THE GREAT SHAME by Thomas Keneally

THE GREAT SHAME

and the Triumph of the Irish in the English-Speaking World
Email this review

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. (32 pages b&w photos, not seen) (History Book Club main selection; author tour)

Pub Date: Sept. 14th, 1999
ISBN: 0-385-47697-3
Page count: 736pp
Publisher: Talese/Doubleday
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15th, 1999




MORE BY THOMAS KENEALLY

FictionCRIMES OF THE FATHER by Thomas Keneally
by Thomas Keneally
FictionNAPOLEON'S LAST ISLAND by Thomas Keneally
by Thomas Keneally
FictionSHAME AND THE CAPTIVES by Thomas Keneally
by Thomas Keneally