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step on board for a trip to economic disaster

By Michael Lewis

It doesn't take long for Ireland to get a mention in Michael Lewis's tour of global financial destruction -- four pages into the prologue, to be precise.

It's hardly surprising, given the case-study opportunities that this country will present for decades to come.

Lewis takes us on a tour of three countries most affected by meltdown -- Iceland, Ireland and Greece -- as well as the nation that is to a large extent bankrolling the whole mess, Germany.

He even has a look at California's fiscal mire, in the process having a chat (and a cycle) with its former governor, Arnold Schwarzenegger.

There may not be much in here that you haven't read before in one form or another. An outsider's view is always welcome, however, and Lewis's turn of phrase and "what on earth was wrong with these people?" approach is frequently amusing. The events he relates still defy belief.

Lewis gives interesting glimpses of what drove the Icelandic people to become a nation where everyone apparently thought they were financial whizzes.

The Icelandic Central Bank was "ground zero of the global calamity", he says, adding that one London hedge fund was so puzzled at what was happening at the peak of the madness that it hired private investigators to "figure out what was going on" in Iceland.

Basically, Lewis and others to whom he speaks conclude that Icelandic financial kingpins actually hadn't a clue what they were doing.

He notes the distinct segregation of women from the decision-making process in Iceland and suggests that perhaps if they had been more involved, then maybe someone might have called stop.

In Ireland, Lewis describes Bertie Ahern, whom he sees from the Dail viewing gallery, as "Political Perp No 1, and Labour's Joan Burton as the "shrill mother no one listened to". Lewis is fond of having some digs at first impressions (in Iceland, it's the apparently gruff males who make a point of bumping into you).

It's enjoyable for the most part, but can wear slightly thin at times. His description of Athens, with its graffiti and grubbiness, as "Los Angeles with a past" is a gem though.

Ireland's disaster, he claims, has left us an effectively a state now under foreign control.

"Dublin is now an occupied city, Hanoi, circa 1950," he says, referring to the beginning of the end for French troops in Vietnam. At least they had good weather.For an uncomplicated but wry replay of the financial car crash, this is worth reading.

Available with free P&P on www.kennys.ie or by calling 091-709350.

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