Friday, March 28, 2014

"The Girl Who Came Home"

Hazel Gaynor is an author and freelance writer in Ireland and the U.K. and was the recipient of the Cecil Day Lewis Award for Emerging Writers in 2012. Originally from North Yorkshire, England, she now lives in Ireland with her husband, two young children, and an accident-prone cat.

Gaynor applied the Page 69 Test to The Girl Who Came Home, her first novel, and reported the following:
Page 69 of The Girl Who Came Home falls in the middle of one of my main character, Maggie’s, journal entries, where she is recording her thoughts and feelings about leaving Ireland, and her sweetheart, Séamus, to sail on Titanic to America. Maggie, and the thirteen others she is travelling with, are boarding the tenders at Queenstown. These smaller boats will take them out to Titanic, moored off-shore because she is too large for the small port.

I particularly enjoyed writing Maggie’s journal entries. She was a lovely character to write and I found that her voice developed very naturally on the page. I always felt that she was very real – sitting on my shoulder, making sure I got it right! She is a spirited, resilient young girl from a humble, Irish community where family was everything. As the novel is written in two different periods - 1912 and 1982 - we see Maggie as a seventeen-year-old girl and also as an elderly lady. By allowing her to grow into a mature woman, we are able to experience her full life story and learn what happened to her after Titanic. I hope that readers will enjoy immersing themselves in the Titanic era through Maggie’s eyes.
Although we were all still a bit jittery and anxious now to get going, there was a much happier mood about us. Dear God, nothing could be worse than that terrible maudlin feeling that had hung about us all a day earlier. Katie said that she feels so far away from home now that it’s almost impossible to be sad about it. I think I know what she means.

The two tenders, Ireland and America, were moored alongside the wharf. They were nice-looking boats themselves. We stood together, the fourteen of us, some talking, some thinking of home, and some, like me, watching the piles and piles of mailbags being loaded onto the boats, the red flags of the White Star Line and the colourful bunting fluttering in the breeze. It must have been quite a spectacle for the newspaper reporters and the crowds who had gathered to see people off.

It was a bit of a struggle to get us all and our luggage aboard the tender America, but once on board we huddled around the front of the boat, I think it’s called the bow. It felt a bit odd swaying from side to side as the boat rocked in the water. We had to wait a while as a late-running train from Cork had just arrived carrying more passengers. I thought how lucky they were not to have missed the tenders, or Titanic itself for that matter!
Visit Hazel Gaynor's website, Facebook page, and Twitter perch.

--Marshal Zeringue