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Star of the Sea

3.82  ·  Rating details ·  11,255 ratings  ·  682 reviews
In the bitter winter of 1847, from an Ireland torn by famine and injustice, the Star of the Sea sets sail for NewYork. On board are hundreds of refugees, some optimistic, many more desperate. Among them are a maid with a devastating secret, the bankrupt Lord Merridith, his wife and children, and a killer stalking the decks, hungry for the vengeance that will bring absoluti ...more
Paperback, 432 pages
Published March 8th 2004 by Mariner Books
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Marianna Mullarkey Star of the Sea is the name of the ship they are travelling on.

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Average rating 3.82  · 
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 ·  11,255 ratings  ·  682 reviews

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Tea Jovanović
MUST READ for all that love good book and Irish literature... :) This book got many awards (for very good reason) and the one that makes me very very very very proud of being its Serbian editor... Among my Top 15 titles I've signed as editor... :) True masterpiece! ...more
May 08, 2013 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Those interested in Irish history
Recommended to Maciek by: Lucky purchase!
Although the history of Ireland is rife with dramatic events, there is none more tragic than the Great Famine. In the middle of the 19th century the Emerald Isle was hit by Phytophthora infestans - more commonly known as the potato blight - which also plundered crops across continental Europe, where the 1840's became known as the Hungry Forties. Thousands of people died of starvation as they did not have any other staple food source. But the continental famine is a drop in the ocean when it come ...more
I listened to this book on a long trip recently and once again really enjoyed the experience, The play Star Of The Sea is coming to my local theatre and I am really looking forward to seeing it acted as a play ad was great to refresh my memory in advance of the play. .

Every now and then a book comes along that I feel passionate about and Joseph O Connor's Star of the Sea is one of those books that tells the harrowing and tragic story of the Irish Potato famine of 1840's Ireland and the voyage
Kevin Ansbro
Despite historical fiction not being my thang, there is no doubt that O'Connor is an astonishingly accomplished writer.
A book that will transport you back in time, to a wintry voyage in the mid-1880s, where a vengeful killer hides in plain view...
Ken Hammond (kenzaz)
Star of the sea Joseph O'Connor A crime novel historical fiction, murder at sea but it's flipped on its head, the murderer is exposed early in the story and what follows is historical background leading up to the kill. Set during the 1840s Irish famine it's packed full of historical moments. Joseph O'Connor breaths life into dusty old history books told in an serialised manner which tracks the crisis from beginning, several attempts to stave of the disaster but ultimately all fails, it burnt a w ...more
Mar 15, 2019 rated it really liked it
A twenty-six day sea voyage from famine-stricken Ireland to New York. The author provides us with the back stories of several of the passengers with a good deal of emphasis on master and servant and failed romance themes. We soon learn one of the passengers is a murderer and has been ordered to slit the throat of a bankrupt landlord in first class whose father ill-treated his tenants. I preferred this to Redemption Falls because it's a straightforward narrative without all the distracting quirks ...more
Aug 14, 2014 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: reviewed, ireland
This brought home to me more than any dry history could the extent of and devastating effects of the Irish Potato Famine in the 1840s. Through this novel I felt keenly the suffering of the Irish and the devastating effects of the Potato Famine. For many, thrown off their small plots of land by their heartless landlords, the way to escape their poverty and privation was to emigrate to America.

This is the story of the 1847 voyage of a ship filled with emigrants: the "Star of the Sea" and her capta
Jan 07, 2010 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Star of the Sea is set amid the Irish potato famine of the mid-nineteenth century. My personal interpretation is that the book is more of a character study. The characters who make the voyage on the ship Star of the Sea to America. It isn't a story of hopes or dreams. There is no sense that reaching the destination will bring a good change. I guess I'm not entirely sure what the message was in this book which is an illustration of the confusing writing style and changing viewpoints. I was readin ...more
Nov 02, 2008 rated it really liked it
A brilliant novel that roams far beyond the boundaries of the ship upon which it's set, Star of the Sea is a gripping tale of murder, revenge, cruelty and love set against the backdrop of The Famine. It's so well written that the complex structure of the book seems natural and the shifting perspectives of the narrative effortless. The three main characters are so well developed and realized that they command your attention from the first page, and the secondary characters are always more than me ...more
Apr 27, 2015 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
I remember this novel being published in 2002, and can only think that I didn't read it at the time as I didn't feel its subject matter would've been of interest to me, my Irish history interest kicking in more in the 20th century. I have been thinking about reading it for a while though, and took the opportunity to pick up a second hand copy to read, as a book group I plan to attend is reading 'Redemption Falls', the novel which follows this one. I have to admit that while I liked the book, I d ...more
Lisa  (not getting friends updates) Vegan
May 13, 2007 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: historical fiction fans, especially patient readers, as this book improves as it progresses
I have to say that this is a time when I really appreciate my book club. I ended up enjoying this book, but it was very slow going for a long time. If I hadn’t been reading it for my book club, I believe I would have put it down toward the beginning and never gone back to it, but I am so glad that I felt obligated to read it and therefore finished it.

My favorite part was the fictional description of how Charles Dickens got the information that led to his writing the book Oliver Twist. I was smi
This is "historical fiction" that is historical only in the most general sense. The author creates many footnotes and sources in the text which are fictional. The narrator of the book is Grantley Dixon, an American journalist, albeit, not very successful. The story revolves around David Meredith, Lord Kingscourt, whose estate in Connemara, is bankrupt, Pius Mulvey, a dark character throughout, and Mary Duane, a former tenant of Meredith, and current nanny. The story is set in winter 1847, during ...more
Jess Blackburn
Jun 11, 2007 rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: EVERYONE! (or lovers of irish history)
this book was amazing! a little difficult to get into at the start, but once the story unravels, it's difficult to put down. you get a great idea of what life was like in famine-stricken ireland in the mid-1800s through the back-stories of several intertwining characters. there's a bit of mystery as you're trying to figure out the reasons behind a murder on a boat full of irish emmigrants bound for new york. i love love loved this book and would love to read it all over again. ...more
OK, it's official -- I am not a fan of Joseph O'Connor. Granted, Star of the Sea is far and away a much better novel than Redemption Falls, but for me, O'Connor's method of stitching together a narrative by using pieces from supposedly contemporary material (all of which was written by him, of course) just doesn't work. There are bits of this novel which shine, the parts in which O'Connor really focuses on one character and develops him or her thoroughly. Supposedly this book was written by a jo ...more
May 09, 2013 rated it liked it
A 400 page grim read that was difficult to penetrate. I would not have persevered were it not that a friend had asked me for my opinion on the book, and I had read that other reviewers had struggled with it initially. All that said, it is well written but takes a very long time to explain how the various characters are linked so reads as if it is jumping from one unrelated story to another for much of the first half. I struggled with the style of writing which, at times tries to reflect that of ...more
May 31, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
The great potato famine and a handful of people on a ship headed to America. It's the story of how their lives, both steerage and first class passengers, are interwoven and what happens on the voyage. ...more
Melanie Williams
Aug 31, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Everyone
This book is amazing - masterful storytelling - it just blew me away! Not to be missed!
Jan 19, 2010 rated it did not like it
Perhaps the most clichéd book I have read in years. A begorrah tale of Old Ireland. Terrible prose, and even worse dialogue. I've read many Irish novels, but this is the worst. Extremely disappointing, given all the positive reviews I have seen. It may be charming to people who don't have any idea of Irish history, or any idea of good storytelling. Have you ever seen Far and Away, PS I Love You, the Matchmaker, or any of those faux-Irish nonsense films? Well, this is so much worse. I only stayed ...more
Jul 26, 2011 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I took this book on holiday to the wilds of County Donegal and it is fair to say that I lived every word. It filled my waking hours, my sleeping dreams and everything in between. Around every bend I saw the fleeting shadows of its characters; every ruin was the abandoned home of Mary Duane or Pius Mulvey; and every mouthful of potato tasted like a blessed gift. The historical backdrop of this novel is the Irish Famine, the immensity of this event being such that it colours the entire text: the p ...more
Nov 16, 2012 rated it really liked it
From my International Fiction Book Club blog:

It was a cold, blustery, rainy evening. No, that’s not the beginning of a novel, just the weather report from the International Fiction Book Club meeting of October 17, 2012. Star of the Sea by Joseph O’Connor took center stage. Even though it was nasty outside, inside we had a pleasant conversation about a most horrible time in Irish history - the Great Famine. The seeming “present” of the novel takes place on the ship, The Star of the Sea, a freigh
Eva Kristin
Sep 10, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I got this book when my local library was having a sale to make room in its shelves. After I've been wondering why I took it as I didn't particularly want to read it, and it's been sitting in my shelves for years. Man oh man was I wrong! I don't know where to start about why I loved this book!

I read historical novels because it's a great way to trick myself into learning about history. Of course I've heard about the great famine in Ireland, I've even been to the memorial in NY. But reading the S
Jun 30, 2020 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2020-read
First impression:
Five stars, no question.
This book is extremely clever, moving, and beautifully written. And it has everything I love: well-rounded, complex characters, a compelling story, references to art, songs, and historical events and people, and some very clever thoughts on storytelling.
Easily on the list of my fave books of 2020.

(Sidenote: I can't believe it has taken me ELEVEN years to finish this; clearly 2009-me was looking out for me.)

Full review:

The year is 1847. The Star of the
Nov 12, 2018 rated it it was amazing
It is easy to understand why this was such a best seller at the time of its publication! Joseph O’Connor’s writing is simply beautiful, and the tale he tells grabs the reader from the beginning. The action takes place mainly an old sailing ship, Star of the Sea, which is transporting passengers from Ireland to New York during the bitter winter of 1847, at the time of the potato famine. In vastly overcrowded steerage were the starving poor, most of whom had sold everything they had to pay for the ...more
Description: Tragedy is a word too often used. Nevertheless, in Star of the Sea Joseph O'Connor manages to achieve a real sense of the tragic, as personal dramas of the most distressing kind play themselves out against the background of the Irish potato famine and the almost equal nightmare of the mass emigration that it caused. As passengers die of starvation and disease in steerage, a drama of adultery, inadvertent incest and inherited disease plays itself out in first class. O'Connor raises, ...more
Apr 20, 2012 rated it it was amazing
Dickensian in scale, this is a heart-rending, intimate, tense, funny and important page turner of a book that will stick with me for a long time [especially since I read it while living in Ireland!]. It seems nearly unimaginable that anyone could write anything remotely entertaining about the senseless tragedy of the Great Irish Famine that claimed one million souls or the "coffin ships" that carried another million of the Irish diaspora to America and beyond--or that anyone would even hazard it ...more
Jan 16, 2009 rated it it was amazing
This is a terrific work of literature, and I'm not sure why everyone hasn't been talking about it. It was mistakenly shelved in the Nautical Fiction section of my local used bookstore (further evidence of its image problem). It's true that there is a boat involved, but really the book is about the Great Hunger in Ireland and the emigration to America that it spawned. This book is an example of the ways that literature can sometimes be the most effective vehicle to understand history, but its his ...more
Ellen Murphy
Sep 06, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Totally captivating book. I could not put this one down. Uniquely written mystery and historical novel.
Nov 17, 2018 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: ebook, read-in-2018
It is possible that I created some expectations with the synopsis because I really thought the story would take place entirely at sea. In reality, the action alternates between the voyage and events in the past of the main characters.

To be honest, it was not to my taste. We know there will be a murder on board, but we know, from the very beginning who murder and victim are. So, zero suspense. Then we have the events taking place in the past, which I believe were meant to give us a background on
Pam Walter
Nov 19, 2017 rated it liked it
I really believed that I was going to love this book and kept plugging away thinking things were going to come together and make more sense. I kept finding myself flipping back and forth, checking about how many pages remained. I found it very convoluted and confusing. I was most eager to know something about the Irish potato famine which occurred in the mid 19th century. Star of the Sea is a mystery involving persons fleeing that famine across the ocean to what they had heard called "The Promis ...more
Jan 30, 2015 rated it liked it
Shelves: audio
Maybe 3.5 stars. It started and ended slowly, but enjoyed the middle. Not my usual read, so actually glad to have read this for book club and looking forward to the discussion. I flipped between audio and print and definitely recommend this in print. There are too many points of view in the book to follow on audio.
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The Katie McGrath...: Star of the Sea by Joseph O’Connor, September 2018 1 23 Nov 24, 2020 05:26PM  

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There is more than one author with this name

Joseph O’Connor was born in Dublin. He is the author of the novels Cowboys and Indians (short-listed for the Whitbread Prize), Desperadoes , The Salesman , Inishowen , Star of the Sea and Redemption Falls , as well as a number of bestselling works of non-fiction.

He was recently voted ‘Irish Writer of the Decade’ by the readers of Hot

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