I recommend that this book be read/listened to after you've already completed Cecil Woodham-Smith's "The Great Hunger" (also available on Audible.com). "Black Potatoes" closely follows (and comes off as heavily derived from) "The Great Hunger", but whereas "TGH" focuses primarily on the perspective of the British Government, "Black Potatoes" offers a summary of "THG" as a backdrop for presenting personal stories from the starving Irish themselves. Not authoritative by any stretch, "Black Potatoes" is a capable summary and supplement to Woodham-Smith's book. The narrator and his pronunciation of Irish names are tolerable.
Most poignant were Clancy's memories of his childhood in impoverished 40's-50's Ireland. As the autobio progressed, however, my regard for Clancy as a moral Irish country boy also lost its virginity as his character slipped into decline. Having Clancy narrate the audiobook is priceless, however, and the bits of original music are powerful and moving. Although I was personally disappointed in Clancy's discarding of his Irish upbringing, I can't deny that this is a compelling book.
Having studied the Irish language in a number of formats, I can't deny the effectiveness of the Pimsleur method for learning SPEECH. The approach is very logical, and the material is useful for the casual cultural tourist or the beginner. Unfortunately, Pimsleur has only 10 lessons of Irish, enough to get you started, but little enough to leaving you hanging after lesson #10. Come on, Pimsleur... if you can do 30 lessons of Russian, surely you can do as much for Irish.
"The Great Hunger" is a masterpiece account of the Potato Blight and, in particular, of the British Government's response to it. Woodham-Smith uses a massive amount of primary sources to convey not only what actions the government took (and didn't take), but the author takes us into the inner thoughts of the key players - Robert Peel, John Russell, Charles Wood, Charles Trevelyan, Lord Clarendon - to understand why they made the decisions they made. The book concludes with a thoroughly damning appraisal of the performance of the British government, and particularly of the Russell Parliament's utter incompetence and inability to foresee the likely consequence of any one of its actions. Too, the landlord class in Ireland come off largely as callous barbarians who wrecked the country and themselves through shortsighted selfishness. For all the outrage, Woodham-Smith's tone is remarkably fair and restrained, and in almost all cases, the guilty are condemned by their own words.
My only gripe with this audiobook is the narrator, whose elegantly stuffy English accent and tone (straight out of the House of Lords) is hard to bear in a book that catalogues the sins of Britain against another people. His chronic mispronunciation of Irish names (ex. he pronounces Drogheda as "Dro-GEE-duh", and Thomas Francis Meagher's name is read "MEE-ger") is particularly annoying. Otherwise, the narration itself is competent.
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