The Great Hunger: Background information when reading Grace

Summary |  Excerpt |  Reviews |  Beyond the Book |  Readalikes |  Genres & Themes |  Author Bio

Grace

by Paul Lynch

Grace by Paul Lynch X
Grace by Paul Lynch
  • Critics' Opinion:

    Readers' Opinion:

     Not Yet Rated
  • First Published:
    Jul 2017, 368 pages
    Paperback:
    Jun 2018, 368 pages

  • Rate this book


Book Reviewed by:
Zoë Fairtlough
Buy This Book

About this Book

The Great Hunger

This article relates to Grace

Print Review

Grace is set in an Ireland devastated by The Great Hunger—the potato famine of 1845-1852, which occurred when three successive harvests failed due to blight, causing a million people to starve to death and at least as many to emigrate for a better life. Ireland, Britain and America have all been shaped by its political, economic and social effects.

The blight, Phytophthora infestans — literally "infesting plant destroyer" — had arrived in Ireland from the Americas many years earlier but its impact would not have been disastrous had it not been for the confluence of two factors: unusually cool, wet weather for consecutive years, and the population's heavy reliance on two potato varieties particularly prone to the blight.

All the rural poor, half of Ireland's population, ate potatoes almost exclusively for eight months of the year. This was because much of the land was worked by poor tenant farmers who needed a crop to sustain their family in winter and spring, and also to pay the high rents demanded by their English landlords. Potatoes yielded well and satisfied hunger—a person might eat ten pounds of the tuber a day!

The Great Hunger memorial in Dublin Ireland had done well with this crop. Then came the blight worsened by the rains. Across the country, whole fields of potatoes rotted in just days. At the time, Ireland was part of the United Kingdom. The British government did execute some relief measures to mitigate the impacts of the crop failures, providing cornmeal for example, but these were minimal and ineffective. Had the British been more determined to look beyond mere charity and instead institute meaningful policy changes such as repealing trade tariffs and making landlords responsible for the well-being of their tenants, history might have been different. Ireland did have sufficient food to feed the population but greedy landowners insisted on exporting it for better profits, and the government did not impose a ban on exports as they had during an earlier famine. When the potato crop failed again and again, the subsistence farmers who'd rented land from their landowners were evicted. Estimates of the numbers who starved vary widely but were probably around one million people, approximately 12% of the population. Many others emigrated, with most going to England, Canada and the USA. In 1890 it is estimated that 40% of Irish-born people were living abroad.

Article by Zoë Fairtlough

This "beyond the book article" relates to Grace. It originally ran in August 2017 and has been updated for the June 2018 paperback edition.

This review is available to non-members for a limited time. For full access become a member today.
Membership Advantages
  • Reviews
  • "Beyond the Book" backstories
  • Free books to read and review (US only)
  • Find books by time period, setting & theme
  • Read-alike suggestions by book and author
  • Book club discussions
  • and much more!
  • Just $10 for 3 months or $35 for a year
  • More about membership!

Editor's Choice

  • Book Jacket: The Lost Man
    The Lost Man
    by Jane Harper
    36 out of 37 First Impression reviewers gave Jane Harper's third novel, The Last Man, either four or...
  • Book Jacket: Savage Feast
    Savage Feast
    by Boris Fishman
    I adore authors who not only write about the big themes that possess them, but also drop little ...
  • Book Jacket: Lost Children Archive
    Lost Children Archive
    by Valeria Luiselli
    Lost Children Archive is a feast of language and storytelling that chronicles a family road trip ...
  • Book Jacket: The World According to Fannie Davis
    The World According to Fannie Davis
    by Bridgett M. Davis
    Devoted daughter Bridgett M. Davis was always inspired by her mother Fannie, who provided stability,...

Book Club
Book Jacket
The Half-Life of Everything
by Deborah Carol Gang

A beautifully written and uplifting debut novel.

About the book
Join the discussion!

Readers Recommend

  • Book Jacket

    The Last Romantics
    by Tara Conklin

    A sweeping yet intimate epic about one American family, and the ties that bind us together.
    Reader Reviews

  • Book Jacket

    The Care and Feeding of Ravenously Hungry Girls
    by Anissa Gray

    A dazzling debut novel!
    Reader Reviews

Win this book!
Win The Climate Report

The Climate Report

"The most comprehensive assessment of the effects of climate change on the United States."
–The New York Times

Enter

Word Play

Solve this clue:

B I I T Eye O T B

and be entered to win..

Books that     
entertain,
     engage

 & enlighten

Visitors can view some of BookBrowse for free. Full access is for members only.

Join Today!

Your guide toexceptional          books

BookBrowse seeks out and recommends the best in contemporary fiction and nonfiction—books that not only engage and entertain but also deepen our understanding of ourselves and the world around us.