The Graves Are Walking

  • by John Kelly
  • Narrated by Gerard Doyle
  • 13 hrs and 51 mins
  • Unabridged Audiobook

Publisher's Summary

It started in 1845 and lasted six years. Before it was over, more than one million men, women, and children starved to death and another million fled the country. Measured in terms of mortality, the Great Irish Potato Famine was one of the worst disasters in the 19th century-it claimed twice as many lives as the American Civil War. A perfect storm of bacterial infection, political greed, and religious intolerance sparked this catastrophe. But even more extraordinary than its scope were its political underpinnings, and The Graves Are Walking provides fresh material and analysis on the role that nineteenth-century evangelical Protestantism played in shaping British policies and on Britain's attempt to use the famine to reshape Irish society and character.
Perhaps most important, this is ultimately a story of triumph over perceived destiny: for 50 million Americans of Irish heritage, the saga of a broken people fleeing crushing starvation and remaking themselves in a new land is an inspiring story of exoneration.
Based on extensive research and written with novelistic flair, The Graves Are Walking draws a portrait that is both intimate and panoramic, that captures the drama of individual lives caught up in an unimaginable tragedy, while imparting a new understanding of the famine's causes and consequences.


What the Critics Say

"[Kelly's] exhaustive research covers every aspect, threading the gruesome events into a huge panoramic tapestry that reveals political greed lurking behind the pestilence." (Publishers Weekly)


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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful

Unforgettable, Haunting, and a Compelling Warning

What an amazing book! I listened well into the night, the story and the narration were so compelling. I can't recommend it highly enough! Today, I am enlightened, appalled, grieved, very angry, and even alarmed about an event that happened half a world away over 150 years ago. I'd say that's a tribute to any historical account!

Like nearly all Americans, I was familiar with the reason so many Irish left their country in the 1840's. Mostly, it was, to me, more a story of American immigration than Irish tragedy. Well, no more! This is gut-wrenching, heart-breaking stuff, and, like all the best histories, brings to life the events and people of the time.

Can you believe it? The legislature of the most powerful and wealthy country of the time failed to react adequately to a natural disaster because 1} the poor in Ireland (a lazy bunch, anyway) might become dependent on government handouts; 2) giving away food would disrupt the free market (perfectly good non-potato food was, throughout the famine, being exported at great profit from Ireland); and 3) Party squabbles and greedy personal agendas meant too little action and too little political will to help the poor (and even the formerly relatively prosperous). This could never happen again, right?

So, besides being the terrible story of an awful time in Ireland that affected the entire world, this is a dire warning for the future. Bad economies, failing crops, and over-population are international problems. Once again, we'd better know our history and heed its lessons!

Beautifully written by John Kelly and compellingly narrated by Gerard Doyle, this is an important, important book. Don't miss it!
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- C. Telfair "Audible has changed my life! Dry , itchy eyes were destroying one of my greatest pleasures - reading. Now I am experiencing books again!"

Stop Using Food as a Tool of Moral Reeducation

Have you ever read/listened to a or story and found yourself getting really angry? I don't mean the polite. distant, "I can't believe that happened" mad. I mean the kind of righteous ire that has you pacing the floor, cursing, and punching sofa cushions. John Kelly's "The Graves are Walking: The Great Famine and the Saga of the Irish People" (2012) enraged me, because Kelly was talking about my great grandfather's parents, Rosetta and John, who immigrated from Ireland in 1846 and 1847, when they were 8 and 9.

I've always known that Rosetta and John were 'potato famine Irish', but until Kelly's book, I had no appreciation for what that meant. My understanding of 'The Great Famine' was romanticized by Ron Howard's 1992 film "Far and Away." It would have been more historically accurate if Howard had used the same gaunt, haunted actors Steven Spielberg cast in "Schindler's List" (1993); and if Howard had replaced the beautiful Irish landscape with useless public works roads leading to nowhere, and stripped the verdant, forrested hills to bare dirt for no reason at all.

Phytophthora infestans (a fungus) caused Ireland's potato crop failures in 1845 to 1847, but England's attempt at social engineering actually killed an estimated 750,000 Irish. 2,000,000 more - including my great great grandparents - left. 25% to 30% of Ireland was gone in 2 years.

England's grand idea was that depriving the Irish of potatoes would make them self sufficient. Perhaps if Ireland, at England's direction, wasn't exporting food during the famine . . . Or if the grandiose administrators distributed grain sent from around the world , . . Or corrupt officials weren't propping up import prices . . . It broke my heart.

Although this book had a profound effect on me, I'm giving the story a 3 because it really wandered and repeated itself. I was confused about what happened, and when. Obvious questions weren't answered - who determined Phytophthora infestans was the culprit? What worked to stop it? There are more questions I'd like answered.

Gerard Doyle was a good narrator, although - with apologies to John and Rosetta - I wouldn't know a true Irish accent unless I was at Coulter Bay with a native of the "Irish race." Not my phrase, of course - thank the phrenologists of the day.

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- Cynthia "Always moving. Always listening. Always learning. "After all this time?" "Always.""

Book Details

  • Release Date: 08-21-2012
  • Publisher: Tantor Audio