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

The Wednesday Wondering – What We’re Reading Right Now

When a writer is asked what advice they’d give to other writers, one of the most commonly cited gems is to read. A lot! As you’d probably expect, The Write Romantics are all avid readers although how we all find time to fit it in between family life, writing, running a farm, working, volunteering and the million and one other responsibilities we have between us is an absolute mystery!

Today’s Wednesday Wondering was posed by nosey me and is quite simply:
What are you reading at the moment? What drew you do that book?

Let’s find out what The Write Romantics have to say…


I’m currently reading about ten different books but the one I’m trying to concentrate on and read is ‘A Christmas Carol’ by Charles Dickens. I’ve never read it and my writing group’s homework is to bring in a piece of seasonal writing and introduce it, so I thought it would be very apt. Plus I thought I’d best take a look at how one of the great master’s writes a ghost story 😉


I’m reading The Hidden Cottage by Erica James. I didn’t set out to buy it but, armed with a load of lovely book tokens I won in a writing competition, I decided to break into them with a little mooch around Smith’s. First I picked up a book I’d had on my list for a while and as it was part of a buy-one-get-one-half price deal I began the search for another. The Hidden Cottage spoke to me straight away. I’m a sucker for a book title with the word ‘cottage’ in it, the cover is delightfully colourful and I’ve read many of Erica James’ books before so I kind of knew what I was getting. I’ve read about two thirds of it, and it does live up to its promise in that it’s a cosy read about family relationships, which is what the author excels in. I wouldn’t say I’m loving it as much as her previous one, The Real Katie Lavender, but the characters feel genuine and all have traits you can easily identify with. There is a tragedy in it, which I won’t give away here, but mainly it’s an easy, warm-hearted read and it’s perfect for reading by the fire when the rain’s hammering down outside.

At the moment I’m back in the reign of Henry VIII with a new release by Judith Arnopp. The Kiss of the Concubine is all about Anne Boleyn and is a time in history that has always fascinated me.

The reason I’m reading this book, is not just because it is written by a friend and neighbour but because, despite knowing Judith, I would have to read each and every book she writes. They are just so different. It’s not history through rose tinted glasses. It’s real and makes me wonder just what it would have really been like to live then.
The opening chapter is brilliant and drags you in straight away and is so different from anything else. It’s a must read!

I’m currently reading ‘Rumours’ by Freya North. I picked it up because I’ve read and enjoyed many of her previous books and while I’m recuperating I wanted something that’s not too taxing. I am enjoying it although it has some ‘interesting’ switches of POV which I find a bit annoying. Just as an aside, years ago when I worked in a bookshop in York I met Freya North. She came into the shop with the publisher’s rep. Her first book had not long been out and I had no idea who she was. I do remember that she was very polite and unassuming so I was a bit surprised when I later read her book and found out how many sex scenes were in it. Just shows that you really shouldn’t judge an author by what she looks like!”

I’m one of those people who can’t just read one book at a time. I have to have a book with me all the time so there’s generally one wherever I happen to be. In the car I’ve got ‘The Children of Green Knowe.’ I know my childhood’s long gone, but I do enjoy children’s books now and again and this one is especially good. I visited the manor house in which it’s set, Hemingford Grey, the author Lucy Boston’s home. It was magical and one of the loveliest homes I’ve visited. I’m also reading ‘The Last Runaway,’ by Tracy Chevalier. This is excellent. I saw it as a recommended read from Richard and Judy and I liked the fact that it is set in America in a Quaker community. It has a lovely sense of atmosphere and a gripping storyline!

On my To Be Read pile isSusan Lewis’s ‘One Day At A Time.’ I love her work, she chooses some very emotional issues and I like that. On a completely different note I have Diana Holman-Hunt’s memoir, ‘My Grandmother’s and I.’ She was granddaughter to the great Pre-Raphaelite painter William Holman-Hunt. He painted my favourite painting of all time, ‘The Light of the World,’ which is beautiful and exactly what I think Jesus looks like!

That’s my favourite thing about books, there are so many and they’re all so different!

I’m reading “Too Charming” by Kathryn Freeman. It’s utterly brilliant with one very sexy hero. I downloaded this onto my Kindle in response to an advert by her publisher, Choc Lit. I highly recommend it.

I’m reading Henriette Gyland’s book The Elephant Girl, which is a roller coaster of a book with mystery, interest and a lovely hero and heroine that you feel you know by the end of the book- a very satisfying read.

I am reading David Walliams’ Gangsta Granny. The reason is because I have had an idea for a Middle Grade book I’d like to write after I finish the current NaNo project and get it off to the NWS. I’ve read and loved a lot of Roald Dahl and I think Walliams is seen as a modern-day equivalent. I’m reading it to look at techniques, the language and vocab levels and the pitch of humour versus plot. I want to get an idea of whether my story idea has enough legs before I take it further and I’m loving reading something so different and being a kid again for a bit!

I’m reading “Beneath an Irish Sky” by Isabella Connor on my Kindle. I was drawn to his book because it’s a collaboration between two writers, Liv and Val, who we interviewed over the summer on our blog. The idea of a “joint” book sounded interesting, as well as the story itself. I’m really enjoying and find it refreshing to read from predominantly male POVs. Sadly, progress is very slow – not because the book isn’t a page-turner but simply because I have absolutely no time to read at the moment. I like to get really engrossed in a book and read large chunks in one sitting as I enjoy it more that way. I think therefore that I may just put the Kindle away until November is through and I’ve therefore finished NaNoWriMo which will hopefully give me a little more reading time. I have a Christmas book I want to delve into in December so I would like to finish Beneath an Irish Sky within the first week.

So, quite a mix of books and genres, old and new. Have you read any of the books we’re currently reading? Do you have any recommendations for us? What are you reading at the moment? Please join in and let us know.