Author: Hazel Gaynor
Published: April 2014 by William Morrow Paperbacks
Category: Dual Timeline, Historical Fiction, Based on Fact, Contemporary, Book Review
Fourteen members of a small village set sail on RMS Titanic, hoping to find a better life in America. For seventeen-year-old Maggie Murphy, the journey is bittersweet. Though her future lies in an unknown new place, her heart remains in Ireland with Séamus, the sweetheart she left behind. When disaster strikes, Maggie is one of the few passengers in steerage to survive. Waking up alone in a New York hospital, she vows never to speak of the terror and panic of that fateful night again.
My first experience of Hazel Gaynor’s books was The Lighthouse Keeper’s Daughter, based on the life of Grace Darling, which I loved. I enjoy the fact there’s truth mixed in with fiction and The Girl Who Came Home is no exception. It tells the story of Maggie Murphy from Ballysheen, Ireland, who was travelling with a group of women from the village, bound for New York and booked on the Titanic for the ship’s maiden voyage in 1912. The story was inspired by events surrounding the true story of the Addergoole Fourteen, Irish emigrants from County Mayo.
When Maggie was left an orphan, her mother’s sister and Maggie’s guardian, Aunt Kathleen, came from America to take Maggie back to Chicago with her. The thought of leaving Ballysheen and being separated from her sweetheart Séamus Doyle, the man she thought she would marry, left seventeen year old Maggie feeling bereft and anxious about the journey.
“You certainly don’t need to be worrying about Maura Brennan, I can tell ye,” Kathleen had replied, brushing Maggie’s naïve fears easily aside. “She’s crossed that ocean more times than most men ever will, and a baby in her belly won’t make one bit of difference. Anyway, we’re sailing on the Titanic, the biggest ship in the world. Unsinkable, y’know. No better crib for any of us.”
Seventy years later in Cass County, Illinois Grace Butler rummages through her great grandmother’s attic searching for a small black case…
Everyone knows the story of the Titanic’s fateful maiden voyage and there have been lots of books written. I particularly enjoyed this one because of the perspectives. The Girl Who Came Home is told in a dual timeline. Maggie’s and the villagers in 1912 as they prepare for their short and terrible journey on the Titanic. Grace, seventy years later in America, trying to get her life back on track after the death of her father. Learning of her great grandmother’s incredible story gives them a much needed new direction and a welcome sense of peace.
Hazel Gaynor’s descriptive writing—the settings, the ship and steerage accommodations, the scenes in the North Sea as unconcern turns to confusion, then to fear and panic—is clear and vivid. Then the terrible aftermath as the ship goes down. No matter how many times I read about the sinking of the Titanic it gives me chills and brings a lump to my throat.
Maggie stood in a daze, unable to comprehend what she was seeing. All around her, people were running, some carrying deck chairs, some holding wooden crates or empty trunks, others clutching life rings—everyone desperately searching for something they might be able to hold on to in the water—something that might mean the difference between life and death.
The characters are well fleshed out and realistic, their stories brought to life and carried on after the tragedy. I liked the fact the first class passengers had supporting roles and those in steerage were the heart of the story. Also, the actual sinking of the ship was a fairly small part of the story and lives before and after took up most of the narrative. Focus was also on the people in New York, waiting for the Carpathia to dock, the shock and desperate hope for the ones they waited for, the desolation when they didn’t appear.
I enjoyed both timelines, the story was well researched, written sensitively and poignantly with some very emotional scenes.
About the Author
Hazel Gaynor is an award-winning New York Times, USA Today, Irish Times, and international bestselling author. Her 2014 debut THE GIRL WHO CAME HOME won the 2015 RNA Historical Novel of the Year award, A MEMORY OF VIOLETS was a 2015 WHSmith Fresh Talent pick, THE GIRL FROM THE SAVOY was shortlisted for the 201 Irish Book Awards, and THE LIGHTHOUSE KEEPER’S DAUGHTER was shortlisted for the 2019 HWA Gold Crown Award. LAST CHRISTMAS IN PARIS (co-written with Heather Webb) won the 2018 Women’s Fiction Writers Association Star Award. Their most recent collaboration is MEET ME IN MONACO which was shortlisted for the 2020 RNA Historical Novel of the Year award.
Hazel’s forthcoming unforgettable historical novel is set in Japanese-occupied China during WW2. Titled THE BIRD IN THE BAMBOO CAGE (UK/Ireland/Australia/New Zealand) / WHEN WE WERE YOUNG & BRAVE (North America), it will be published in August and October 2020, respectively.
Author: Ambrose Parry
Published: August 2019 by Canongate Books
Category: Historical, Medical, Mystery, Crime, Book Review
Edinburgh, 1850. Despite being at the forefront of modern medicine, hordes of patients are dying all across the city, with doctors finding their remedies powerless. But it is not just the deaths that dismay the esteemed Dr James Simpson – a whispering campaign seeks to blame him for the death of a patient in suspicious circumstances.
In this sequel to The Way of All Flesh, which I really enjoyed, we find Will Raven in Europe, studying and learning, becoming a fully qualified doctor.
Author: Charlotte Whitney
Category: Historical Fiction, The Great Depression, Book Review
It’s a boring, hardscrabble life for three sisters growing up on a Michigan farm in the throes of the Great Depression. But, when young Nellie, digging for pirate treasure, discovers the tiny blue-black hand of a dead baby, rumors begin to fly. Narrated by Nellie and her two older sisters, the story follows the girls as they encounter a patchwork of threatening circumstances and take it upon themselves to solve the mystery.
The Great Depression began after the market crashed in late 1929 and drastically affected the world’s economy. Threads tells the story of a farming family in Michigan and is narrated by the three daughters. Flora, the eldest at seventeen. Irene, the middle sister is eleven and Nellie, the youngest, just seven.
Author: E.C.R. Lorac
Published: February 2018 by The British Library Publishing Division
Category: Classic Crime, Police Procedural, Historical, Book Review
The Second World War is drawing to a close. Nicholas Vaughan, released from the army after an accident, takes refuge in Devon renting a thatched cottage in the beautiful countryside at Mallory Fitzjohn. Vaughan sets to work farming the land, rearing geese and renovating the cottage. Hard work and rural peace seem to make this a happy bachelor life.
The first few chapters build characterisations, mostly through dialogue, giving a good indication of people’s personalities and viewpoints. This approach means the main point of the story is reached with fairly well fleshed out characters, which worked well.
Author: Ray Celestin
Performed by Christopher Ragland
Published: March 2019 by Whole Story Audiobooks
Category: Historical Fiction, Crime, Suspense, Thriller, Private Detective, Audiobook, Book Review
Fall, 1947. New York City.
Private Investigator Ida Davis has been called to New York by her old partner, Michael Talbot, to investigate a brutal killing spree in a Harlem flophouse that has left four people dead. But as they delve deeper into the case, Ida and Michael realize the murders are part of a larger conspiracy that stretches further than they ever could have imagined.
I really enjoyed the first two books in the series—The Axeman’s Jazz & Dead Man’s Blues—and The Mobster’s Lament was no exception. Set in post war New York where private investigator Ida Davies arrives to help her old friend and mentor, ex Pinkerton Michael Talbot.
Author: Anne Allen
Published: April 2019 by Sarnia Press
Category: Historical, Contemporary, Dual Timeline, Romance, Book Review
1862 Young widow Eugénie is left bereft when her husband dies suddenly and faces an uncertain future in Guernsey.
2012 Doctor Tess Le Prevost, Guernsey born though now living in Exeter, is shocked to inherit her Great-Aunt’s house on the island.
The Inheritance is a well written and intriguing story that includes accurate historical details as well as a dual timeline.
Author: Graham Norton
Narrated by Graham Norton
Released: October 2018 by Hodder & Stoughton
Category: Fiction, Contemporary, Historical, Family Drama, Book Review
The mystery of Elizabeth Keane’s father is one that has never been solved by the people of Buncarragh – not for lack of speculation.
Now, as Elizabeth returns to the village after her mother’s funeral, bringing with her own regrets and wounds, she finds a thin pile of ribbon-bound letters at the back of a wardrobe that may at last hold the key to her past.
It was the first week in January and Elizabeth Keane had flown from New York to Buncarragh after the death of her mother. Someone had to put her affairs in order and, while Elizabeth didn’t have particularly fond memories of Buncarragh, she felt guilty knowing she’d been all her mother had.