All Standing: The Remarkable Story of the Jeanie Johnston, the Legendary Irish Famine Ship

Free Pr. 2013. 256p. bibliog. index. ISBN 9781451610130. $26; ebk. ISBN 9781451610161. HIST
The Jeanie Johnston is credited with never losing a passenger in the years it carried Irish emigrants desperate to escape the potato famine and typhus epidemic in the 1840s and '50s. The ship is the central figure—indeed, almost a character—in this work in which Miles (environment writing, Unity Coll., Maine) describes the era of these so-called coffin ships, bringing together the stories of the shipbuilder, owner, crew, and passengers. Conditions on board are contrasted with those on other ships, revealing how the Jeanie Johnston's passengers had more space, better rations, and access to medical care. Although the term "passengers" implies a certain passivity, these travelers were expected to help clean the ship and cook their own food, despite severe weather and seasickness. Interspersed with the history of the famine and the ship is the story of Nicholas Johnston Reilly, born during the ship's maiden voyage, and his family's pursuit of the American dream.
VERDICT The author makes good use of sources, and her details are vivid, but a minor quibble is the distracting tendency to summon thoughts or actions of historical figures even though not recorded (e.g., "[she] couldn't help but stare"). Recommended for readers of Irish and maritime history.
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