In the bitter winter of 1847, from an Ireland torn by injustice and natural disaster, the Star of the Sea sets sail for New York.

On board are hundreds of fleeing refugees. Among them are a maidservant with a devastating secret, bankrupt Lord Merridith and his family, an aspiring novelist and a maker of revolutionary ballads, all braving the Atlantic in search of a new home. Each is connected more deeply than they can possibly know.

But a camouflaged killer is stalking the decks, hungry for the vengeance that will bring absolution.


Star of the Sea received international acclaim. A number one bestseller in Britain and Ireland, it won the Prix Littéraire Européen Madeleine Zepter for European Novel of the Year, the Hennessy/Sunday Tribune ‘Hall of Fame’ Award, the Irish Post Award for Fiction, Italy’s Premio Giuseppe Acerbi for New Literature, France’s Prix Millepages for Foreign Fiction, the Neilsen Bookscan Golden Book Award, an American Library Association citation, and was included on the New York Public Library’s prestigious annual ‘Books to Remember’ list, for works deemed by a panel of critics to be of literary excellence.

It was a ‘New York Times Notable Book of the Year’, runner-up in the readers’ poll for ‘Best Read of the Year’ on British television’s Richard and Judy Book Club, and nominated for the International IMPAC Literary Award. It has been published in dozens of languages and was the highest selling literary novel of 2004 in the UK.

From Publishers’ Weekly – This brooding historical fiction by novelist, playwright and critic O’Connor (Cowboys and Indians) chronicles the mayhem aboard the Star of the Sea, a leaky old sailing ship crossing from Ireland to New York during the bitter winter of 1847, its steerage crammed to the bulkheads with diseased and starving refugees from the Irish potato famine. The novel takes the form of a personal account written by passenger G. Grantley Dixon, a New York Times reporter who intersperses his narrative with reportage and interviews as he describes the intrigue that unfolds during the 26-day journey. There’s Pius Mulvey, “a sticklike limping man from Connemara” known to the passengers as “the monster” or “the ghost,” who shuffles menacingly around the ship and is the subject of many a rumor. There’s Earl David Merridith of Kingscourt, one of the few passengers in first class, who has evicted thousands of his tenants for nonpayment of rent, dooming them and their families to almost certain death by starvation. Also aboard is the young widow, Mary Duane, a nanny for the Kingscourt children who shares a history of intimacies with both Kingscourt and Mulvey. And there is, of course, Kingscourt’s wife, with whom Dixon is having an ill-advised affair. One of these passengers is on a mission to commit murder, and another is the fated victim. Through flashbacks, the narrative paints a vivid picture of the rigors of life in Ireland in the mid-19th century. The engrossing, well-structured tale will hold historical fiction fans rapt.


“Stunningly accomplished.”
The Guardian

“A triumph… A spectacular breakthrough… It raises the bar for contemporary Irish fiction.”
The Sunday Times

“A masterful storyteller…A thrilling tale..O’Connor writes with nothing less than incandescent passion.”
The Times

“A modern-day masterpiece”
Waterstones Weekly