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Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Star of the Sea by Joseph O'Connor

Title: Star of The Sea
Author: Joseph O'Connor
Genre: Historical Fiction
Publisher: Secker & Warburg, 2002
Rating: 4.5 crowns

In the bitter winter of 1847, from an Ireland devastated by the potato famine, a ship sets sail for New York. It's name is the Star of the Sea and on board are hundreds of desperate souls fleeing their suffering homeland in the hope of a better life.
Among the fifteen first class passengers are the bankrupt Lord Merridith and his family, their nanny, the widowed Mary Duane and an American journalist.Below decks in steerage the poor and starving will suffer the twenty-six day voyage in cramped and unsanitary conditions with very little food and walking among them is a shadowy killer hungry for vengeance.The threads that bind these people together will gradually be revealed as each looks back on their life and recalls the events that have brought them to where they are. Passionate loves and guilty secrets, neglected responsibilities and nefarious activities.............they leave their homeland but some things are not so easily left behind.

The story is told in a variety of ways. As a narrative from different perspectives, from newpaper articles and letters , quotations, ballads, and each day the harrowing entries in the Captain's log as this kind and compassionate man writes the numbers who have died overnight and whose bodies will be given to the ocean.Throughout the book there are many wonderful pen and ink drawings that originally appeared in newspapers of the time such as the Illustrated London News and Harper's Weekly.

While the format of the book has a unique and very Victorian feel which definitely adds to the reading experience it is the quality of Joseph O'Connor's writing that takes the breath away. Haunting descriptive prose that is both beautiful and brutal in its honest portrayal of the social injustices so many of the Irish people suffered it is heartbreakingly tragic yet filled with the spirit of hope and healing.

Magnificent historical fiction which I highly recommend.

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Blodeuedd said...

Sounds good, and I do want to try his books

Mystica said...

When you said that it is beautiful and brutal I can think that the book must be beautifully written as well. Am noting it down.

Cat said...

Blodeuedd....this was the first of his I've read and will definitely be looking for more.

Mystica....his writing is indeed beautiful. I recommend.

Anonymous said...

I will definitely be getting this one.

Cat said...

I hadn't heard of it before either and it is presented in a unique way particularly the addition of the drawings.

Teddy Rose said...

Thanks so much for bringing this book to my attention! It sounds like an historical I would really like!

Anonymous said...

Another must read. My Father's ancestors fled Ireland and ended up in Canada. The Canadians did much to help the Irish during the potato famine.