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The Graves Are Walking: The Great Famine and the Saga of the Irish People | [John Kelly]

The Graves Are Walking: The Great Famine and the Saga of the Irish People

It started in 1845 and lasted six years. Before it was over, more than one million men, women, and children starved to death and another million fled the country. Measured in terms of mortality, the Great Irish Potato Famine was one of the worst disasters in the 19th century-it claimed twice as many lives as the American Civil War. A perfect storm of bacterial infection, political greed, and religious intolerance sparked this catastrophe.
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Publisher's Summary

It started in 1845 and lasted six years. Before it was over, more than one million men, women, and children starved to death and another million fled the country. Measured in terms of mortality, the Great Irish Potato Famine was one of the worst disasters in the 19th century-it claimed twice as many lives as the American Civil War. A perfect storm of bacterial infection, political greed, and religious intolerance sparked this catastrophe. But even more extraordinary than its scope were its political underpinnings, and The Graves Are Walking provides fresh material and analysis on the role that nineteenth-century evangelical Protestantism played in shaping British policies and on Britain's attempt to use the famine to reshape Irish society and character.

Perhaps most important, this is ultimately a story of triumph over perceived destiny: for 50 million Americans of Irish heritage, the saga of a broken people fleeing crushing starvation and remaking themselves in a new land is an inspiring story of exoneration.

Based on extensive research and written with novelistic flair, The Graves Are Walking draws a portrait that is both intimate and panoramic, that captures the drama of individual lives caught up in an unimaginable tragedy, while imparting a new understanding of the famine's causes and consequences.

©2012 John Kelly (P)2012 Tantor

What the Critics Say

"[Kelly's] exhaustive research covers every aspect, threading the gruesome events into a huge panoramic tapestry that reveals political greed lurking behind the pestilence." (Publishers Weekly)

What Members Say

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  •  
    C. Telfair Shepherdstown, WV, United States 08-22-12
    C. Telfair Shepherdstown, WV, United States 08-22-12 Member Since 2006

    Audible has changed my life! Dry , itchy eyes were destroying one of my greatest pleasures - reading. Now I am experiencing books again!

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    "Unforgettable, Haunting, and a Compelling Warning"

    What an amazing book! I listened well into the night, the story and the narration were so compelling. I can't recommend it highly enough! Today, I am enlightened, appalled, grieved, very angry, and even alarmed about an event that happened half a world away over 150 years ago. I'd say that's a tribute to any historical account!

    Like nearly all Americans, I was familiar with the reason so many Irish left their country in the 1840's. Mostly, it was, to me, more a story of American immigration than Irish tragedy. Well, no more! This is gut-wrenching, heart-breaking stuff, and, like all the best histories, brings to life the events and people of the time.

    Can you believe it? The legislature of the most powerful and wealthy country of the time failed to react adequately to a natural disaster because 1} the poor in Ireland (a lazy bunch, anyway) might become dependent on government handouts; 2) giving away food would disrupt the free market (perfectly good non-potato food was, throughout the famine, being exported at great profit from Ireland); and 3) Party squabbles and greedy personal agendas meant too little action and too little political will to help the poor (and even the formerly relatively prosperous). This could never happen again, right?

    So, besides being the terrible story of an awful time in Ireland that affected the entire world, this is a dire warning for the future. Bad economies, failing crops, and over-population are international problems. Once again, we'd better know our history and heed its lessons!

    Beautifully written by John Kelly and compellingly narrated by Gerard Doyle, this is an important, important book. Don't miss it!

    35 of 35 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Jean Santa Cruz, CA, United States 12-13-12
    Jean Santa Cruz, CA, United States 12-13-12 Member Since 2010

    I am an avid eclectic reader.

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    "This will happen again."

    John Kelly bring history alive in this masterfully written book. He tells the story of the poor Irish people and how the world failed to help them in time. One third of the population of the country died in the famine. The English government came out as ineffective in the book between personal agendas, petty political squabbles and a ruling party that said "We owe no man help". The sad thing is polictics today sound the same. . Everyone needs to read this book and the world needs to take heed of the message within. In school I was taught that famine and pestilence was cyclic but modern science has derailed a world wide famine since the1840 world wide famine. I was taught the following will cause a famine: Bad economies, failing crops, drought, extreme weather changes, and most of all overpopulation and lack of world leadership. John Kelly showed how this all came together in Ireland and less so in the rest of Europe to cause the famine of the 1840s. We are in the gathering of the storm right now and need to listen to the lessons from this excellent book. I was amazed at the prejudice the English had of the Irish. No wonder it is hard to obtain peace between the two people. My maternal side of the family fled Ireland at that time and settled in England, then migrated to Canada before WW1. My paternal family was from Scotland. I must admit this is the first time I have read a detailed account of the Irish famine my ancestors fled from. Gerard Doyle did a superb job narrating the book. This is a must read book.

    4 of 4 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Jean Reston, Virginia 10-19-13
    Jean Reston, Virginia 10-19-13 Member Since 2008
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    "Every Irish American should read this book"

    As one who dislikes throwing around superlatives, I must call this book an astounding revelation. As an Irish American on my mother's side whose great-grandparents emigrated to New Orleans during the Great Famine, I now realize how profoundly uninformed I was about this tragic period in Irish history. If I thought about it at all, I just assumed it was caused by crop failures for a few years. Now I understand that it was greed, indifference, political expediency, British prejudice against the Irish for their perceived "laziness" and "unwillingness to help themselves" that caused a serious problem to become a catastrophe.

    My sweet and gentle Irish grandmother, who was born in New Orleans in 1876, could not be riled by much, but we learned to dare not mention the English to her. I always thought that was quaint and amusing. I'd give anything if she were here today so that I could learn what she knew.

    3 of 3 people found this review helpful
  •  
    deborah Palm Coast, FL, United States 02-05-13
    deborah Palm Coast, FL, United States 02-05-13 Member Since 2011

    Online Grad Student, I prefer audiobooks to bound books. Preferences: history, disasters, Preston/Child, Lee Child

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    "One of the best accounts of the famine"

    Unlike most of the popular nonfiction books books on the potato famine, Kelly intertwines the anecdotal with the political, social, and economic policies that exacerbated a European crisis into what seemed like an attempted Irish genocide. Data is explicit, and should be accompanied by the printed or ebook to review the notes and bibliography. Its well enunciated by the Irish Doyle, and the perfect length.

    One of the best I heard recently.

    3 of 3 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Anne Ballwin, MO, United States 12-06-12
    Anne Ballwin, MO, United States 12-06-12 Member Since 2009
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    "A horrible tragedy brought to life"

    I love work which helps me understand and relate to how other people lived in other times and other lands. This historical work on the history of the Irish Famine is just such a book. I am Irish by heritage and some of my maternal ancestors came to America to flee the famine. But I had no idea...

    The author details not only the terrible blight that caused the destruction of the potato crops upon which the Irish subsistence farmers depended to survive, but also the horrific consequences of the arrogance and indifference of the Irish aristocracy and the British government, and of the despotic and destructive decisions that added so much to the suffering and death. The Irish wouldn't call the events a famine; they would call it a deliberate starvation. You'll come to understand why. You'll also come to understand the economic realities that, in some cases, drove the impossible decisions the British and Irish ruling classes had to make.

    It's a difficult story to hear, but it's true. Like the Black Plague in the 12th and 13th centuries and the Dust Bowl in 1930s America, the individual stories of human struggle, venality, suffering, death, survival and, in some cases, triumph, will both astound and confound you.

    3 of 3 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Pat Houston, TX, United States 09-28-13
    Pat Houston, TX, United States 09-28-13 Member Since 2005

    Evening and Weekend Manager Lone Star College-Greenspoint Center Houston, TX 77060

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    "Capitalism, Religion, and Culture yield Famine"

    The Irish Potato famine lasted from 1841 to 1849 and resulted in the deaths of millions of poor Irish farmers and their families. John Kelly, the author, uses newspaper reports, diary entries, and Irish literature written in that time to take the reader through those horrific years. He shows that the consequences of the famine were the result of the capitalistic, religious, and ethnic cultures of the time. If slavery was America's "Original Sin", The Potato famine was Great Britain's. As the reader moves through the period of the famine, it is obvious that greed, self interest, and ignorance combined to bring down the Irish peasants and land owners alike.

    One part of Kelly's narrative that I found interesting was his description of the Irish immigrant experience in America and Canada as result of the famine. I recommend The Graves are Walking to any interested in understanding what shaped Irish culture from 1841 to this day.

    2 of 2 people found this review helpful
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    Andy Westport, CT, United States 11-12-12
    Andy Westport, CT, United States 11-12-12 Member Since 2002
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    "hardship, compounded by weak leadership"

    Gripping recap of the potato famine in Ireland, and the disease and death that went with it. John Kelly also tells about the Irish emigration to America, along with the difficulties of the trans-Atlantic journey of the weak and too often ill travelers. Awesome narration by Gerard Doyle.

    2 of 2 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Susan K Treiman new york city 10-08-12
    Susan K Treiman new york city 10-08-12 Member Since 2012

    streiman

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    "Fascinating window into a pivotal event"

    I've always heard about the potato famine, but never really knew the details - including how avoidable it was . The story is well-told, well-read, and well-documented. All that it missed, and this is a personal preference rather than a criticism, were some in-depth and personal stories about actual families deeply affected by the crisis. That said, it explained the ongoing struggles between the English and the Irish, the huge migration to American, and some pretty misinformed food policies. Worth reading!!

    2 of 2 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Cynthia Monrovia, California, United States 10-01-13
    Cynthia Monrovia, California, United States 10-01-13 Member Since 2012

    Audible listener who's grateful for a long commute!

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    "Stop Using Food as a Tool of Moral Reeducation"

    Have you ever read/listened to a or story and found yourself getting really angry? I don't mean the polite. distant, "I can't believe that happened" mad. I mean the kind of righteous ire that has you pacing the floor, cursing, and punching sofa cushions. John Kelly's "The Graves are Walking: The Great Famine and the Saga of the Irish People" (2012) enraged me, because Kelly was talking about my great grandfather's parents, Rosetta and John, who immigrated from Ireland in 1846 and 1847, when they were 8 and 9.

    I've always known that Rosetta and John were 'potato famine Irish', but until Kelly's book, I had no appreciation for what that meant. My understanding of 'The Great Famine' was romanticized by Ron Howard's 1992 film "Far and Away." It would have been more historically accurate if Howard had used the same gaunt, haunted actors Steven Spielberg cast in "Schindler's List" (1993); and if Howard had replaced the beautiful Irish landscape with useless public works roads leading to nowhere, and stripped the verdant, forrested hills to bare dirt for no reason at all.

    Phytophthora infestans (a fungus) caused Ireland's potato crop failures in 1845 to 1847, but England's attempt at social engineering actually killed an estimated 750,000 Irish. 2,000,000 more - including my great great grandparents - left. 25% to 30% of Ireland was gone in 2 years.

    England's grand idea was that depriving the Irish of potatoes would make them self sufficient. Perhaps if Ireland, at England's direction, wasn't exporting food during the famine . . . Or if the grandiose administrators distributed grain sent from around the world , . . Or corrupt officials weren't propping up import prices . . . It broke my heart.

    Although this book had a profound effect on me, I'm giving the story a 3 because it really wandered and repeated itself. I was confused about what happened, and when. Obvious questions weren't answered - who determined Phytophthora infestans was the culprit? What worked to stop it? There are more questions I'd like answered.

    Gerard Doyle was a good narrator, although - with apologies to John and Rosetta - I wouldn't know a true Irish accent unless I was at Coulter Bay with a native of the "Irish race." Not my phrase, of course - thank the phrenologists of the day.

    [If this review helped, please press YES.]

    14 of 19 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Mary Elizabeth Reynolds SUMMERVILLE, SC, United States 03-16-14
    Mary Elizabeth Reynolds SUMMERVILLE, SC, United States 03-16-14 Member Since 2010

    author of Lowcountry Legend's series

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    "Sad tale of a sad time"

    There is no way to make this a happy story, but this well written and as unbiased as possible. It does help understand many things about Irish history.

    1 of 1 people found this review helpful
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