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The Star Of The Sea (Vintage 21st Anniv Editions) by [O'Connor, Joseph]
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The Star Of The Sea (Vintage 21st Anniv Editions) Kindle Edition

4.3 out of 5 stars 133 customer reviews

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Length: 434 pages Word Wise: Enabled Enhanced Typesetting: Enabled
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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


"A page-turner of a masterpiece. Don't miss it" (Daily Mail)

"Stunningly accomplished" (Guardian)

"A triumph...A spectacular breakthrough...it raises the bar for contemporary Irish fiction" (Sunday Times)

"A terrific story... A stealthily gripping narrative" (Daily Telegraph)

"This is Joseph O'Connor's best book. It is shocking, hilarious, beautifully written, and very, very clever" (Roddy Doyle)

Product details

  • Format: Kindle Edition
  • File Size: 2389 KB
  • Print Length: 434 pages
  • Publisher: Vintage Digital (11 Jan. 2011)
  • Sold by: Amazon Media EU S.à r.l.
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0099563096
  • ISBN-13: 978-0099563099
  • ASIN: B004I8WLC0
  • Text-to-Speech: Enabled
  • X-Ray:
  • Word Wise: Enabled
  • Enhanced Typesetting: Enabled
  • Average Customer Review: 4.3 out of 5 stars 133 customer reviews
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: #16,961 Paid in Kindle Store (See Top 100 Paid in Kindle Store)
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Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Paperback
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 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.
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Format: Paperback
A bad historical novel can be a dispiriting experience, akin to watching a `historical' drama featuring Charlton Heston or Ernest Borgnine. In the hands of a craftsman like A S Byatt or Patrick O'Brian, though, it can be richly rewarding. Here, Joseph O'Connor has penned a gem of a historical novel, taking the Irish potato famine as its central subject and weaving a terrific story around the event by focusing on the lives of a small group of disparate individuals on board one of the thousands of vessels haemorrhaging out of Ireland and heading for America to escape the horror. All are refugees of one form or another. Conditions on the boat are deplorable as the voyagers die like flies of diseases resulting from overcrowding and lack of hygiene and food. The lives of these individuals - a bankrupt aristocrat landowner and his wife, their maidservant, an American reporter and an Irish revolutionary - are intertwined in ways that even they do not realise. Their stories, from different viewpoints, are related with verve, humour and passion.
The novel is presented in different forms - the captain's log, newspaper articles, verbatim accounts of conversations, surgeon's case notes, revolutionary ballads and assorted other documents. Written in slightly archaic but beautiful prose, it is a delight to read and, not as some reviewers believe, especially difficult. Meticulously researched, we read of starvation, adultery, syphilis, bankruptcy, murder and more in this almost picaresque novel as we share a sense of outrage at events that, in the end, could have been alleviated, if not avoided.
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By Mary Whipple HALL OF FAMETOP 500 REVIEWER on 3 May 2003
Format: Paperback
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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