Details: Re-read for library Reading Group
First read: 03/04/2005
This is a book that improved up re-reading it. I liked it the first time, I marked it 4.5 back then, but this time around I liked it even better. I think I may have tried to read it too fast in 2005 because while I remembered most of the general story, some parts of the book I didn't recognize at all. Shockingly one of the details that had either completely slipped my mind or I had missed, was the ending of the story. So, it's just as well I didn't decide to rely on my memory for this book discussion.
This is the story of some of the people travelling from Ireland to America on the Star of the Sea in 1847.
While we get a good overall impression of life on the ship through the Captain's journal, and a clear insight into the worse than terrible conditions under which the poor travelled in steerage, this is basically the story of a few of the passengers, with each character's part told from their own point of view.
There is Lord Meredith, who has lost his house and land in Ireland and is taking his family to America to escape bankruptcy and build a new life. Although he despises the abuses the rich landowners inflict upon their poor and starving tenants in Ireland, he is basically a weak man, lacking the backbone to do anything about it or make anything of his life. Frustrated he lashes out at those around him in general and specifically at Grantley Dixson.
He is an American journalist and socialist who is having an affair with Meredith's wife. Dixon is also the compiler and narrator of this story.
Also on the boat is Pius Mulvey, a criminal and murderer , who has been placed on board with orders to kill Meredith.
Finally there is Mary Duane, childhood friend of Meredith, former lover and sister in law of Pius and now servant and nanny for the Meredith family. She has good reasons to detest both Meredith and Mulvey.
As we learn the details of these characters lives and follow their progress towards America, tensions rise.
By the time the Star of the Sea arrives in New York harbour, Lord Meredith has been brutally murdered, the reason why appearing obvious. But is it?
This book, while being a solid murder mystery, gives a heartbreaking description of life in Ireland during the famine and makes you wonder at (to quote a song) "man's blind indifference to his fellow man".
A must read for anyone interested in Irish history.