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The Star Of The Sea [Abridged, Audiobook] [Audio CD]

Joseph O'Connor , John Kavanagh
4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (110 customer reviews)

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Book Description

1 July 2004
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, some brimming with optimism, many more desperate. Among them are a maidservant with a devastating secret, bankrupt Lord Merridith and his wife and children, 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. Passionate loves are tenderly recalled, ducked responsibilities regretted too late; profound relationships shockingly unearthed where once it seemed there were none. 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. A novel as urgently contemporary in its preoccupations as it is historically revealing, this gripping and compassionate tale builds with the pace of a thriller to an unforgettable conclusion.

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Product details

  • Audio CD
  • Publisher: Audiobooks (1 July 2004)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1856869628
  • ISBN-13: 978-1856869621
  • Product Dimensions: 14.2 x 12.4 x 2.6 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (110 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 891,532 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Amazon Review

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 Kaveney --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.


"I found it hard to stop listening" (Christina Hardyment, The Times)

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
68 of 72 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Illuminating, compelling and stylish 5 Mar 2004
I devoured this novel on a recent vacation to Florida, making a nice counterpoint to traipsing around DisneyWorld with the kids. It is undoubtedly one of the finest novels I've read in the last couple of years.
O'Connor's characters are astonishingly well drawn. Set firmly in the historical context, one could quite easily believe they existed, though the nearest thing to a narrator – Grantley Dixon - is perhaps the least believable figure and potentially the novel's only weak point.
All the key POV characters - Merredith, Mulvey, Mary Duane - are drawn in shades of grey. Indeed, Pius Mulvey is an extremely sympathetic protagonist until events and his own dark urges take him beyond the point of no return on the road to Leeds. It’s at this point that all sympathy is lost. Even the secondary characters – Captain Lockwood, Rev Deedes, Nicholas Mulvey, Laura Merredith – are nicely delineated. O’Connor has a genuine gift for characterisation.
The novel’s structure is likewise fascinating. In many ways it resembles Stoker’s Dracula in its use of diary accounts, letters and recollections from multiple viewpoints. By wrapping the whole story up in authentic trappings, the novel has the air of a historical document. Even if these stylistic flourishes are disregarded, you’re left with a truly compelling plot and a nice final twist.
Star of the Sea is polemical without being nave. It’s heart wrenching without becoming soapy (far from it). It’s understandably downbeat without being depressing. Above all, it’s a great tale derived from a dark chapter in the history of these Isles and the author is a massive talent.
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18 of 19 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Wonderfully written tale 6 Sep 2004
I was taken by surprise at how much I enjoyed this book. I suppose I expected a thinly veiled political diatribe about the Irish famine and the fault of the British in this but in fact it is nothing of the sort. To me it is the book that has best brought home the true horror of famine without making political judgements or placing blame. Instead O'Connor lets the reader come to their own conclusions regarding this. The book is so brilliant in its descriptions of famine and its horrific effect that it truly made me understand it for the first time.
However, to think that the famine is the main aspect of the book and the main thrust of the story is wrong. The book is based strongly around wonderful characters who are so brilliantly written that I couldnt help but feel I knew them. I can picture them completely in my head, not as characters but as real people with real emotions. I can only really enjoy a book fully if the characters do this, and O'Connor has certainly produced a great set of extremely well written characters, not one of whom I didnt like.
The story is also a roaringly good tale with twists galore, most of which are unexpected which is unusual to me as I am normally pretty good as working out whats to come. At times in the middle of the book it did feel a little slow going, and the very end after the climax was a little long for my liking but these are the only two slight criticisms I have and they did not spoil the book at all for me. The use of "flashbacks" to describe previous events works well in this book. Some books to me have seemed disjointed when this method has been employed but this is not the case with Star of the Sea. If anything it adds to the suspense of the book and builds up a strong picture of the characters and motivations.
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49 of 53 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A ripping good read. 3 May 2003
When the "potato famine" of 1847 was over, two million residents of Ireland had died agonizing deaths, most of them from starvation. The events which led to the famine, the people who were directly affected by it, and the steps taken to ameliorate or escape it are the subjects of Joseph O’Connor’s intense and heartfelt novel, Star of the Sea, named for the British-owned "famine ship" which is the center of the action here.

O’Connor presents four main characters who recall the pivotal experiences of their lives which lead them to make this fateful, 27-day journey. The reader becomes emotionally involved with their stories, acquiring a broad background in Irish social history--and its tragedies--in the process. Thomas David Nelson Merridith, Lord Kingscourt, is the ninth generation of his Protestant family to govern Kingscourt, with hundreds of workers dependent upon him. Now bankrupt, he and his family are going to America, first-class. Their nanny, Mary Duane, has recently joined the family, and her stories of her past loves, her marriage, and her loss of her own children illuminate the bleak prospects available to this warm and intelligent, but desperately poor, woman.
G. Grantley Dixon is a caricature of the liberal American do-gooder, whose reports about the plight of the Irish poor are influenced by his own socialism and by the reform-minded traditions of his family. Self-centered in his attitudes and limited in his social graces, he is detested by Merridith. Pius Mulvey is a mysterious ex-convict who comes from the same town as Merridith and Mary Duane, directly connected to both of them.
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
2.0 out of 5 stars really hard going
started reading for my local book club. Horrified as really hard going. Still only about a third of the way through. Have spoken to another book club member who agreed with me. Read more
Published 1 day ago by anne
5.0 out of 5 stars Five Stars
excellent book!
Published 1 month ago by Tony Oliver
5.0 out of 5 stars A beautifully crafted story.
A must read for anyone interested in the complex relationship between Britain and Ireland in the 19th century told through the stories of those on board an immigrant ship en route... Read more
Published 2 months ago by Thomas Lavery
4.0 out of 5 stars interesting
This was quite a hard read, but really informative about the awfulness of life on a ship going from Ireland to America, with immigrants. Read more
Published 2 months ago by nelhelen
5.0 out of 5 stars Bought for Father.
I bought this book for my father who had seen a review of it. I think it is based on a true story.
Published 3 months ago by FRANCINE QUINN
4.0 out of 5 stars Read it, but be aware, be very aware.
An amazing read, i have come to believe every word the narrator gives me, even when he expresses doubt our times and desperations which made me cry. Read more
Published 4 months ago by Lauren
4.0 out of 5 stars Ill-starred voyage
This is a most unusual book which combines a narrative with the Captain's log with a newspaper article, illustrations from the time and even an extract from a (fictive! Read more
Published 5 months ago by Secret Spi
5.0 out of 5 stars Fantastic
So good I read it twice. This is one of my all time favourites and is a 'must read'. Brilliant
Published 5 months ago by Richard Agnew
5.0 out of 5 stars Great story, great writer
Other reviews have described this book very well so I can't add to that. Its a gripping read, the description of how people died because of the failure of the potato crop in... Read more
Published 6 months ago by Rita
4.0 out of 5 stars Gift
I haven't actually read this book yet but the service was good and I bought it for someone else. The book comes highly rated from reviews and hope to get to read it myself one... Read more
Published 7 months ago by Megian
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