Thursday, August 11, 2011

Review: Galway Bay by Mary Pat Kelly

Genre: Historical Fiction
Publisher: Hachette, 2009

Galway, 1839. In an Ireland where fisherman and tenant farmers find solace in their faith, songs, stories and communal celebrations, young Honora Keeley and Michael Kelly wed and start a family. Because they and their countrymen must sell their catch and their crops to pay exorbitant rents, potatoes have become their only staple food.

But when blight destroys the potatoes three times in four years, a callous government and uncaring landlords turn a natural disaster into The Great Starvation that will kill one million. The family joins two million other Irish refugees in the emigration from Ireland to America where they will make their new home in Chicago. The boys will go on to serve in the Civil War and to continue to fight for Ireland's freedom.

A true family saga, Galway Bay is based on the life of the author's great-great-grandmother, Honora Kelly, and the stories told to her great-granddaughter, Agnetha. With it's memorable characters and an historical background rich in detail I found the story made for compelling reading despite having read many Famine books before.

I loved the first part of the book set in Ireland. Even though much of it was heart -wrenching the beautiful descriptions of Galway Bay and it's people and the Irish myths and legends told by Honora's granny had a magical touch that was a pleasure to read.
There would be struggles and hardships in America , too and horror of sending sons to fight in a Civil War. If this part of the book lacked the magic of Ireland it made up for it in interest. I didn't know anything about Chicago's history or that it became known as the 'City of the Century". Nor did I realise that there were Irish regiments in the Civil War or such a strong desire to raise money and support for a return to the home country to fight for it's freedom.

Galway Bay is a book that will make stop and reflect on your own immigrant ancestors and the legacy they left to you.
Lovely storytelling, great historical fiction!

Historical Fiction Challenge


  1. I have had this book on my shelf since just after it came out, and I did have every intention of reading it. I just haven't managed to do so yet!

  2. I am adding this to my Amazon wishlist right now. It sounds captivating!