Clair Wills's The Best Are Leaving is an important and wide-ranging study of post-war Irish emigrant culture. Wills analyses representations of emigrants from Ireland and of Irish immigrants in Britain across a range of discourses, including official documents, sociological texts, clerical literature, journalism, drama, literary fiction, and popular literature and film. This book, written by a leading critic of Irish literature and culture, discusses topics such as the loss of the finest people from rural Ireland and the destruction of traditional communities; the anxieties of women emigrants and their desire for the benefits of modern consumer society; the stereotype of the drunken Irishman; the charming and authentic country Irish in the city; and the ambiguous meanings of Irish Catholicism in England, which was viewed as both a threatening and civilising force. Wills explores this theme of emigration through writers as diverse as M. J. Molloy, John B. Keane, Tom Murphy, and Edna O'Brien.
Clair Wills is Professor of Irish Literature at Queen Mary, University of London. Previous publications include That Neutral Island: A History of Ireland during the Second World War (2007) and Dublin 1916: The Siege of the GPO (2009).