Simply too much (and not so original...), but chapter seven is a gem
This was my first Joseph O'Connor and it did not disappoint. It overwhelmed. What a stunning book that lives up to all the hyped and gushing reviews.
The Star Of The Sea is a remarkable book that tells a remarkable story in a remarkable way. The Irish Potato Famine is something many people merely have a vague notion about. I did not realize, for one, that there were many famines over the years, not just One Big One. The deprivation, the starvation, and the suffering was prolonged in the most inhumane ways that involved commerce and politics principally. The social divides between the English and the Irish, and indeed between the rich Irish and the poor Irish, enabled one of the most tragic and wrenching disasters in human history. And it spanned decades.
O'Connor does not dwell on the mechanics of the famine: he tells his story through richly delineated characters who are all stuck on a boat for about a month's voyage from Ireland to America. It is an intensely human story told compellingly. The writing is superb and yet far easier to read than say, John Banville, who writes prose that is in fact sublime poetry. No, O'Connor allows everything to flow from an easy prose, from the trials and tribulations of various characters. While everything takes place on board, there are many chapters devoted to filling in the back story of the various players and how they came to be on the boat. By the end of the novel there are revelations abounding. The ending is shocking and profound and surprising. It manages to pull all the threads together seamlessly, a breathtaking achievement considering what has gone before.
The mechanism of the novel is also masterfully handled: it is purportedly written by one of the passengers. There is an afterword by the fictitious author that is a whole new ending in itself. In a very real sense, this book has two brilliantly conceived endings: the one of the book called The Star Of The Sea and the one of the fictitious author's surrounding commentary on the book and how he came to write it, and what it ended up meaning in his life.
This is a blindingly intelligent book. It is written with a command of English prose that beggars description. It is constructed intricately and has a double ending, each of which is brilliant. And it is written in a way that does not require constant recourse to a dictionary and is page turningly gripping. Definitely, this is one the best novels I have ever read in any genre....Continua