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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 Merridith 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.
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Tragedy is a word too often used. Nevertheless, in Star of the Sea Joseph O'Connor manages to achieve a real sense of the tragic, as personal dramas of the most distressing kind play themselves out against the background of the Irish potato famine and the almost equal nightmare of the mass emigration that it caused. As passengers die of starvation and disease in steerage, a drama of adultery, inadvertent incest and inherited disease plays itself out in first class. O'Connor raises, and does not attempt definitively to answer, real questions about responsibility and choice.
Bankrupt aristocrat Meredith is emigrating, pursued by the hatred of his tenants and the memory of his mad-hero father. His children's nurse, Mary, has memories of lost love to torment her, as well as of the husband and child who died of hunger. And the ballad singer Mulvey has both his monstrous past and the certain promise that he will be tortured to death by the Liable Men should he not kill Meredith. This is a kaleidoscopic novel, whose events are seen in many idioms, from many points of view--it is a rich novel that knows that there are limits to the sense that can be made of history. --Roz KaveneyReview:
"'Stunningly accomplished'" (Guardian)
"'A triumph...A spectacular breakthrough...it raises the bar for contemporary Irish fiction'" (Sunday Times)
"'A terrific story...A stealthily gripping narrative'" (Daily Telegraph)
"'A page-turner of a masterpiece. Don't miss it'" (Daily Mail)
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