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


John Kelly’s account of the Irish potato famine is a thoroughly researched and smoothly written story of the events that led to the famine and efforts to bring relief. He covers it all: from the disease that caused the European-wide potato failure to the policies and philosophies of the British to the Anglo-Irish landowners, and cultural prejudices about the Irish. Kelly places the blame on the British but shows in detail how the thinkers of the day believed in a moral and social philosophy that was at odds with giving the Irish the help that was required.

This is a factual account of a tragedy that tore at heartstrings, because it is contains accounts of people and places that make up my family tree. My heart broke as I read the stories of eviction, mass graves, and epic stupidity in policy-making and famine relief. I understand now why my ancestors left Mayo and Down for the difficult life of coalmining in Scotland, and why my Donegal ancestors fared a little better living in a remote area by the sea. They harvested, along with fish and seaweed, a deep distrust of the British. Indeed, it is hard to read this book without feeling anger and frustration at the British policies and the cruelty of land owning gentry, which led to genocide.

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12 of the best stories selected from the 2012 Historical Novel Society Short Story Award







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