The Girl Who Came Home by Hazel Gaynor | Book Reviews | Historical Fiction

By Margaret Madden

It is 102 years since the tragic sinking of Titanic and yet the story is one that never fails to pull at our heartstrings. We have seen the movie, read the books and think there is nothing else we can learn about the event. This book proves us wrong.

Based on the true story of a group of people, all from the same small country town in Ireland, who travelled on Titanic in search of a better life. Only two survived. This is the story of the fourteen neighbours, their excitement, their nervousness, their awe of such a fine vessel and their limited interaction with the wealthier passengers on-board.

The story is split in two; Maggie Murphy is one of the fourteen who travelled to America in 1912 and the reader learns of her harrowing tale from her journal entries as well as flashbacks. Grace Bulter is Maggie’s great-granddaughter and is the one that Maggie chooses to share her memories with.

The novel is written with great compassion and was obviously lovingly researched. Hazel Gaynor has looked at the tragedy from a different angle but has retained essential facts surrounding the ship and it’s, now famous, passengers. A few details in the book were not ones I had known, little nuggets of information that are peppered throughout the chapters and added to the overall atmosphere. There is a look at what it was like for the family and friends, on land, who were desperately waiting for updates on the event and wondering if their loved ones were among the survivors. Even when disembarking in New York, following their rescue, the divide between classes was still obvious. Even in tragedy, status was everything.

The writing is warm and affectionate to its subject as well as having a nice overall pace and chapter length. I would think it ideal for older children as well as adults and would work especially well for reading groups as there is a great section at the end of the book for further discussion. A special mention for the beautiful artwork of the cover too!

I live close to the Titanic Museum, in Belfast, and have been itching to visit for the past two years. I think this novel has given me the final push I needed. I intend to visit in the very near future. Thanks to Hazel Gaynor for her research and dedication in the completion of this lovely book. I hope to see it in many hands over the summer.

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