The Girl Who Came Home by Hazel Gaynor
Published by William Morrow ISBN 978-0-06-231686-8
Trade paperback, $14.99, 362 pages
The Beach Club Book Club, as part of Book Club Girl's book club, read Hazel Gaynor's historical fiction The Girl Who Came Home- A Novel of the Titanic. Taking the true story of a group of fourteen people from a small Irish countryside village who were on the Titanic, Gaynor uses the prism of one passenger, 17 year-old Maggie Murphy, to tell her tale.
Maggie's aunt Kathleen, who moved to Chicago to start a new life, returns to Ireland after Maggie is orphaned. Kathleen has come to take Maggie back to America with her, although Maggie does not want to leave behind the young man she loves.
Along with thirteen other people from their small village, they book passage on the maiden voyage of the Titanic, the most impressive ship ever built. Maggie and her friends meet a young steward Harry, who has eyes for pretty Peggy.
Gaynor's descriptions of life on the Titanic mesmerized us all. The opulence of the first class passengers, and life in the steerage, which was still impressive for many of the passengers, was so vividly portrayed. The author dropped the reader right onto this massive ship, making us feel as if we were along for the voyage too.
The action picks up when the ship hits the iceberg, and Gaynor also ratchets up the tension, and even though we know the outcome, it is startling and heartbreaking. The scenes of the survivors hearing the weakening cries from the sinking ship are gut-wrenching. For my money, this book was as good as the movie Titanic in creating that picture in the reader's mind, an amazing accomplishment for the author.
Maggie's story is interspersed with her great-granddaughter's Grace's. Grace loses her father when she is in college, and comes home to care for her mother. Maggie decides to share her story of the Titanic with Grace for a newspaper feature story Grace hopes to write to start her journalism career.
I liked the relationship between Maggie and Grace, and fans of Christina Baker Kline's Orphan Train will also enjoy this aspect of The Girl Who Came Home. But like The Orphan Train, I felt that the older woman's story was so powerful, it somewhat overwhelmed the younger woman's story. Fans of Kate Kerrigan's Ellis Island trilogy will like this book as well.
One of group mentioned that although she felt she knew what was going to happen (there is a surprise twist at the end) we all still greatly enjoyed The Girl Who Came Home. I am a big fan of stories that start with a true story or character and build from there, and The Girl Who Came Home scored a big hit with me.
rating 4 of 5
Hazel Gaynor's website is here: http://www.hazelgaynor.com/
Here are some links for other historical fiction I have enjoyed:
Miramont's Ghost- set in a real castle built in Manitou Springs, Colorado
Mrs. Lincoln's Dressmaker
Fever- about the life of Typhoid Mary