The Graves Are Walking

The Great Famine and the Saga of the Irish People
The Graves Are Walking: The Great Famine and the Saga of the Irish People. Henry Holt. Aug. 2012. c.416p. illus. index. ISBN 9780805091847. $30. HIST
In his introduction, Kelly (The Great Mortality) suggests he'll be presenting a new interpretation of the 1840s Irish famine, focusing on the attempted Anglicization of Ireland during the period. This would have been a fascinating discussion had it been fully developed. As it stands, however, he presents a standard narrative of the famine, with a focus on the years 1845–47, which will be familiar to anyone who has read histories such as Christine Kinealy's A Death-Dealing Famine or Cecil Woodham-Smith's The Great Hunger. Kelly does an excellent job illustrating the course of the famine in Ireland with anecdote and personal incident, but he falls into some classic patterns of Irish history writing by depicting the English as villains (at best hapless, at worst malign) and the Irish as heroes. Yet he also offers excellent explanations of the scientific basis of the blight and a larger European context for the spread of the fungal infection.
VERDICT Kelly has written a readable general history of the famine best suited for popular history readers or lay readers with a committed interest in the famine. Specialists and formal students of Irish history are unlikely to find much of value. [See Prepub Alert, 2/12/12.]
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