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Publisher's Summary

This is the story of three terrible famines. The first is an Gorta Mór, the great hunger of Ireland, which began in 1846. The second is the deadly famine that struck Bengal in 1943. The third is the Ethiopian famine, which first sprung up in lethal form in the 1970s under Emperor Haile Selassie and then reappeared under the brutal dictator Mengistu in the 1980s. Keneally visited Eritrea in 1984 to see the effects of this grave event. Tom Keneally shares these three shocking histories with his customary penetrating wisdom, and he presents a controversial theory in his utterly compelling narrative: in all three famines, ideology, mindsets of governments, racial preconceptions and administrative incompetence were, ultimately, more lethal than the initiating blights, the loss of potatoes or rice or the grain named teff.

©2010 Copyright © The Serpentine Publishing Co. (Pty) Limited 2010. (P)2011 Bolinda Publishing Pty Ltd

Critic Reviews

‘A powerful non-fiction work that reminds us that hunger has been – and remains – among the greatest of the world’s injustices.’ Stephen Romei, The Australian
‘I am sure Tom Keneally is incapable of writing a dull book’ — Andrew Riemer, Sydney Morning Herald

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A Clinical Approach to Starvation

Thomas Keneally, in his recent book Three Famines, takes a rather clinical approach to mass starvation. The reader expecting any sentimentality toward the victims of such eras will not find it here. Readers will, however, come away with a deeper understanding of the factors contributing to famines. Keneally makes his points through revisiting the potato famine in Ireland, the Bengal starvation in 1942, and the Ethiopian experience with intermittent famines later in the century. He makes the case that each of the three resulted from the ideology and mindsets of governmental leaders, racial perception, and administrative bungling or malfeasance. Segments of the book are not for the faint of heart, but a reading of this volume will open and inform the minds of all who take the time for it. The reading of Peter Byrne is appropriate and well done.

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  • Mr. Acapella
  • 09-29-14

Important account of a terrible subject

Famine is something we should all be much more aware of and this book explains in detail 3 particular famines, the Irish potato famine, the Bengal famine during WW2 and the famines in Ethiopa and NE Africa of the late 20th century. Author covers medical, agricultural and political aspects of each famine and highlights common failings that lead to each disaster and which failed to relieve them. An important and well presented book.