March, 2012

Mar 12

The Girl Who Came Home – A Titanic Novel, by Hazel Gaynor

Reviewed by Maria Duffy who says, “I’ve always wanted to gate-crash a party, so this is probably as close as I’ll ever get!  So for one day only, it’s Maria reviewing here instead of Hazel.  You might know me better from my Stars in the Twitterverse blog but having read Hazel’s fabulous Titanic book, The Girl Who Came Home, I felt the urge to hop across the page and stick on Hazel’s shoes! So let me turn the tables and put her in the spotlight – here’s what I thought.”


With the centenary of the sinking of the Titanic almost upon us, it’s only right that we’re reminded of one of the most awful maritime disasters in history. Hazel Gaynor’s beautiful novel, The Girl Who Came Home, is not only a reminder of the actual disaster, but it’s an exploration of human emotions – a gut-wrenching before and after look at lives that were forever changed on that momentous day.  Hazel has based this novel on a true story of the Addergoole Fourteen, a group of men and women who left their small village in County Mayo inIreland to board the Titanic for its maiden voyage.

In Chicago in 1982, Grace Butler is looking for a story to write in order to revive her journalism career.  She needs something big – something that will tap into the readers’ emotions and get her noticed.  But never in a million years was she expecting her great grandmother, Maggie Murphy, to be the one to provide her with what she’s looking for.  Maggie has kept a secret for seventy years and decides that now is the time to open up and share it with her great granddaughter.

And so the story takes us back to that rural Irish village in April 1912 when seventeen year old Maggie Murphy is preparing to sail on the Titanic, along with her aunt Kathleen and two of her best friends, Peggy and Katie.  In all, fourteen men and women from the village are packing up their lives in hope of a better one over in America.

Maggie is excited about her impending voyage, but devastated to be leaving behind her beloved Seamus.  She hopes he’ll be able to join her soon in America but in the meantime, he’s written a selection of love letters to keep her company on the journey ahead.  These letters form part of this amazing story, where we learn what’s going through the minds of some who have been left behind.  Maggie also keeps a private journal during the sailing and it allows us a glimpse into her innermost thoughts.

Hazel’s depiction of the characters in this novel is beautiful.  She brings us right into their lives and we become invested in them.  Although we know the fate of the ship, we’re left rooting for the people we’ve come to know and hope that there’s a way out for them.  We also see the stories of some of those waiting on the other side – the relatives and friends who have gathered to hear news of the ill-fated ship.  How unbearable it must have been to have to check a list of the dead, praying you wouldn’t see your loved one’s name on it.

Through all the mayhem on the ship, we follow Maggie and learn her fate, but it’s only as the full scale of the disaster unfolds that we begin to learn the fate of the rest of the Irish group.  Hazel manages to weave plenty of twists and surprises into the story and I have to admit to shedding a tear on a few occasions.

Forward to 1982 and Maggie and her great granddaughter decide to take a trip back to that little village in Ireland where it all began.  Seventy years on, she feels it’s about time she made peace with her past.  It’s an emotional scene as the past mingles with the present and we’re left reeling as some unexpected plot twists reveal themselves.

If you’re a lover of all things Titanic, you’ll love The Girl Who Came Home, but if you just like a great emotional read with amazing, relatable characters, this is also the book for you.  Hazel has managed to take a story that we’ve all heard a million times and give us a new perspective.  Her attention to the detail of the ship made me feel I was there and her ability to portray the innermost thoughts of the characters meant I was fully invested in them and their safety.  It’s a thoroughly enjoyable read and I’d highly recommend it.

The Girl Who Came Home is available to download at the following link on or Download to your Kindle reader, or download the free Kindle app for PC, iPad, iPhone or Android before downloading the book.


Hazel Gaynor is an author and freelance journalist, writing regularly for press, magazines and websites in the UK and Ireland. Her award-winning parenting and lifestyle blog, ‘Hot Cross Mum‘ was published in 2011 as an ebook ‘Hot Cross Mum: Bitesize Slices of Motherhood’. Hazel’s writing success has been featured in The Sunday Times Magazine and Irish Times and she has also appeared on TV and radio.

Hazel writes ‘Off The Shelf': a book review blog for, reviewing books by, and interviewing authors such as Jojo Moyes, Katie Fforde, Melissa Hill, Monica McInerney, Maria Duffy, Amy Chua and others.

‘The Girl Who Came Home – A Titanic Novel‘ is Hazel’s first novel. Originally from North Yorkshire, England, she now lives in Ireland with her husband, two young children and an accident-prone cat.

Hazel is represented by Sheila Crowley of Curtis Brown, London.

Mar 12

Stories of Motherhood, Everyman’s Pocket Classics

Stories of Motherhood  is a lovely collection of short stories which celebrate motherhood and is the latest title in Everyman’s Library Pocket Classics series.

I thoroughly enjoyed the stories in this anthology, which gathers together more than a century of short fiction writing about motherhood and mothers – having, leaving, loving and losing them.

The collection includes contributions from a diverse range of authors – some of whom I knew of such as Amy Tan, Edith Wharton, Aimee Bender and Colm Toibin and others who were new to me,  including Barbara Kingsolver, Alice Munro and Willa Cather.  Every author brings their own voice and their own take on motherhood which keeps the collection interesting and varied.

The short stories cover a wide range of themes, from young mothers and their newborn babies in Lydia Davis’ ‘What You Learn About The Baby’, adult children grieving for their lost mothers in Colm Tobin’s ‘One Minus One’, the forging of a bond with an adopted infant in Ron Carlson’s ‘Blood and Its Relationship to Water’ and overlapping pregnancies between a mother and daughter in Barbara Kingslover’s ‘Islands on the Moon’. Some stories will make you laugh, others will make you cry and some are just pure, literary escapism. There really is something for everyone and I am sure that any mother will relate to, and enjoy, these intriguing insights into motherhood.

Stories of Motherhood is a unique, hardback gift book which is published in time for Mother’s Day on 18th March (make a note in the diary!). It would make a wonderful addition to any classic literature collection. My suggestion – buy it for yourself if you don’t think the kids are going to be forthcoming – you won’t be disappointed!

About Everyman’s Pocket Classics

Everyman’s Library Pocket Classics is a series of anthologies in pocket size editions. Other titles include Christmas Stories, Bedtime Stories, New York Stories and Stories of the Sea. Founded in 1906, Everyman’s Library was re-launched by David Campbell with Random House UK and Alfred A. Knopf US in 1991. It has since published more than 500 titles and sold more than 20 million books.

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