The Write Romantics Book Group: The Girl Who Came Home

titanic-titanic-mIt takes a real gift to tell a familiar story differently and Hazel Gaynor’s book opened my eyes to another side of the Titanic disaster.  I’d not thought about how the tragedy affected the survivors in their future lives or those who waited for news of loved ones.  Having been to Cobh (formerly Queenstown) in County Cork, I’d known that Titanic had stopped there but I’d not really considered what it must have been like for the Irish passengers who joined the ship at that point.

The Girl Who Came Home tells the story of Maggie Murphy and 13 other people from the village of Ballysheen in County Mayo who were travelling in steerage on Titanic on the way to a new life in America.  Maggie leaves behind her boyfriend, Seamus who is unable to leave because his father is ill.  Maggie herself is recently bereaved as her mother has died and she is travelling with her aunt who had emigrated to America years before. Obviously, the reader knows that Titanic will not reach New York and the series of ill omens that happen on the journey to Queenstown therefore take on great significance.

The Girl Who Came Home

I really liked Maggie.  There’s a freshness to her voice, an excitement about each new experience which is very endearing.  The poverty of her life in Ireland is highlighted by her delight in the pretty basic steerage accommodation and the three meals a day provided to passengers.  When the story moves to 1982 it’s great to see that Maggie has retained much of that enthusiasm and I really loved her relationship with her great-granddaughter, Grace.  I did see the revelation about Maggie’s husband coming from quite early on but then I have a rather geeky interest in all things Irish and I made the link quite quickly.  But, having said that didn’t spoil my enjoyment of the ending and I found Maggie’s return to Ireland particularly emotional.

I have to admit that I cried a lot reading this book.  Having had a pretty traumatic time myself over the past couple of years Maggie’s courage really touched me.  She came from a generation that didn’t have access to counselling or therapy and her method of coping was to not talk about Titanic for decades.  The sections of the book set in 1982 seemed to me to be her coming to terms with what happened.

That’s what I thought of The Girl That Came Home.  I’d love to hear your opinion.  If you’ve read it, did you love it as much as me?  Is it a book that you’ll be adding to your TBR pile?

lifeboatI’m delighted to say that Hazel Gaynor will be joining The Write Romantics Book Group for a live question and answer session on Thursday 28th August between 8 and 9pm.  If you’ve got any questions for Hazel then please do pop over to Goodreads and join in the discussion here .  Or you can leave a question in the comments here and we’ll make sure it’s included in the Q&A session.

I’m handing over to Rachael Thomas now who has chosen the book for the Book Group to read in September.  It is The Kiss of the Concubine: A Story of Anne Boleyn by Judith Arnopp.  I love a good Tudor tale so I’m looking forward to this one.  You can check out the reviews of Judith’s book here and here.  We’re looking forward to having Judith as our guest on the blog on Saturday 30th August.

Happy Reading!



Images of lifeboat and Titanic courtesy of the US National Archives

11 thoughts on “The Write Romantics Book Group: The Girl Who Came Home

  1. What an excellent plot for a story. I haven’t started it yet, I’ve been seriously poorly with a cold but its on my TBR pile. When I started nursing 40 years ago we often had a woman Titanic survivor in following overdoses. Many staff used to get fed up with her and make her stay as unpleasant as possible to avoid repetitions. Now we know she had what would today be called Survivor Guilt. There’s much to learn from the past, I wondered what the author found out from covering such a range of time?

  2. Great review, Alys. I particularly liked the bits towards the beginning that captured the disappointment/devastation from various parties who were unable to board for whatever reason (illness, transport problems, too much to drink etc). It made me wonder what must have gone through their minds when they heard about the disaster.
    Jessica x

  3. You’ve really made me want to read this now! Over a hundred years on, the Titanic disaster still fascinates people and, apart from the enormity of the drama, it’s all those individual stories that are so poignant and capture our imaginations. Those poor souls who all had their own stories, so many of which will never be told. This novel sounds really gripping. I will be adding it to my tbr pile.

  4. That’s really interesting Julie…the poor woman must have struggled and you’re right, we do know a lot more now. I really enjoyed Hazel’s book and if I’m awake early enough in the morning I’ll join you all on Goodreads 🙂
    Helen R 🙂

  5. Thank you for your lovely review Alys. I’m so pleased you enjoyed the book and I really do hope to have given a different perspective to such a well-known and well-documented event. I felt so passionately about giving the steerage passengers a voice and hope to have done that through Maggie, and those she travelled with. Looking forward to answering lots of questions on the Goodreads chat later tonight!

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