Saturday, 15 February 2014

Review: The Girl Who Came Home: A Titanic Novel by Hazel Gaynor

Inspired by true events surrounding a group of Irish emigrants who sailed on the maiden voyage of R.M.S Titanic, The Girl Who Came Home is a story of enduring love and forgiveness, spanning seventy years. It is also the story of the world’s most famous ship, whose tragic legacy continues to captivate our hearts and imaginations one hundred years after she sank to the bottom of the Atlantic ocean with such a devastating loss of life.

In a rural Irish village in April 1912, seventeen-year-old Maggie Murphy is anxious about the trip to America. While the thirteen others she will travel with from her Parish anticipate a life of prosperity and opportunity - including her strict Aunt Kathleen who will be her chaperon for the journey - Maggie is distraught to be leaving Séamus, the man she loves with all her heart. As the carts rumble out of the village, she clutches a packet of love letters in her coat pocket and hopes that Séamus will be able to join her in America soon.

In Southampton, England, Harry Walsh boards Titanic as a Third Class Steward, excited to be working on this magnificent ship. After the final embarkation stop in Ireland, Titanic steams across the Atlantic Ocean. Harry befriends Maggie and her friends from the Irish group; their spirits are high and life on board is much grander than any of them could have ever imagined. Being friendly with Harold Bride, one of the Marconi radio operators, Harry offers to help Maggie send a telegram home to Séamus. But on the evening of April 14th, when Titanic hits an iceberg, Maggie’s message is only partly transmitted, leaving Séamus confused by what he reads.

As the full scale of the disaster unfolds, luck and love will decide the fate of the Irish emigrants and those whose lives they have touched on board the ship. In unimaginable circumstances, Maggie survives, arriving three days later in New York on the rescue ship Carpathia. She has only the nightdress she is wearing, a small case and a borrowed coat, to her name. She doesn’t speak of Titanic again for seventy years.

In Chicago, 1982, twenty-one year old Grace Butler is stunned to learn that her Great Nana Maggie sailed on Titanic and sets out to write Maggie's story as a way to resurrect her journalism career. When it is published, Grace receives a surprising phone call, starting a chain of events which will reveal the whereabouts of Maggie’s missing love letters and the fate of those she sailed with seventy years ago. But it isn't until a final journey back to Ireland that the full extent of Titanic’s secrets are revealed and Maggie is able to finally make peace with her past

Expected publication: April 1st 2014

Terri's Thoughts:

I received a copy of this novel from William Morrow Paperbacks via Edelweiss in exchange for an honest review.  The expected publication date is April 2014.

I was eager to read this book as I have a fascination with all things associated to the Titanic.  I was curious to see what kind of spin would be put on the tragic tail of the events that occurred on the Titanic.  For those who have any knowledge of the Titanic or seen the movie for that matter you will be familiar with the descriptive passages regarding the ship and it's demise.  Although I am by no means an expert the descriptions seemed accurate to all other accounts of the event that I have been exposed to.

At first I thought that there would be some risk of this story being too similar to the tragic love story depicted in the popular movie depiction of the event however it gladly was not.  Although there was a love story, it did not occur on the decks of the boat.  It occurred off of the boat.  It was tragic and touching.  I loved how the innocence of the young love was depicted through memories, letters and journals.

This story was well put together using the present (1980's) to unfold Maggie's story that occurred seventy years prior on her journey to America.  Through Maggie's words, telegrams from the boat, letters and journal entries the story wrapped together in to one finely wrapped story.  Learning about the lives of the fourteen people who left small town Ireland to journey to America on the mighty Titanic added to the emotional factor of this read.  Their journey and fates made me become invested in what would come.

The characters were also well written.  I enjoyed the character of Maggie with her young shyness, Peggy with her youthful bold outlook on life and Harry whose heart was so genuine you just wished you knew someone like that in real life.  These three carried the story for me and were wonderfully written.

I will not divulge the plot of this story however here is one spoiler.  The boat sinks!  It is story that Gaynor creates before, during and after that makes this a winner.  I will be recommending this read and will look for future work from Hazel Gaynor

About the Author

Hazel Gaynor is an author and freelance writer living in Ireland. 'The Girl Who Came Home - A Novel of the Titanic' is her first novel and will be published in the US by William Morrow Books in April, 2014 and in the Uk/Ireland by Harper360.

When she isn't writing historical fiction, Hazel writes a guest blog for national writing website for which she has also interviewed bestselling authors such as Jo Baker, Philippa Gregory, Sebastian Faulks, Cheryl Strayed and Mary Beth Keane.

Originally from Yorkshire, England, Hazel now lives in Ireland with her husband, two young children and an accident-prone cat.

Hazel is represented by Michelle Brower of Folio Literary Management, New York.
Twitter: HazelGaynor

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