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The Great Shame - Thomas Keneally

Paperback

Published: September 1999
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In the nineteenth century, the Irish population was halved. The Great Shame is Thomas Keneally's astonishing work of non-fiction which traces the three causes of this depletion: the famine; the emigrations; and the transportations to Australia.

Based on unique research among little-used sources, this masterly book traces eighty years of Irish history, told through the intimate lens of political prisoners - some of them Keneally's ancestors who served time as convicts in Australia.

Beginning with Hugh Larkin, a twenty-four-year-old 'Ribbonman' transported for life in 1834, The Great Shame tells of the Ireland these prisoners came from and the Australia they encountered. It brings us close to Irish women such as Esther, wife of Larkin, and the future Lady Wilde, mother of Oscar, friend and collaborator of notable Irish prisoners.

But we also encounter the 'Famale Factory' and the Irish convict women who married humble Protestant criminals, and we learn of the often desperate survival methods of 'transportation-widowed' women left in Ireland.

Throughout the nineteenth century, Australian and American organisations participated in the extraordinary escapes or attempted escapes from Australia of some of the world-famous Irish politicals.

Amongst these was William Smith O'Brien, nobleman, leader of an uprising at the height of the Irish Famine, who became, from solitary confinement in Van Dieman's Land, the Mandela of his age.

Thomas Francis Meagher's spectacular escape led to a glittering American career as orator, Union general, and tragic Governor of Montana. John Mitchel, Meagher's friend in Van Dieman exile, became a Confederate newspaper man, gave two of his sons to the Confederate cause, was imprisoned with Jefferson Davis, but emerged to reinfiltrate Ireland and become member for Tipperary.

Through many such lives, famous and obscure, we see not only the daily experience of famine sufferers and Irish activists, but also the astonishing history of the Irish diaspora: to the Saint Lawrence, to New York, to the high plains of Montana and the bush towns of New South Wales.

All of them are vividly present in this extraordinary tale of Australian imprisonment, Irish disaster and New World redemption.

About the Author

Thomas Michael Keneally, AO (born 7 October 1935) is an Australian novelist, playwright and author of non-fiction. He is best known for writing Schindler's Ark, the Booker Prize winning novel of 1982 which was inspired by the efforts of Poldek Pfefferberg, a Holocaust survivor. The book would later be adapted to Steven Spielberg's Schindler's List, which won the Academy Award for Best Picture.

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The Great Shame
 
4.0

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4.0

Brilliant, well researched.

By 

from Sydney

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Pros

  • Deeply Informative
  • Well Written

Cons

    Best Uses

    • Older Readers

    Comments about The Great Shame:

    I started with the Commonwealth of Thieves and now looking forward to reading "From the ANZACS to Vietnam" I have fallen in love with real Australian history, even looking up the authors references for extra detail in the book. About time we had some solid warts and all history about who,what, where and why we are the nation we are today.
    With an Irish grandmother the book made the plight of the Irish more important to me. '

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    Thomas Keneally

    Thomas Keneally won the Booker Prize in 1982 with Schindler's Ark, later made into the Academy Award-winning film Schindler's List by Steven Spielberg. His non-fiction, includes the memoir Searching For Schindler and Three Famines, an LA Times Book of the Year, and the histories The Commonwealth Of Thieves, The Great Shame and American Scoundrel.

    His fiction, includes The Daughters Of Mars, The Widow And Her Hero (shortlisted for the Prime Minister's Literary Award), An Angel In Australia and Bettany's Book. His novels The Chant of Jimmy Blacksmith, Gossip from the Forest, and Confederates were all shortlisted for the Booker Prize, while Bring Larks and Heroes and
    Three Cheers For The Paraclete won the Miles Franklin Award. 

    The People's Train was longlisted for the Miles Franklin Award and shortlisted for the Commonwealth Writers Prize, South East Asia division.

    Visit Thomas Keneally's Booktopia Author Page


    ISBN: 9780091840617
    ISBN-10: 0091840619
    Audience: General
    Format: Paperback
    Language: English
    Number Of Pages: 752
    Published: September 1999
    Publisher: Random House Australia
    Country of Publication: AU
    Dimensions (cm): 23.2 x 15.4  x 5.0
    Weight (kg): 0.87
    Edition Number: 1