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3.96  ·  Rating Details  ·  277 Ratings  ·  23 Reviews
Set in the period of the Great Famine of the 1840s, Famine is the story of three generations of the Kilmartin family. It is a masterly historical novel, rich in language, character, and plot--a panoramic story of passion, tragedy, and resilience.
Paperback, 430 pages
Published November 1st 2002 by Interlink Publishing Group (first published 1937)
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Most Irish Americans I know think of the Famine this way: Bloody British.

I think of the Famine this way: the family dog may have eaten your dead ancestors. Simpler, perhaps, but a lot more visceral.

O'Flaherty was not the first Irish writer to note how quiet the Irish countryside got in 1849, but he used it to best effect.
Apr 12, 2008 Kate rated it liked it
Although this book isn't as well written as some of my other favorite Irish writers (Frank O'Conner, Brendan Behan, Sean O'Faolain), it is the only novel I have read about a family's experience of the potato famine. It was written well enough to keep me reading it almost straight through - very suspenseful and sad.
Angela Wade
Sep 11, 2012 Angela Wade rated it it was amazing
Part history lesson, part gripping fiction. Rips your heart out slowly until you find yourself bawling on the floor in a corner in the dark.
Apr 07, 2013 Tony rated it liked it
FAMINE. (1937). Liam O’Flaherty. ***.
This is a massive saga penned by the author of “The Informer.” The author traces three generations of the Kilmartin family from the onset of the great potato blight of the 1840s. The author does manage to make you understand the reasons for the resultant famine that cost the lives of between 1.0 and 1.5 men, women, and children. In addition to this loss, the famine forced over 2 million individuals to emigrate to America, Canada, and Australia. While weaving
Nov 12, 2010 Trisha rated it really liked it
I first heard about this book when I was in Ireland and visited several of the memorials and exhibits that have been created to honor the memories of the people who died as a result of the potato blight that struck Ireland in 1845 and 1846. Over half a million people died because of starvation or related diseases like typhus and cholera. Obviously this was not an exhilarating read! For one thing, before even opening it up I knew it was not going to have a happy ending. Readers are immediately in ...more
Oct 05, 2014 Lauren rated it did not like it
I had to read this for my high school Irish Lit class. We read so many fantastic classics including Oscar Wilde, Bram Stoker, George Bernard Shaw, Samuel Beckett, and Frank McCourt, which almost all of my classmates loved. This was by far everyone's least favorite. Firstly, it is a pet peeve of mine when there are so many characters that a reader has to make a chart of some kind to keep track of them. It's like an author being cocky and saying, "It's my story. You do the work." Also, on the subj ...more
A. Mary
Jan 26, 2013 A. Mary rated it really liked it
Shelves: irish-novels
O'Flaherty set himself an intricate task because Famine isn't a simple kind of historical undertaking. It doesn't merely make use of a period everyone knows well (or thinks is well known). Rather, O'Flaherty has to educate at the same time as he creates his characters and setting. His novel doesn't end up being a dull set of lesson plans. He broadly sets the stage in a village when blight appears at the beginning of the Great Hunger, with some households better able to weather a weak harvest, an ...more
Oct 28, 2013 Sam rated it it was ok
I am ashamed to admit that I gave up on this book after 150 pages or so. Maybe it wasn't the book's fault and and I was just too distracted by other things to focus on it properly. It was a sad and atmospheric story about life in Ireland during the potato famine, which in tone and content somehow reminded me of The Grapes of Wrath. The author seemed more concerned with the bigger picture -- the plot, the characters, the history -- than with the sentence-by-sentence, paragraph-by-paragraph detail ...more
Apr 07, 2015 Vanessa rated it it was amazing
The story of a family during the Irish Great Hunger. Liam O'Flaherty shows with pure honesty how horrendous their plight was, how hunger made them desperate and mad for some and there is no judgement here. The descriptions of the land make you feel like you are in Ireland and make you picture the country as it was then, as it still is in some remote parts. If you lived there, it make you long to go back, to breath the air those who died breathed, to pay a tribute to those who, only because they ...more
Etain Feeley
Jun 16, 2014 Etain Feeley rated it it was amazing
This has to be one of the most, heart rendering books that I have ever read, so awful, a dreadful period in the history of the Irish State, so many having lost their lives and all because of bureaucracy and political ineptitude.

Beautifully crafted, it captures vividly those dark days. The reader is sucked into an abyss of horror, the tangible damp smell of rotting potatoes prevails throughout.

Willeke Van Eeckhoutte
Jul 27, 2011 Willeke Van Eeckhoutte rated it it was amazing
Shelves: ireland
Brilliant & harrowing... A must-read for people who love novels about accurate Irish history!
Alexander Creecy
Sep 19, 2007 Alexander Creecy rated it it was amazing
fantastic read
Dec 10, 2015 Antje rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Was für ein Roman! O' Flaherty ist ein Meister der Erzählkunst und versteht es in beeindruckender wie gnadenloser Weise, die entsetzlichen Folgen der Kartoffelpest Mitte des 19. Jahrhunderts in Irland zu schildern. Hauptangel- und Drehpunkt ist hierbei der Drei-Generationen-Haushalt der Kilmartins im Schwarzen Tal, der ums nackte Überleben kämpft.
Für jedermann, der sich für dieses irische Schicksal interessiert, bietet der Roman einen ausgezeichneten Einstieg. Anschaulicher können Elend, Hunger
J Swift
Jan 31, 2016 J Swift rated it it was amazing
Very sad story but shows the tough life and horrific living conditions of the famine Irish.
Among the best fictional renditions of the Famine.
Oct 09, 2009 Glynis rated it it was ok
Set in Ireland during the Great Famine in the 1840's, it is a family saga featuring the Kilmartins.
The writing style is very different from most books I read, perhaps because it was written in the last century (1970's!).
The 2 star rating may increase as I get further into the book.
4/6/09 - this book is still on my bedside table, although it at the bottom. More interesting books just keep coming along.

I found this book about a family in the Irish famine to be a very interesting view into the lives of those back then. I found this book a little hard to get into, certainly not one I couldn't put down, but I did like it. Of course, it is a little depressing, but what can you expect from a book about the famine?
May 10, 2009 Tam rated it really liked it
Shelves: 100-in-2009
Slow for me to get into, but engaging. A broad survey of the lives of many different people in the Black Valley. It vividly portrays both the helplessness and the horror of the famine that strikes them.
Jan 29, 2012 Rebecca rated it liked it
This is not the sort of book one enjoys reading. But it is the sort that brings tears to your eyes and a sense of grief.

The tragedy of a family and those around them shows the tragedy of an entire nation.
Jul 26, 2013 Pat rated it liked it
Returning from a tour of Ireland with a wonderful guide I felt the need to read more about the famine. This book filled that need and left a haunting
presence of the Famine.
Sep 11, 2008 Jenny rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: everyone, but especially those with Irish roots.
Wow...and we think we have it tough sometimes. Reading this book will make you appreciate living in America. I can't imagine suffering through the Irish Potato Famine.
Maybe I will finish this later. The story is interesting, the author well known. Something about the style of writing I find hard to stick with.
Sep 16, 2008 Gina rated it it was amazing
Fantastic book about the Irish Potato Famine. Amazingly written. Tragic. Made me hate the British for weeks afterwards
Tadhg McMullan
Tadhg McMullan marked it as to-read
Aug 16, 2016
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Aug 16, 2016
KATHERINE FRENCH marked it as to-read
Aug 15, 2016
Vanessa Dicesare
Vanessa Dicesare marked it as to-read
Aug 15, 2016
Dennis Smith
Dennis Smith rated it really liked it
Aug 15, 2016
Adri marked it as to-read
Aug 15, 2016
Canadian Reader
Canadian Reader marked it as to-read
Aug 14, 2016
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Book about a couple getting married during the Famine 2 6 Feb 11, 2013 12:12AM  
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Liam O'Flaherty was a significant Irish novelist and short story writer and a major figure in the Irish literary renaissance. He was involved for a time in left-wing politics, as was his brother Tom Maidhc O'Flaherty (also a writer), and their father, Maidhc Ó Flaithearta, before them.
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