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Portavo: an Irish townland and its peoples.

Part two: the famine to the present

Peter Carr
pbk 20, hbk 35

Part one immersed us in the townland's early history, archaeology and folklore, providing readers with a fascinating insight into the lives of its owners, the enigmatic, Italianate Kers, whose mercurial rise to the forefront of Georgian society is recounted in compelling detail.

Part two offers more social, political and cultural thrills and spills as the townland steers its way through the great milestones of recent Irish history, providing us with a worm's eye perspective on everything from the Famine to the Troubles. In a script packed with colour and drama, we watch the townland struggle to accommodate change. History is not gentle with it. Its old order is blown to smithereens. Its fishermen are scattered. Its small farmers routed. A confident bourgeoisie slips into the driving seat, turning its scenic coastline into Millionaires' Row.

The Ker family's ascent to the giddy pinnacle of its power and influence is also carefully chronicled, as is its truly spectacular dissolution - in a manner worthy of any Caesar - amidst incest, alcoholism, suicide and madness. An extraordinary story, unflinchingly but compassionately told.

Nominated for the Wolfson History Prize

Book Details

ISBN 1 870132 21 1 (pbk), 1 870132 26 2 (hbk)

Paperback & hardback 392 pages, 280 colour & black & white illustrations

Book Reviews

'Impeccable and exceptional... would make a better festive gift than any book that has sat on my desk this year.' Belfast News Letter

'A masterpiece... it's almost impossible to find even the smallest failing with this book.' Books Ireland

'What a story. As rich as its predecessor and at least as compelling, with no lack of colour or incident.Carr has produced an Irish Montaillou.' Irish News

'Masterly... lavishly illustrated, fascinating and beautifully written' Irish Times

'Stunning... a wry and racy read that never abandons sympathy with its subjects... a work that triumphantly explodes any parochial implications of the term "local history." The Guardian

'This is a many-layered, serious, and rewarding account of one of the leading landowning families in Ulster during the last two centuries. It provides a microcosm of social change and is a blockbuster of Grand Guignol melodrama. It is at once moving, important and hilarious. Carr's research is meticulous, remorseless even and the archive on which he has been able to draw is unusually extensive. What emerges is a narrative of great power, a family you could not invent, a slice of the past beyond parochial imagining, and yet also an account rooted in a sense of place... an unbelievable record; yet somehow it all happened: this reader loved it. You will too.' Fortnight

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