In the bitter winter of 1847, from an Ireland torn by injustice and natural disaster, the Star of the Sea sets sail for New York. On board are hundreds of fleeing refugees, some brimming with optimism, many more desperate. Among them are a maidservant with a devastating secret, bankrupt Lord Merridith and his wife and children, an aspiring novelist, a maker of revolutionary ballads, all braving the Atlantic in search of a new home. Each is connected more deeply than they can possibly know. But a camouflaged killer is stalking the decks, hungry for the vengeance that will bring absolution. The twenty-six day journey will see many lives end, others begin afresh. Passionate loves are tenderly recalled, ducked responsibilities regretted too late; profound relationships shockingly unearthed where once it seemed there were none. In a spellbinding story of tragedy and mercy, love and healing, the further the ship sails towards the Promised Land, the more her passengers seem moored to a past which will never let them go. A novel as urgently contemporary in its preoccupations as it is historically revealing, this gripping and compassionate tale builds with the pace of a thriller to an unforgettable conclusion.
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Joseph O'Connor's impressive historical novel, Star of the Sea, examines the unsettled personal tragedies among a group of interrelated characters and their difficulties in disregarding the past. Lord Merridith and his family board the titular ship in 1847, bound for New York, leaving behind an Ireland devastated by famine and strife. The family's beautiful nanny, Mary Duane, is with them, having fled a life of poverty, prostitution, and extreme tragedy. Another passenger, American journalist Grantley Dixon, is lured to America by business and his thinly veiled affair with Lady Merridith. Mary Duane discovers that Pius Mulvey, her former fiancé and the brother of her deceased husband, is among the overcrowded group of disease-ridden steerage passengers. A renowned thief and murderer, Mulvey abandoned Duane, only to return and sabotage her life in Ireland. Despised by his countrymen, Mulvey has been ordered by a group of steerage thugs to assassinate the demonized Merridith or face his own death.
Conflict is inevitable, but O'Connor is more interested in the complexity of history and relationships and how each makes reinvention and resolution impossible. O'Connor presents the story as a work of journalism written by Dixon, composed in the era's tabloid style, even including passages from the captain's register and crew interviews. These devices lend the work a sense of authenticity, reinforced by the author's intimate knowledge of the period and his evocative, realistic prose: "At night one sensed the ship as absurdly out of its element, a creaking, leaking, incompetent concoction of oak and pitch and nails and faith, bobbing on a wilderness of viciously black water which could explode at the slightest provocation." O'Connor conveys a sense of immediacy and dimension in his ambitious story, providing this uncertain voyage with an ultimate sense of direction. --Ross DollFrom the Inside Flap:
Thrilling and full of suspense, this is a novel of Ireland set on a New York-bound ocean liner.
In the spring of 1847, from an Ireland torn by disaster and injustice, the Star of the Sea sets sail for New York. On board are hundreds of hopeful emigrants, some brimming with optimism, many more desperate to get away and start afresh in the New World. Among them are a maidservant nursing a devastating secret; the bankrupt Lord Merridith and his family; an aspiring novelist; a writer of revolutionary ballads -- all braving the Atlantic in search of a new beginning. Each is connected more deeply than they can possibly know. Also stalking the decks is a killer, hungry for the vengeance that alone will bring absolution.
The voyage of almost four weeks will see some lives end and others begin anew, and so much time to reflect on the life left behind; passionate loves tenderly recalled, ducked responsibilities now regretted, the shocking realization of a deep relationship where once it seemed there was nothing. In this spellbinding story of tragedy and mercy, love and healing, the further the ship sails towards the Promised Land, the more her passengers seemed moored to a past which will not let them go. This is a novel that is both urgently contemporary in its preoccupations, and historically revealing. It is a gripping and compassionate tale, building with the pace of a thriller to an unforgettable conclusion.
From the Hardcover edition.
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