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Description - The Great Shame by Thomas Keneally

In the 19th century the Irish population was halved. This masterly book traces the three causes of this depletion; first the manine, second the Irish diaspora and the emigrations to places such as America and Canada and thridly the transportations of political activists to Australia. It is a quest for Keneally's Irish ancestors. Based on unique research among little-used sources, the characters and their stories come brilliantly to life; this is an important book in which the main political themes are fascinatingly explored. It also contains a remarkable collection of photographs and documents.

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Book Details

ISBN: 9780749386047
ISBN-10: 0749386045
Format: Paperback
(198mm x 129mm x 40mm)
Pages: 752
Imprint: Vintage
Publisher: Vintage Publishing
Publish Date: 7-Oct-1999
Country of Publication: United Kingdom

Book Reviews - The Great Shame by Thomas Keneally

UK Kirkus Review » In the 19th century Ireland lost half of its population. Some starved during the famine of the 1840s, others fled to the US and Canada; still others were transported as convicts to Australia - Van Diemen's Land - often on the slightest of charges. Irish history in the greatest age of the British empire is a saga and a tragedy of epic proportions. For Keneally it contains an element of family history: he is descended from one John Keneally, a Fenian from County Cork sentenced to hte New World in the 1860s. This book tells the tale of the thousands of men like Keneally, and Hugh Larkin the poor young 'Ribbonman' with whose the tale it begins, whose desperate circumstances compelled them to the desperate circumstances which condemned them to the hulks. The author combines the novelists literary grace with detailed research into still under utilised sources in conveying both the misery of the Irish condition and the hostility of land which awaited them on the other side of the world. He also tells the remarkable stories of those convicts who were able to escape to America or occasionally to return home again. Some even went on to enjoy prominent careers such as Thomas Meagher who would become governor of Montana. In sum, this a moving and compelling account of the forces shaping the Irish diaspora which remains such a powerful force in the politics of today. (Kirkus UK)

US Kirkus Review » In this detour into epic history, Australian novelist Keneally (A River Town, 1995, etc.) powerfully chronicles, as he did in Schindler's List, the will to endure in the face of overwhelming catastrophe and man's inhumanity to man, but this time through Irish political prisoners transported to his country - including several ancestors. The Potato Famine of the 1840s and the resulting deaths and mass migration reduced Ireland's population by almost half within 40 years, at a time when the rest of Europe had increased in numbers. Immediately before and after the famine, spontaneous but ultimately futile protests swept the country - from "Ribbon" societies threatening landlords who dared to evict peasants, to members of "Young Ireland" who pushed for full independence in 1848. Britain's preferred method of dealing with dissent was transport to Australia. In addition to this penal colony, Britain's efforts to stamp out Irish rebellions would also influence, according to Keneally, "the intense and fatally riven politics of emigrant societies in the United States, Britain and Canada" - countries to which the prisoners would turn after escapes or pardons. Yet Keneally also recalls the indomitable resolution of Thomas Francis Meagher, the impetuous orator who later commanded the Union's famed Irish Brigade in the Civil War; John Boyle O'Reilly, who became a literary lion in his adopted city of Boston; and John Devoy, who not only organized a daring rescue of six Fenians by an American whaler in 1873, but over 40 years later helped plan Ireland's Easter Rebellion. Securely placing his characters in time while never losing sight of their individuality, he brings to life a compelling array of exiles who, when they were not achieving glory or in their new countries, were also experiencing restlessness, disillusion, irrelevance, despair, alcoholism, and factionalism. Massive in scope, intimate in detail - and memorable in execution. (Kirkus Reviews)


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Author Biography - Thomas Keneally

Thomas Keneally won the Booker Prize in 1982 with Schindler's Ark, since made into the internationally acclaimed film Schindler's List by Steven Speilberg. His works of non-fiction include The Place Where Souls Are Born, about the American South West, his memoir Homebush Boy, and, most recently, The Commonwealth of Thieves. His twenty-three works of fiction include The Chant of Jimmie Blacksmith, Gossip from the Forest and Confederates, each of which was shortlisted for the Booker Prize. Thomas Keneally is married with two daughters and lives most of the year in Sydney.

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