Release date: 2002 UK
Genre: Literacy fiction / Historical Mystery
Target audience: Adult
Summary from Waterstones.com:
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. Among them are a maidservant with a devastating secret, bankrupt Lord Meridith and his family, 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. 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.
I really don't know why I am bothering to write this review. I'm sure very few if any of my readers will be interested in Star of the Sea. I think there may be one or two of you that may find my personal reading experience with this book of interest. I expect it says a lot about my identity as a reader.
Star of the Sea is set amid the Irish potato famine of the mid-nineteenth century. My personal interpretation is that the book is more of a character study. The characters who make the voyage on the ship Star of the Sea to America. It isn't a story of hopes or dreams. There is no sense that reaching the destination will bring a good change. I guess I'm not entirely sure what the message was in this book which is an illustration of the confusing writing style and changing viewpoints. I was reading this book for the staff book group so I felt I had to finish it. There is nothing like the public humilation of talking about a book you've never read for a bit of motivation.
The story seems to begin several times. The first half of the book tells the story of each character. There is Mary Duane who falls in love with a young David Merridith. There are the brothers Pius and Nicholas Mulvey. Two boys who couldn't be more different in personality. There is Dixon, Laura Markham, and Merridith again. This opening was the most difficult to follow, convoluted and pretentious way to begin a novel that I have ever had the misfortune to read. I felt that Joseph O'Connor was trying to demostrate his brilliance in the genre of literary fiction rather than write an interesting mystery. I should probably mention that the whole way through the book you know there is going to be a murder. Interpersed with all this is the Captain's log of the ship. So every once in a while you learn that more passengers have died in the steerage class from various diseases.
The only part of the book that I actually enjoyed was the story of Pius Mulvey as he travels around nineteenth-century London committing many thefts that become increasingly ingenious and daring. It is his time in Newgate prison that was the most fascinating aspect of the book. During my degree, I specialised in literature of the city during the eighteenth and nineteeth century so I related to this part of the book because it drew on my prior knowledge. Sadly, this part of the book was perhaps only ten pages.
The book, including the highly boring epilogue, was 405 pages long. I enjoyed perhaps ten of those. The only people who I can think will enjoy this book are those who read ridiculously pretentious literacy fiction or have a particular interest in the Irish potato famine. Perhaps you need to be a more serious reader to enjoy this. I'll be intrigued to hear what the rest of the staff in the book group think of this. Without a doubt, this book was not for me. I wonder if I should be concerned that my husband enjoyed reading it...
Are any of my readers a member of an adult book group? If so, what titles have you been reading? Do you have any recommendations for my group that won't make me bored to tears? I need your help. For the next session we are all selecting a title from the Costa Book Awards. I going to read The Girl With The Glass Feet by Ali Shaw. Have you read this? Have I chosen wisely?