“Extraordinary. When I put it down I wasn’t sure whether I had seen the film or read the text; the quality of its writing creates an essence which is visual, oral and literary.”The Irish Times
Hungry For Home by Cole Moreton was published in hardback by Viking in 2000 and in paperback by Penguin the following year, before being reissued by The Currach Press. It was shortlisted for the prestigious John Lewellyn Rhys Prize for a first book in any genre, alongside White Teeth by Zadie Smith. This was also one of the Sunday Times travel books of the year.
This is a book about home and what that means, a voyage to America from the edge of Ireland and a gripping account of the search for a vanished people. It is the story of a small island community that came to occupy a huge space in the Irish psyche, as an emblem of what the newly free state could be. At a time when many are exiled from their homes as a result of the migrant crisis, Hungry for Home resonates in a new way. And it is the story of a family, a set of brothers and their breathtaking journey from one way of life to another.
On Christmas Eve, 1946, a young man collapsed on a remote island off the west coast of Ireland. There was no priest, no doctor and no policeman on the Great Blasket, and no contact with the outside world. Helpless, his family watched him die.
The death of the young man was the final catalyst for the end of the island community, whose people spoke a pure form of Irish and gathered by turf fires to hear tales handed down from ancient times. Despair forced them to abandon their way of life and plead for evacuation, which finally took place in 1953. Some, like the dead man’s sister, went to live on the Irish mainland; others headed west to America.
Hungry for Home tells the story of the dramatic events that led to the Great Blasket being abandoned, including betrayal by Eamon de Valera, the man who promised the islanders to their faces that he would save them.
The exiled islanders whose culture still bore traces of the Middle Ages dared to cross the Atlantic and make a new life in the most advanced nation on earth. Cole Moreton follows their footsteps all the way, seeking out the dead man’s brothers and discovering their extraordinary, untold story.