at times and will certainly leave you wiser.