Friday, January 9, 2015

Review: The Girl Who Came Home

The Girl Who Came Home
by Hazel Gaynor

Why did you choose this book? I read anything and everything ‘Titanic’!
When did you read this book? November 2014
Who should read this book? readers of historical fiction with a Titanic obsession
Source: personal autographed copy
Here is a synopsis of The Girl Who Came Home from Goodreads

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.

My Review

If you read my blog at all, you know I have a ‘Titanic’ obsession! So I was excited to see this book, and even more excited when my daughter brought me an autographed copy that she picked up in Ireland this summer at an author event at the Titanic museum!

This novel reminded me a bit of Orphan Train by Christine Baker Kline. Obviously, they are very different stories, but the method of story telling is similar. In both novels, the story is told to an younger woman by an old woman remembering her past.

This novel is centered around Maggie Murphy who, along with thirteen others, leaves her small village in Ireland to travel to American aboard the Titanic. While the others are excited and looking forward to their new lives, Maggie is only looking at what, or who, she left behind; Seamus, the man she loves. Once aboard the ship, the travelers are delighted at the luxury found even in their third class quarters. They are having a wonderful time exploring the ship and making friends, right up until the time the ship strikes the Iceberg.

Readers who have read other Titanic novels or seen the Titanic movie will recognize some of the details; the children playing with the ice chips from the iceberg that landed on the deck, the Irish passengers dancing in third class, the struggle to get to the life boats, etc. But this is not really a story about the sinking of the Titanic. This is a story of a Titanic survivor and her granddaughter and what they can learn from each other about relationships. Though Maggie’s life is forever shaped by tragedy, she comes through the tragedy with a happy ending and a story to tell.

The Girl Who Came Home is based on a true story. I know what you’re thinking; “Aren’t ALL novels about the TItanic based on a true story?”. Well yes, the Titanic was a real ship and a real disaster; but not all Titanic novels have characters based on real people. This one does. The Addergoole Fourteen were a real life group from the small Irish village of Addergoole, who boarded the Titanic to travel to America together. Another character in the novel, Vivienne Walker-Brown, is an actress based on the real life actress Dorothy Gibson. Like all good historical fiction, this one led me to want to know more!

If you want to know more, you can read about the real life Addergoole Fourteen here and read about how their story inspired Hazel Gaynor on her blog. You can learn more about Dorothy Gibson, the actress who inspired the character of Vivenne Walker-Brown.

If you are a Titanic nut like me, you will love this one. And even if you aren’t quite as obsessed with the Titanic as I am, you should pick this one up, especially if you enjoyed Orphan Train!

My Rating:  ★★★★1/2   4-1/2 Stars
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