Quick Book Review: Star of the Sea by Joseph O’Connor

Star of the Sea by Joseph O'ConnorRating: 5/5
Number of pages: 410
First published: 2002
Genre: historical fiction
I got this book: via Bookmooch

The story takes place in 1847 when the ship Star of the Sea travels from Ireland to America. It’s a difficult crossing, with many people dying (from illness, exhaustion, hunger) during the month at sea. Some of the passengers’ back stories are told throughout the book, and the reader finds out how they link together.

There is a maid who has been through a lot, a Lord who is bankrupt, a thief and murderer, a newspaper man. All have their own past and often, a devastating one, in which the potato famine in Ireland plays a large role.

In many cases the histories of these people are stories within the main story (which was the voyage to America), which I often don’t appreciate. In this book, I loved it! This is my first book by Joseph O’Connor, but boy, is he a great story teller! Every time, I was hooked from the beginning and didn’t really care about the ship and its passengers for the time being. I just wanted to know more about the subjects of these histories.

I especially enjoyed the story of the murderer, who has great adventures in Ireland and England. His story can be summarised as “You can run but you can’t hide”, and is sad, tragic, and disgusting. You can’t love the man but he’s got something very interesting about him.

The story about the bankrupt Lord was good too, and very clearly exposed all that was wrong with the world at the time of the potato famine, which actually made him almost as poor as the tenants on his land.

Finally, the ship arrives in the New York harbor, where the passengers face further problems before disembarking.

While reading this book, I was reminded of the Barcelona series by Carlos Ruiz Zafón (about the Cemetery of Forgotten Books), where I also was grabbed from the start by the story and the great way it was told.

Star of the Sea is not a short book and sometimes I got a bit impatient, wanting to know where the story would go. But as the characters become better known to the reader, we realise that an explosive situation may occur on board of the ship, with these people together in one place. And of course, it does.

Highly recommended for historical fiction fans, and anyone who likes good story telling.

The 2013 TBR Pile ChallengeEclectic Reader Challenge


About Leeswammes
I'm owner and editor at bookhelpline.com. In my free time, I read and review books on my two blogs, Leeswammes' Blog and De Boekblogger.

23 Responses to Quick Book Review: Star of the Sea by Joseph O’Connor

  1. shelleyrae @ Book'd Out says:

    Sounds great Judith

  2. Charlie says:

    I don’t mind stories within stories (and can see this sort working as it’s a journey) – is there quite a bit of time focused on the journey itself?

    • Leeswammes says:

      Yes, there is, Charlie. The story becomes very interesting when you realise how the people on the ship relate to each other and the more they interact, the more you worry. 🙂

  3. I read this a long time ago and remember very little about it. I seem to remember I wasn’t a big fan, but perhaps I’d enjoy it more now? I probably read it 10 years ago and my tastes have changed a lot since then!

  4. Tiina says:

    I have not read anything by O’Connor, but this sounds really interesting! I have to keep his books in mind for later.

  5. Parrish says:

    This appears to be the kind of book, you can fly through & loose yourself in for a while.

  6. Laurie C says:

    Intriguing! I would have skipped this one, until you mentioned Carlos Ruiz Zafón.

  7. JoV says:

    I have always see this sitting in charity bookshop but never felt the urge to buy it. Interesting that you said it is good!

  8. bibliosue says:

    I’m glad to see you enjoyed this book; I only thought it was ok.

  9. debbierodgers says:

    I love stories where the backstories all come together. This sounds perfect for me. Thanks for the recommendation.

  10. Mystica says:

    Historical fiction is one of my favourite genres so I am there for this one.

  11. This does sound good! I never get to read enough of this genre, they are slower reads for me because I absorb so much.

  12. Alex says:

    I also really loved this book. It led me to hours on the internet reading up on the history of the Irish Famine.

  13. Marie says:

    This sounds really great – I have heard so much about it, I think my Mum really loved it, but have always been put off because I have an aversion to historical fiction and am afraid it will be dry and dusty. But I can imagine myself becoming totally engrossed in this. Lovely review!

    • Leeswammes says:

      Marie, it’s definitely not dry and dusty. But if you’re not keen on historical fiction… I’m not sure you’d like it. Maybe try a few chapters and see. Sometimes it’s fun to try a book that you’re not sure about – it may be really good! 🙂

  14. Thank you so much for this rec! It’s going on my to-buy list!

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