29 Oct 2014



SOURCE: A re-read off our shelves.

BACK COVER BLURB: 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 Meredith and his family, an aspiring novelist, a maker of revolutionary ballads, all braving the Atlantic in search of a new home. All are 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 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.

FIRST SENTENCE {Prologue: The Monster}: All night long he would walk the ship, from bow to stern, from dusk until quarterlight, that sticklight limping man from Connemara with the drooping shoulders and ash-coloured clothes.

MEMORABLE MOMENT {Page 87}: Reading, to Elizabeth Costello, was an indication of decency. Her husband considered it a waste of time.

MY THOUGHTS: Last read 12 years ago, whilst presumably I enjoyed it enough at the time to give it shelf space, alas this time it is destined for a charity shop.

To begin with, difficult, literally physically difficult to read. Whilst I can't speak of later editions this 2002 issue has incredibly small and faint print.

Expecting a book set on board a ship? Whilst certain chapters are indeed dedicated to events on-board for the vast part the novel is a sequence of passenger biographies written as flashbacks.

Using several different methods of story telling - part captain's log, part epistolic, part newspaper articles, part quotes, part historical documentation - whilst a work of fiction much of the novel read as if factual. Not a bad thing per sa but combined with what at times read like a collection of novellas within the novel I felt the book too busy.

Difficult to rate as whilst for me there is little to recommend the book as a whole there are however several of the novellas (if I can describe them as such) contained within that were OK, some of them even giving a bit of light relief to what was otherwise a thoroughly depressing if arguably realistic read given the period in which is set.


Kelly said...

Awww, a shame it wasn't as good the second time around. The blurb from the cover certainly sounds appealing.

I find small print quite daunting at this stage of life. Who am I kidding...I've never like small print!

Melissa (Books and Things) said...

Yea, I think it would feel busy to me as well. Might pass on this one.

Love the look of the blog!

Suko said...

Tracy, thanks for sharing your honest thoughts about this book. I wish you had enjoyed this more, the second time around.

Literary Feline said...

I am afraid to re-read some of the books I loved years ago. I would hate to lose the magic I felt when I first read them.

Melliane said...

Hmm I'm not sure it will be for me I confess...

Brian Joseph said...

It is so interesting how a book might lose its appeal when read later in life. Interests and reading habits do change for most of us.

I too do not have the ability to read small print like i was once able to. This is something else that unfortunately changes!

Barbara Fisher said...

Terry and I did the crossing from Cork in Northern Ireland to New York in 1995. The conditions were far better than they would have been in 1847, or they would have been had we not run into Hurricane Marilyn it was absolutely terrifying. Lots of people ended up with broken bones and other injuries, and the ship was damaged but we all survived to tell the tale. That was our first, and only, never to be repeated cruise!
What a shame you didn’t enjoy Star of the sea the second time around, it sounded really good when you started telling us about it.
Have a good weekend, Barbara.

Chrys Fey said...

All of those different methods to tell the story would be too much. And I hate it when a book's font is too small.

Sherry Ellis said...

I think I'd have a hard time enjoying this book. And it sounds like I'd need reading glasses to read the microscopic print.

Lindsay said...

I find small print quite off putting so it's a shame when a book has this. It's interesting to see how our reactions change on re-reading a novel. Thanks for the honest review Tracy.