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The Great Shame: And the Triumph of the Irish in the English-Speaking World
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The Great Shame: And the Triumph of the Irish in the English-Speaking World

3.82  ·  Rating Details  ·  373 Ratings  ·  43 Reviews
The Booker Prize-winning author of "Schindler's List" combines the authority of a brilliant historian and the narrative grace of a great novelist to present a gripping account of the Irish diaspora. A "New York Times" Notable Book. 82 photos & 3 maps.
Paperback, 768 pages
Published September 12th 2000 by Anchor Books (first published April 9th 1997)
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Jul 15, 2012 Owen rated it it was amazing
The story of what happened to the Irish political prisoners known as the Young Irelanders and the Fenians, in the 1850s and 60s, is expertly told by Australian writer Thomas Keneally in "The Great Shame." Sticking firmly to documented history, about the only thing Keneally leaves out is the nastier side of Fenianism, with its secret vendettas and occasional underlying brutality. But that all lies in the misty past, and Keneally has done a first-rate job of bringing much of this truculent history ...more
It seems almost unimaginable that something as small as a spore could bring a nation to its knees and change the face of two continents, but that is exactly what happened after the potato famine in Ireland in the 1800s.
The potato was the mainstay of Irish tenants, who were evicted by English landlords when they couldn't pay their rents. The potato, the cash crop and their personal dietary mainstay, had rotted in the fields year after year.

As the Irish starved, grains and edible foods grown in
Lisa Houlihan
May 07, 2013 Lisa Houlihan marked it as to-read
I did not think much of the writing in Schindler's List, which I recently read, and here I found that the style was not due to Keneally being cajoled into writing that book but that it really is his own. He drops the "and" from a series of three when the conjunction would clarify and he uses fragments without intention. Not like this. Where they do not add to his point. But detract.

Plus I just finished Governess about miserable C19 people so maybe I should take a break from miserable C19 people
Jul 17, 2012 Amy rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
When I began The Great Shame I really enjoyed it. The depth of study into the lives and exploits of the persons depicted - especially the story of Hugh Larkin, Keneally's own ancestor. This story had the most energy, but when Hugh's tale was done, so was my enthusiasm. I found the escapes and releases of the transported Young Irelanders interesting, but their move into the American politics of the Civil War era lost me and I couldn't do more than skim the last third of the book. Perhaps if this ...more
Mar 04, 2013 Melissa rated it liked it
It reads a bit like a textbook, but if you're looking for an in-depth account of the Irish diaspora of the 19th century, look no further. Keneally spends a great deal of time talking about Australia, as that's where his Irish ancestors ended up, and I found it interesting, as I knew nothing about the Irish in Australia. He also made a careful note of the Irish involvement in the American Civil War. Unfortunately, due to school constraints, I never finished it, but I hope to pick it up and finish ...more
Jun 04, 2009 Colleen rated it did not like it
Ok - I didn't finish this book. It started out great. The guy is a gifted writer and he wove together more personal stories and political goings on very well. But, alas, he got terribly bogged down in the irish exile to Australia of the many key political figures during the mid 19th century. Nothing happened at that time! So, you don't have to convey real time with page after page of "nothing happened". I may come back to this one...
John Fanning
Jan 16, 2008 John Fanning rated it really liked it
Shelves: history
Great stories. From the same guy who did Schindler's List - ironically he's Irish-Australian.

The stuff on John Boyle O'Reilly and Thomas Francis Meagher was amazing (the latter: from Irish revolutionary, to Australian convict, to celebrated General for the Union forces in the Civil War, and finally to an acting governor in the Mid-West.)
Apr 27, 2014 Elizabeth rated it it was amazing
Thomas Keneally is one of those rare authors who writes magnificent fiction and history. This history is the story of the 19th century diaspora of the Irish. It is a well-known history, but Keneally focuses on certain individuals as they travel from Ireland to Australia and the United States. Some are sent as criminals--either political or of actual crimes (some staggeringly small)--to Australia. Once they have served their time, they can achieve success down under--or find their way to America ...more
Adam Szczepanski
Jan 10, 2012 Adam Szczepanski rated it did not like it
I love these kinds of books, but The Great Shame became just too tedious for me. I only finished about a quarter, and I hope to revisit in the future. Keneally absolutely did his research and writes with authority, but in my eyes, this is also The Great Downfall of a potentially great book.
Elizabeth Quinn
Mar 02, 2013 Elizabeth Quinn rated it liked it
I very much wanted to love this book because I hoped it would be what Keneally describes in his preface as his hope as well: an Irish version of his masterwork, Schindler's List, focusing on the 19th century diaspora of the Irish to Australia and the Americas. But in Schindler, Keneally went micro -- telling the story of the Holocaust through the life of one man the 1,300 men, women, and children he rescued from the gas chamber -- while in Shame, Keneally goes macro -- telling a century's worth ...more
Jan 13, 2012 Ryan rated it it was amazing
Shelves: ireland
My goal with reading this book was to provide some historical "roadmap" so I could more fully enjoy the last of Macken's Irish Trilogy. I would say it met that goal and much, much more. Keneally starts with his family history - both he and his wife are descendants of Irish men, transported to Australia. The book starts with Hugh Larkin, his crime and his transport to Australia. There is a wealth of detail about what the experience may have been like. Woven into Larkin's history are the biographi ...more
Jul 07, 2013 Maureen rated it really liked it
Wow! This is an amazing book. The fact that it was able to keep my attention for 600 pages of very detailed and meaty writing says a lot. It was not an easy read. I had to pay close attention to what I was reading and often had to reread passages several times. But it was all worth it.

The author tells the history of the Irish prisoners who were "transported" to the British penal colony in Australia in the mid 19th century. He focuses on the political prisoners who were fighting for the freedom
Pat Roberts
Feb 16, 2016 Pat Roberts rated it liked it
Shelves: history, ireland
To say that the author did a thorough job of research regarding the Irish of the early 19t century would be an understatement.While Keneally, the author of 'Schlinder's List', created a very long historical book, he also created a quite dry one. I struggled to pay attention (I listened to it). In all fairness, I find listening to history much more difficult than listening to fiction. Also, since it is a 35-hour listen, that could very well have factored in!
Paul Roper
May 09, 2016 Paul Roper rated it really liked it
Shelves: ireland, non-fiction
Well-researched history of Ireland from the time of the Great Hunger, starting around 1840, through the end of the century

The book covers the emigration, mainly to America, and forced migration through exile to the penal colonies of Australia and elsewhere, and subsequent escapes from them to America.

Mr. Keneally has done a great job, and it reads more like a novel than a history because of how easily it flows along.
Roy White
Sep 12, 2014 Roy White rated it liked it
Some truly improbable connections in the fates of various Irish exiles. Here is my take:
Dan Panneton
Oct 12, 2014 Dan Panneton rated it did not like it
Absolutely terrible, exploitative garbage. This work is the kind of history that inspires the naive to donate to the IRA.
Jul 11, 2014 Kaye rated it really liked it
A little hard to make it through because I kept putting it down to look up people and events from history. SO interesting.
Very readable and good so far about 1830s Ireland, a time period I know very little about. Keneally is so good at making history readable and you can't put it down when reading about Irish people sent on prison ships to Australia for stealing food when starving. The descriptions of life in Ireland and in Australia are both so good and vivid. I think it's going to be about emigration to America too and more about Ireland but at the beginning it is about convicts settling Australia. Fascinating be ...more
Robert Davidson
Jul 08, 2013 Robert Davidson rated it it was amazing
this is a massive book which i read about ten years ago and had to have a copy because there are so many stories of different people and historical periods. from such a small island it is amazing how many emigrated to different parts of the world and most succeeded in finding a better place. as a young boy growing up in ireland we were not taught real irish history in school so there was a void in trying to understand the historical perspective of daily life there. mr. keneally and other authors ...more
Dec 15, 2015 Ronnie rated it liked it
Finally finished this history of the Irish in Ireland, Australia and the United States after eight months of wading through the at-times dense history of my ancestors. I did read 39 other books during this time period so I can't say it took all that time to read. Sections of this book were glorious to read and other sections were painfully dense. Did I really need to know all of the minutiae about the US Civil War? Overall, I did enjoy this book, I just wish there had been a tighter editing of t ...more
Mar 18, 2016 Barbara rated it liked it
Mr Keneally is nothing if not thorough. The stories of the Irish exiles were interesting and very well researched in this lengthy tome.
Carla Speed
Mar 16, 2012 Carla Speed rated it really liked it
Written both as family history and political history, Keneally's THE GREAT SHAME describes Irish politics during the time of the potato blight and the transportation of his forebears to Australia. We moderns treasure our mobility, and to a degree the anonymity it creates by partly severing our roots. Our heritage is still there; this is a small part of the history of recent human migration, but, like all history, it's better not to push it under the rug.
May 11, 2009 Holly rated it liked it
This book does a great job of bringing Irish history alive. From the Famine through Britain's use of deportation to manage political prisoners and up to World War I, Keneally discusses Irish history in a very even-handed manner. The language is occasionally obtuse and hard to follow, but historical figures are memorably described and movements like Fenianism are well-researched.
Heather Spaeth
Jan 25, 2013 Heather Spaeth rated it it was amazing
I picked up a few years ago because I was planning on going to Australia and I was interested in the transportations of the Irish to Australia. What I got was so much more. These seven men influenced history not only in Australia but the North of the US, the South of the US, Central America and, of course, Ireland. It was long and very detailed, but very interesting.
Rashers Tierney
Mar 24, 2015 Rashers Tierney rated it it was amazing
Shelves: to-post
Perhaps the most influential and widely-read contemporary account of The Great Famine. Provides an unparalleled account of the widespread after-effects of Black '47--both in Ireland and throughout the far-flung Irish diaspora.
May 15, 2013 Pete rated it it was amazing
Shelves: nonfiction
A tale told with breadth, sweep and poignancy, in unforgettable stories made more forceful by their truth, this book is a wonderful look by a historian with a novelist's eye into the people, gravity and consequences of the British-Irish conflict, the famine, and the changes the Irish diaspora wrought for America, Australia, Ireland and England.
Jun 14, 2009 Keith rated it really liked it
It seems I am getting into the habit of reading hefty tomes. I wanted to read a book about my roots - Ireland. Just getting started...more on this book later.

Very engaging history shown through the perils and separation of an Irish family. Learning much!
Jan 30, 2008 Crystal rated it really liked it
After reading Angelas Ashes I attempted to read this . It took me a long time to get through it but is well worth the time. I love anything about Ireland/Scotland and this is a wonderful about the famine & oppression "our" ancestors endured.
Oct 21, 2009 Maureen rated it liked it
Shelves: history
vast, did I say VAST, compendium of the irish diaspora, with stress on that which headed to australia, but pretty much a solid reference work on the diaspora as a whole.. too encyclopedic to be a "good tead" though many highly readble segments.
Linda N
Jul 25, 2012 Linda N rated it really liked it
This book covers an incredible amount of modern irish history and really explains the impact of the exodus of the Irish to America and Australia.
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Thomas Michael Keneally, AO (born 7 October 1935) is an Australian novelist, playwright and author of non-fiction. He is best known for writing Schindler's Ark, the Booker Prize-winning novel of 1982, which was inspired by the efforts of Poldek Pfefferberg, a Holocaust survivor. The book would later be adapted to Steven Spielberg's Schindler's List (1993), which won the Academy Award for Best Pict ...more
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