The Exile Breed

Written by Charles Egan
Review by Christoph Fischer

This novel tells the fortunes of the Ryan family after the Irish Famine of 1847, namely that of Luke and his cousin Danny. It follows Luke on his journey to America and Danny to his new life in Liverpool, while also portraying those who remain in Mayo until mid-1848.

The book is very well researched and provides an enormous amount of insights. Details about the diaspora ships, travelling in ‘cattle class’ or on passenger ships, are really well incorporated into the narrative and turned into a highlight for this reader. Information about banking, workhouses, politics, business and street life at the time adds to the richness of the story.

The author refrains from using Irish language and instead indicates via italics when Gaelic is being spoken, which makes the dialogue easy to follow. Technically, the book is almost flawless, bar the erroneous portrayal of a much earlier-century Spanish Galleon pictured on the otherwise superbly produced cover. This is a shame, as it creates an initial wrong impression of the attention to detail inside. I would suggest a more century-appropriate vessel.

The individual characters did not engage me as much as I would have liked, but there are some great adventures and suspenseful moments which add spice to the narrative.

An interesting read, particularly for U.S. residents who can trace their ancestry back to Irish roots.