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The Star Of The Sea Audio Cassette – Abridged, Audiobook, CD
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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 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)See all Product description
Top customer reviews
Excellent novel from master story teller
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 naïve. 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.
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. The different styles employed for different sections of the book, such as the use of the captain's log book, the journalist's observations etc, to tell different parts of the tale also works brilliantly. O'Connor skillfully weaves these various styles of writing together to create a unified book that reads brilliantly and is full of suspense.
Most impressive about the book though is the language. The first chapter in particular really gripped me, it is so wonderfully written, and evokes such a strong sense of atmosphere that sets up the rest of the book brilliantly. The language used throughout is truly beautiful, wonderfully varied and every word it seems put to excellent use. This is accompanied by obviously very thorough research into the subject of the famine and how all types of people lived at the time.
Overall this is a wonderful read - great story, beautiful characters and all extremely well written. I would highly recommend it to anyone.