Today I am delighted to introduce a wonderful new book concerning the Irish Famine from author Kathryn Miles. A copy of All Standing will be won by one lucky reader of this book review. So read on and check out how to enter our giveaway at the end of this post.
1. The Book:
All Standing: The Remarkable Story of the Jeanie Johnston, The Legendary Irish Famine Ship recounts the journeys of the only ship never to lose a passenger to illness during the mass movement of Irish Famine victims across the Atlantic ocean to the New World.
The central character may be the brig Jeanie Johnston, but her story comes to life through the interwoven tales of her skilled designer and builder, community-activist owner, exceptional captain, compassionate surgeon, dedicated crew, and courageous immigrants.
We are introduced to a central Irish character, born aboard the Jeanie. His experience does not end upon arrival in the New World. This book sheds light on his difficulties assimilating into a new culture and finding a new homeland.
This fascinating read does not simply tell the story of this ship’s voyages, but takes the reader on a deeper journey of understanding. We visit the shipyards of Quebec and the quarantine hospital on Grosse Isle to further understand the Canadian-Irish Famine experience.
We meet English nobility in the Halls of Parliament, who decide the fate of the Irish people, guided by greed and obsessive control of an economy stacked in their favor.
We observe the extreme suffering of the masses in Ireland and the New World. We learn of their fates as they endure the hardships of life as loggers in Canada, or travel to America only to be greeted with signs warning them “No Irish Need Apply”.
Miles breathes new life into an old, and sometimes forgotten, story. This truly is a noteworthy Immigrant Tale.
During the years of the Great Hunger (1845 – 1850) over one million people fled Ireland for North America. Over one hundred thousand Irish died at sea, with mortality rates reaching 30-50% of passengers aboard most “coffin ships”. The Jennie Johnston defied all odds crossing the Atlantic, never losing a single passenger on her multiple voyages.
The “miracle” of this ship is a story for the ages. Her amazing achievement was not an inexplicable coincidence. A combination of extraordinary factors culminated in her successful Atlantic crossings.
From the meticulous design of a master shipbuilder in Quebec, assignment of a conscientious captain and an attentive, caring doctor who somehow kept cholera at bay in horrible conditions at sea, her achievement was not simply divine intervention. The Jeannie Johnston never joined the notorious annals of ‘coffin ships’, but transformed into a ship of legend after eleven voyages to North America.
3. The Author
The author, Kathryn Miles, is a professor of environmental writing at Unity College, Maine, and a faculty member for the Chatham University MFA low-residency program. She is editor-in-chief of Hawk & Handsaw: The Journal of Creative Sustainability and a scholar-in-residence for the Maine Humanities Council.
biography page (no longer available) on her writer’s website explains that she “dedicates her writerly life to the uncovering of previously ignored narratives and characters.” The Jeanie Johnston is definitely one such noteworthy character.
4. Creative Non-Fiction
I have read many books on the subject of the Irish Famine. Most were written in typical historical textbook fashion. My husband has often found me snoring on the couch, with a textbook balanced on my chest. But such was not the case with All Standing. I was riveted from the moment I read the first page.
Written in an engaging style, this book is easy reading despite the gravity and overwhelming sadness of its subject matter.
This is not a typical didactic reference book, but one that puts faces on one of history’s greatest human tragedies. By focusing attention on a rare positive story of this era, this book not only explores misguided politics that exacerbated the calamity, but pays tribute to the incredible will of the Irish people to survive against all the odds.
Miles’ skill as a writer of creative non-fiction is clearly evident as she gives life to memorable characters. Their traits, decisions, and beliefs impact the career of this ship, whose legacy tells the tale of ultimate human survival.
Courage, determination, compassion, tragedy and corruption co-mingle on the pages of this book through character-driven, seamless writing.
5. Praise For This Book:
All Standing is an unexpectedly comprehensive book, bringing real historical context to the disaster of the Irish Famine. The author’s meticulous research is clearly evident. Her crisp writing style creates a narrative history with appeal for historians and non-historians alike.
This is not the story of the Famine as we have heard it before. It is a tribute to the resilience of the Irish people and the story of their survival against all odds.
I highly recommend this book for all those interested in the Famine and Irish diaspora. In fact, it is such a good book I believe even those without Irish heritage will find this story of triumph intriguing. It’s truly a neat, compact history and a fantastic read.
6. The Giveaway
Simon & Schuster, publishers of this book, have generously provided a copy of All Standing for one of Irish American Mom’s readers to win.
To enter our giveaway just leave a comment on this blog post by noon on Saturday, May 18th, 2013 at noon. You can leave any comment you wish. What you write does not affect your chances of winning.
If you need some inspiration, why not tell us if your family came to the New World in the 19th century, or share your thoughts on immigrants of this era and how they achieved their American Dream.
A winning comment will be chosen randomly. Remember to leave your e-mail so that I can contact you should you win. Your e-mail won’t be published or shared, just used to contact our lucky winner.
The winner will be announced on Saturday May 18th, in a separate blog post. I’ll send the winner an e-mail so that I can mail the book.
Best of luck to all our entrants and a big thank you to Kathryn Miles and Simon & Schuster for sharing this wonderful book.
Slán agus beannacht,
(Goodbye and blessings)
Irish American Mom
Disclosure of Material Connection: I received a free copy of this book for review purposes. I do not receive payment for my book reviews. My first responsibility is to my readers and I am committed to honest reviews. All opinions given are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”