Charles Egan – The Killing Snows

An emotional read, 31 Aug 2010
I thought I knew about the Irish Famine. I thought it was all because the potato crop failed. Well, you live and learn. This was an utterly unputdownable novel that used up quite a few Kleenex tissues. A book every schoolchild should read during a history lesson – a way to understand how those men, women and children suffered – but survived – a true event of horrific proportion.
Helen Hollick

 “I could not put this book down. You will find it gripping and compelling, especially if you are Irish American. The Killing Snows depicts the struggles of young Luke Ryan and his family during the crushing Irish Famine of the mid 1800s. Based on the author’s ancestors, the characters persevere as starvation and disease ravage the countryside and forever alter the course of Irish history. The story follows Luke as he leaves the family farm to work for the relief effort and meets Winny, the love of his life. In 1846, as he struggles to help his countrymen during the height of the famine, the island is slammed by a series of blizzards which literally buried the hopes of many and inspired the book’s title. These events had a devastating impact on Ireland and also changed the course of English and American history. It is estimated that over one million men women and children died and another million emigrated. Despite the somber topic, there are moments of joy, romance and inspiration as the Ryans bravely face the struggles and manage to overcome one tragedy after another with dignity and strength.”
Jaz. (Seattle, WA, USA)

This novel, set in the famine years in Ireland, is a powerful narrative. Many books have been written on the topic of the Irish famine, with descriptions of the disaster that hit the country, but ‘The Killing Snows’ stands out. Charles Egan describes relentlessly the truly horrific scenes encountered day by day among the poverty stricken population in Mayo. To add to the starvation, there was the accompanying trauma of gangrene and fever, further compounded by the freak snowstorm that brought all efforts at relief to a standstill. At first the reader can be taken aback by the intensity of the narrative, the sheer horror of the scenes described, and the repetitive accounts of the findings of the relief workers in the mountain cabins. The narrative is relentless, as was the famine which inspired the story.
The book also gives us some fine examples of something that has almost disappeared in the age of modern communications, the art of letter writing, which enabled emigrants to keep in touch with home.
Sive Haughey

My first reaction on seeing this book was: “not another Irish let’s feel sorry for ourselves book!”  As I had received it as a gift I read it anyway.
I was pleasantly surprised!
It is quite obvious that the author has put in a lot of work in thorough research. This has lead him to create real characters, who are not the usual victims of “the nasty Brits”, but people who are working hard to get through a natural disaster.  I can recommend this book to everyone who wants to get a different perspective on the Irish famine, whilst at the same time enjoying a good well told story without getting bogged down in dry history.

This is a excellent book on what the Great Famine must have felt like for those who tried to survive with honour. But is that the way it is seen by the thousands who were to suffer, die, emigrate or who simply were not so relatively luckly?  Despite the horrific scale of the trauma, its oral history is virtually unspoken in Ireland. This book shows why those who suffered and those who survived would prefer to stay silent. Along with the War of Independence and the Civil War, no doubt the Great Famine is at the root of many family loyalties and divisions down the generations.   Based in east Mayo, presumably somewhere around Swinford, it shows how the Great Famine ravaged communties and families. In parallel, it also tells the story of early Irish navvies, working on the English railroads.
A gripping and well researched story.

The Killing Snows is a refreshing narrative about ordinary people who lived through a difficult period in Irish History. Congratulations to Charles Egan for his insightful knowledge of the period, and his clever use of good English.
Mr. S. O’Neill

 Here is a book which brings home to the present generation how the Irish Famine affected the people living and trying to find food. Tese are the people who were on famine relief working for a pittence men woman and children. Yet the deaths mounted, with the great snow of 1847 this was the most terrible end. A very well researched book, one that gives the other story the people at home, as oppposed to the stories about emigration.I could not put it down I had to know what happened.
Mrs. M.J. Kehoe

This is a well-told story of hardship and endurance set in the time of the Irish famine.
I found the style so easy to read that I was swept along effortlessly by the narrative.