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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 and 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.
'A triumph...A spectacular breakthrough' Sunday Times
'[Joseph O'Connor is] Ireland's most brilliant storyteller' Independent on Sunday
First published in the U.K. and shortlisted for Irish Novel of the Year, this brooding new historical fiction by novelist, playwright and critic O'Connor (Cowboys and Indians) chronicles the mayhem aboard Star of the Sea, a leaky old sailing ship crossing from Ireland to New York during the bitter winter of 1847, its steerage crammed to the bulkheads with diseased and starving refugees from the Irish potato famine. The novel takes the form of a personal account written by passenger G. Grantley Dixon, a New York Times reporter who intersperses his narrative with reportage and interviews as he describes the intrigue that unfolds during the 26-day journey. There's Pius Mulvey, "a sticklike limping man from Connemara" known to the passengers as "the monster" or "the ghost," who shuffles menacingly around the ship and is the subject of many a rumor. There's Earl David Merridith of Kingscourt, one of the few passengers in first class, who has evicted thousands of his tenants for nonpayment of rent, dooming them and their families to almost certain death by starvation. Also aboard is the young widow, Mary Duane, a nanny for the Kingscourt children who shares a history of intimacies with both Kingscourt and Mulvey. And there is, of course, Kingscourt's wife, with whom Dixon is having an ill-advised affair. One of these passengers is on a mission to commit murder, and another is the fated victim. Through flashbacks, the complicated narrative paints a vivid picture of the rigors of life in Ireland in the mid-19th century. The engrossing, well-structured tale will hold historical fiction fans rapt. 4-city author tour.