The Girl Who Came Home: A Novel of the Titanic

The Girl Who Came Home: A Novel of the Titanic - Hazel Gaynor Maggie Murphy along with 13 friends and neighbours left their homes in Ballysheen, Ireland to start a new and hopefully better life in America. They were sailing on the Titanic. Everyone is familiar with the history of the ship (so no spoiler alert necessary), when the ship went down only two of the fourteen survived. Maggie Murphy was one of the survivors. After the initial interviews by newspapers and the White Star Line investigators in the first week after the tragedy, Maggie never spoke to anyone about her ordeal, not even family members. As Maggie approaches her 90th birthday she feels it’s time for her story to be told. Her granddaughter, Grace needs a story for her journalism class and, with Maggie’s blessings, uses her memories of Titanic.

With so many stories written about the Titanic I was quite surprised at the freshness of this telling. Based (very loosely) on the lives (and deaths) of fourteen Irish immigrants traveling on the Titanic. Maggie’s story is told through reminiscences, a journal she kept and a long-lost bundle of letters. Although the ending contains a little twist I must admit I did see it coming. All in all this was a well told story set against the backdrop of the ocean disaster. Ms. Gaynor did a marvelous job when it came to describing the final hours of the sinking. Without being overly graphic, she had me holding my breath while I was reading, feeling every emotion Maggie experienced. That certainly bumped the rating up one star for me.

Not belonging to a book group I don’t always read the “Reading Group Discussion Questions” sometimes provided at the end of books, but in this case I did and the last two questions posed struck me as being very insightful.

Question 15 asked “There have been many other shipping tragedies since Titanic. Cunard’s passenger liner RMS Lusitania (traveling from New York to Liverpool) sank off the coast of Ireland in 1915 when the liner was truck by a torpedo fired from a German submarine. There were 1,198 civilian fatalities in the event. In the light of many tragedies with great loss of life since 1912, why do you think people continue to be so fascinated by Titanic a hundred years later?

Question 16 asked “Australian businessman Clive Palmer is starting construction on a replica of Titanic – Titanic II – which is scheduled to re-create Titanic’s maiden voyage in 2016. There have been very mixed reactions to this project among relatives and descendants of Titanic’s passengers and Titanic enthusiasts. What are your thoughts on it?

That gave me something to think about!