I saw this book on our towne library shelf and immediately fell in love with the art work on the cover.
And then I discovered it is an historical fiction novel so I grabbed it. And I'm glad I did.
This book is amazing. It's the author's first novel and she lives in Ireland, although she is from England. I love discovering new authors who are GOOD!
It is 1912 and in the small village of Ballysheen, Ireland, there are 14 people who are heading to America on the great ship, Titanic. These people are looking for a better life. Maggie Murphy, age 17, is leaving her home because both of her parents are dead and her Aunt Kathleen wants her to travel to America and live with her and another aunt in Chicago. But Maggie is leaving behind her boyfriend, Seamus who needs to stay in Ballysheen due to his father being ill. They depart, after Seamus gives Maggie a packet of letters for her to read while on the ship.
Soon, disaster strikes, and Maggie is the only one in her group to survive the sinking of the Titanic. She wakes up alone in a New York City hospital bed.
And she decides to never speak of the horrible tragedy she witnessed. Ever.
Meanwhile, in 1982 Chicago, Grace Butler is struggling with what to do now that her father is dead and her mother is doing better as a widow. Grace dropped out of college where she was studying journalism, to help her mother get through the grieving process. Grace left behind a boyfriend named Johnny.
When Grace's great-grandmother Maggie (age 87) brings up the story of her time on the Titanic and the terrible secrets she has held within her all of the last 70 years, Grace realizes she has a story to share....and this gives Grace new purpose in life.
While Maggie recounts her life story for Grace, both women are led to unexpected reunions with those people they thought were lost long ago.
What happened to Seamus, Kathleen, Peggy, and the Brennans?? What about Harry....does he survive??
I loved reading this book. It's inspired by actual events surrounding the Titanic saga and Ballysheen is the fictitious name for Addergoole.
I especially like how the author divided the book into six parts with each part getting the reader closer to the entire story of Maggie while completing the story of Grace. One chapter would be set in Ireland in 1912 and leading up to the sinking of the ship, and the next chapter would be 70 years later in Chicago with the telling of Grace's backstory along with her present life. It was so well done!
Something that really drew me in was the art work at the beginning of each chapter. It looked like a copy of real Titanic tickets and/or telegrams. Something I also found fascinating was that the author wrote about the Marconi brothers handling the telegrams on board the ship. My husband and I drove past the Marconi Museum on Cape Cod in Chatham earlier this summer while on vacation there and we intended to go visit this historical museum but never made it there. I had no idea they were on the Titanic!
I loved how the author put in actual facts as part of her novel. The description of the ship and the other characters made it seem like I was watching a movie or had known these people personally. I found myself cheering for Harry and Maggie, for feeling frustrated for Aunt Kathleen when she couldn't find the group. I loved each and every character introduced (there are many, especially in the 1912 sections) but they are easy to keep track of. They are all connected in some way yet the book isn't "sappy" or too predictable.
The ending totally surprised me........and I don't want to tell you how or why it ends because that would ruin it for you!
The book is a perfect balance of fact and fiction. And it will leave you with much knowledge of the Titanic's tragedy and the impact it left on survivors and their descendants.
There are author notes in the back describing the research she put into writing this novel. And there is a section of information about the actual events compared to the book and that many of the characters ARE based on actual people who sailed on the Titanic. In fact, Maggie's character did exist but with a different name. I read every word of this informative section because it was just so fascinating.
There are also some questions as a reader guide if you are in a book club.
This book is a delight and I highly recommend it.
In my opinion, this book is appropriate for ages 14 and older.
On a scale of 1-10, with 10 being the highest, I rate this a 10.