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The Great Shame Paperback – 7 Oct 1999

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Product details

  • Paperback: 752 pages
  • Publisher: Vintage; New Ed edition (7 Oct. 1999)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0749386045
  • ISBN-13: 978-0749386047
  • Product Dimensions: 12.9 x 3.9 x 19.8 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (10 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 274,004 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Product Description

Amazon Review

The Booker Prize-winning Schindler's List (on which Steven Spielberg based his Oscar-winning film) demonstrated that Thomas Keneally could make history as compelling as any novel. The Great Shame, expands upon the achievement of his earlier fiction; because this is more than just the story of the Keneally family tree, transported from Ireland to Australia in the 19th century. It is the story of how Irish men and women came to be dispersed all over the world, and what they made of their lives in their new homes. It is the epic history of a whole people.

The Great Shame is, superbly, rivetingly, hypnotically readable; partly because Keneally orchestrates his many narrative strands so expertly and touches his story with many moments of beautiful writing, but also because it is all, even at its most extraordinary, completely true. The result is astonishingly vivid. What The Great Shame is most reminiscent of is a classic 19th-century novel; a Dickens, or a George Eliot. We follow Keneally's characters with the same involvement through their successes and their trials, until the very last sentence in the book when, like a master from the classic age of the novel, Keneally pays tribute to "the piquant blood and potent ghosts of the characters to whom we now bid goodbye". --Adam Roberts --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

Review

"Keneally's history of Irish emigration is a lucid, elegant and ambitious book with an epic narrative sweep" (Observer)

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

8 of 8 people found the following review helpful By Michelle on 27 Nov. 2005
Format: Paperback
I chose this book based on the notes on the back cover. The notes imply that the book tells the history by following the story of Hugh Larkin, transported to Australia, and his family left behind in Ireland. Wanting to know more about Irish and Australian history, especially around the time of famine and transportation I thought this would be an interesting way to read about it. However, the Larkin family history takes up, I would estimate, less than 1% of this book. The book fails to give an interesting history of Ireland and Australia through the 19th century, using the Larkin family as a vehicle, so the book did not meet my expectations and did not suit me.

However, if you are looking for a book that will give you a detailed insight into the key political agitators for home rule and land reform in 19th century Ireland, then this is the book for you. Told with lots of interesting personal asides that make the key people feel real, and help you to understand their motivations, two main generations of activists are followed as they are transported to Australia. In time, some return to Ireland, some remain in Australia and many make their way to America. More American history is covered in this book than Australian and if you want a detailed account of the role of the Irish in the civil war and the formation of America then this book will give you insight into some of the key players.

The Great Shame has reinforced my understanding of the motivations for home rule and the struggle to break away from British rule. Additionally it has provided me with some background on ex Irish and American motivations for funding the Irish struggle.
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7 of 8 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on 5 April 1999
Format: Hardcover
I found this work to be a very interesting and informative narrative of 19th century Irish history. It makes the main characters such as O'Connell, Smith-O'Brien, Mitchel and the others appear as real flesh and blood people and is an enthralling read. My only criticism is that there are a number of factual errors which grate and make me wonder if there are other errors which of which I am unaware. For example, Mallow is situated on the River Blackwater not the Lee (p.24), President J.F Kennedy visited Ireland in June 1963 not 1962 (p.548), and when the Irish Free State was set up, three (not two) counties of Ulster, Monaghan, Donegal and Cavan, became part of the new state (p.635). I can recommend this book to anyone who wants to know more about Irish history of the 19th century and I am very grateful to Thomas Keneally for all the work which he has done to bring it so vividly to life.
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5 of 6 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on 5 Feb. 2000
Format: Paperback
This is a well written history of the failure of both the constitutional and revolutionary struggle in Victorian Ireland. It is full of real human characters, and the vivid story carries you along to some unexpected places. These include Ireland, early Australia and civil war America. It has strong echos for modern Ireland and should be read by anybody with an interest in modern Irish History.
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7 of 9 people found the following review helpful By Stephen A. Haines HALL OF FAME on 16 Mar. 2000
Format: Paperback
Empires aren't built by armies and navies, but by those who settle in new places, performing the daily tasks that establish a new nation. Keneally reminds us that the Irish Diaspora sent waves of unwilling individuals and families to 'new' lands in North America and Australia. At the onset of the Potato Blight of 1845 Melbourne wasn't a decade old. Ottawa, Canada was still a minor town, a generation from become a nation's capital. The great gold fields of California and Australia were some years away. Transcontinental railroads in Australia and North America, which would employ many Irish workers, were a remote dream. Driven or transported from their failing homes, the Irish had little but work as farm laborers, domestic service or, with luck, establishment as small shopkeepers to look forward to as they fled the Blight.
As a writer of many works of historical fiction, Keneally's endowed with a superior talent for depicting real people in true to life situations. He's fictionalized Australia's Patrick White, television personality Gordon Elliot and Aborigine rebel Jimmy Gouvernor. Who else could successfully portray his own and his wife's grandfathers in fiction and history? In Great Shame he's able to track the movements of Hugh Larkin and other Keneally family members with his engaging writing style. Indeed, in telling a story he is without peer in the English idiom.
The real appeal of this book is not just the story of the Irish, but the quest for justice. The Diaspora was driven by a ruling nation refusing to face the realities of their inaction in the face of all evidence. The exiles, both forced and willing, never lost sight of the dream of an Ireland free from the yoke of a foreign invader.
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Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
So refreshing to find a book that counter-acts the propeganda about the Great Hunger. For years they have tried to mascarade genocide as famine. Sure, nature brought the potato blight, but a ruthless establishment orcestrated mass-starvation, deportation, and cruel hardship. It was a 'Great Shame' indeed.
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