0487 | Star of the Sea | Joseph O’Connor

0487 | Star of the Sea | Joseph O’Connor post image

Context: Finished this off while lazing in the sun by the pool at the Rugby Club, Bahrain.

This was a very quick read due to O’Connor’s engaging and eclectic writing style and ability to construct some very strong characters and bring them together in creative ways.

Star of the Sea leaves Ireland for New York weighed down with a cargo of impoverished emigrants fleeing the Irish famine. Floating atop the seething masses bedding down with enormous vermin, cholera and typhus below deck is a small group of the wealthy elite who comprise, among others, the journalist who relates the tale that we read.

After the voyage begins, the narrator uses various devices to bring us up to speed on who each of the key characters are and the figurative baggage they have embarked with. As your awareness grows, you realise that the ship is the backdrop for a growing crisis which must come to a climax before the ship reaches its destination. O’Connor maintains this pace as well as he maintains your interest in the

characters.

What O’Connor also skilfully does is to enlarge your understanding of the issues of the day, particularly those associated with the abominable and probably preventable Irish famine of the mid-19th century. This is something I didn’t have much awareness of, despite ancestors on my grandmother’s side coming from the counties of Roscommon and Connemara. He’s piqued my interest and has reminded me how the novel is a perfect medium for delivering non-fiction in the medium of fiction.

The ending disappointed me a little. The twist was predictable because O’Connor did his best to conceal that there wasn’t going to be a twist by building up a facade to distract you from it. This shows the difference between a good read and crafted literature where the writing itself is as much (or even more) a part of the joy of the novel than the plot. I’m not sure O’Connor is bothered though; it’s clear that his agenda is to communicate the plight of the Irish in history. I’m not sure he’s achieved it fully here but it’s definitely a good attempt and one which engaged me and caused me to want to know more.

OPENING LINE

All night long he would walk the ship, from bow to stern, from dusk until quarterlight, that sticklike limping man from Connemara with the dropping shoulders and ash-coloured clothes.

CLOSING LINE

This might reveal the ending. If you want to see the quote, click show

PROGRESS  starp
RATING starr
Key: Legacy | Plot / toPic | Characterisation / faCts | Readability | Achievement | StyleRead more about how I come up with my ratings

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