Tuesday, April 8, 2014

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

Good morning, everyone! Today I'm a stop on the TLC book tour for Hazel Gaynor's debut, The Girl Who Came Home.

1912: Maggie Murphy and her aunt, along with twelve others from Ballysheen, Ireland, set off to America on the grandest ship ever to be built: RMS Titanic. Maggie is bereft at leaving behind both her home and her sweetheart, but America means a fresh start and new opportunities. Their trip is an adventure that soon turns tragic, but Maggie survives. Her family knows little about her experiences on Titanic but decades later she's finally ready to share her tale. 

1982: After her father's death, Grace gave up college and a wonderful writing opportunity to care for her mother. But now everyone, including Grace's mother and Grace's great-grandmother Maggie, has decided that it's time for her to move on. And to help her along, Maggie is willing to revisit Titanic

Gaynor's debut is of course based on the 1912 sinking of the RMS Titanic, but the book is specifically inspired by the story of the Addergoole Fourteen, said to be "the largest proportional loss of life from one region." Eleven of the Fourteen died in the event. Gaynor's piece in the PS edition includes information on the girls her characters are derived from as well as additional information for those curious about the Addergool Fourteen.

What is it about this piece of history that still so fascinates us over a century later? Is it the fact that the ship epitomized opulence and grandeur? The way everyone behind it seemed to taunt fate by dubbing it unsinkable? Or is it the ultimately tragic end that keeps bringing us back for more? I think it's all of those things combined with the very personal stories of those who were on board.

I am certainly not immune to the lure of Titanic based tales and had been greatly anticipating Hazel Gaynor's debut. To read that her characters were indeed based on very real people who perished in the ship's sinking made the book that much more enthralling and heartbreaking.

I'm not going to lie, though, I did enter into the book with some trepidation. On the one hand, I'd just spent the weekend bingeing on Veronica Roth's Divergent trilogy so historical fiction was a pretty big change up genre wise. On the other hand, I worried that The Girl Who Came Home might be just a little too reminiscent of the James Cameron film. It's certainly not fair, but I can't deny that at least some part of my brain worried.

I am so completely happy to admit, however, that my fear was definitely not realized. It took less than one chapter to completely draw me in. I enjoyed the dual storyline - 1912 and 1982 - and the varying perspectives - Maggie and Grace but also Lucky Harry, Séamus, and the others we get to see throughout the book. Each section includes actual Marconigram messages sent from Titanic and Carpathia. And of course there are Maggie's journal entries that appear throughout the book. Each element melds perfectly to give a feeling of historical accuracy and illustrates the obvious care and attention Gaynor paid to her subject.

Rating: 4/5

To see more stops on the tour be sure to visit the official TLC tour page here.

For more on Hazel Gaynor and the book, you can visit her on the web here; Hazel blogs at www.whimsandtonic.com. You can also like her on Facebook and follow her on Twitter.

1 comment:

April @ My Shelf Confessions said...

OOH this one sounds good! I love when there are messages and/or journal entries throughout a book, historical or not. But knowing they are true makes it all the more fascinating - in a sad way, considering it's the Titanic. Great review!