Star of the Sea tells the story of the passengers on a ship sailing from Ireland to New York in the winter of 1847. Among them refugees from the potato famine, an Anglo-irish Lord and his family, a budding novelist, a maharaja and a murderer.
Even before the ship sets sail, one or two unfortunate passengers die of hunger whilke others succumb to disease on board. It’s all carefully noted in the ship’s log by her captain.
While set in the past, you feel a more recent history inevitably foreshadowed in the thoughts and actions of the men and women aboard the ship.
Parts of the book are made up of bits of ship log, recollections, poetry, letters to and from emigrants, newspaper columns and it is illustrated with etchings. The language is rich and Irish as are the characters and O’Connor knows all their voices.
Twenty pages in you’ll want to know what happens with these people and you’ll suspect, but still admire, its tragic conclusion. A great read.