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
"[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)
Audible listener who's grateful for a long commute!
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.
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author of Lowcountry Legend's series
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.
The volume on the recording varied so wildly I found myself having to adjust it almost continually, as well as the median volume on this was abnormally low to start with. Although the book might have had promise, I finally had to give up after a couple of hours of real frustration.
I knew very little of the Irish potato famine other than it happened, after reading this extremely well researched and written book on the subject I am considerably better informed not just of the event but of the politics of the time and the way the people of Ireland lived during that time that made them particularly susceptible to the events that killed one in every three Irish. This is a great history, it is written in wonderful form and the research is spectacular, the scene painted at times is so moving you wonder why we know so little of this extraordinary event, and it is important because history as we know has a way of repeating itself, and the mistakes made that led to this tragedy are forged in todays news and events as well.
This book is highly recommended, it is important and fascinating and it will leave you the better for spending the time to gain this knowledge of what happened.
I was torn between to much detail and detail so great that I could easily picture what the scenes were in vivid detail, no pictures needed. You must truely love history and want the entire picture to read this book. The books states at one point there were people of honor and there was. There were also people who took advantage of the situation to increase their bank accounts. Finally there were those who tried as best they could but lacked the resources they needed. Overall I enjoyed this read very much although, at times i felt overwhelmed with too much detail perhaps because it was such a terrible point in history.
I would recommend this book to understand what really helped and hurt the Irish people.
If they are really into history or their Irish heritage.
I know there wasn't a happy moment.
Incredible how the sense of entitlement one class feels for another can be so catastrophic. Even if you have no Irish ancestry everyone should listen to how cruelty can rule.
The dead Mothers and Fathers. Children abandoned and the perceived reprogramming of the workhouses. Deplorable.
This is a narration and marvelous all.
No, I had to listen in small doses.
I have told everyone I know about the book.
I teach history at a community college and thus enjoy historical non-fiction. I also enjoy a good mystery novel from time to time.
As the great-great-great-grandson of immigrants who came to America during "The Great Hunger", I've always had a healthy interest in this tragic period in Irish History. This book did not disappoint. As a community college history professor, I have to admit that when I listen to non-fiction books, I hate the ones that are heavy handed with facts, figures, and dates. I prefer those with a broader narrative that weaves the "meat" of the story in with the stories of individuals. This book does not disappoint in that regard. I have to say that I listened to it once just for the story and then again for specific details. It is easy to get lost in, for sure.
I highly recommend this novel to anyone interested in this period of Irish History. I particularly recommend it to Irish-Americans, Irish-Canadians, or Irish-Australians who's families fled Ireland during this era. It will bring you closer to your ancestors and you will get a better understanding of exactly what transpired during those tragic years.
Modern day arguments over whether or not the "Famine" was an act of genocide or not certainly have their place. However, by focusing entirely on that we lose sight of what is really important. These were human beings who endured tremendous hardships and were forced out of a land they loved. Indeed, they arrived on distant shores an unwanted people, certainly in America, but through it all they endured and then they thrived. As we approach St. Patrick's Day, let those of us who are lucky enough to be descended from these brave men and women never forget the struggles that our families went through to make for us the life that we enjoy today.
I've often pondered the source of my inherent disdain and mistrust (perhaps hatred) for those in authority, particularly political authority. Part of the answer is in this book. Two of my ancestors fled Ireland in 1847 and made their way aboard coffin ships to the United States. I can feel their overwhelming influence even across the four generations that separate us. Brilliant Book and Wonderful Narration. Everyone should listen. It teaches a lesson few are willing to recognize, that the worst suffering and evil in this world flows principally from the hands of those in power who are convinced they are performing God's will.
This was an easy book to stay with--a historical picture of the years around the years of potato crop failures in Ireland and Europe. Very descriptive of the effects on workers, their families. The role England played in NOT responding to the crisis. Money is the primary element in creating the death of hundreds of thousands of poor in Ireland. The book starts before the famine and carries it forward to the Irish exodus to other countries--and the disappointing reception these poor people received. Very interesting and very well written. Very nicely narrated.
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