An Interview with The Girl who Came Home author Hazel Gaynor

The Girl Who Came Home

by Hazel Gaynor




“Maggie Murphy stood alone and unnoticed on the doorstep of the thatched stone cottage that three generations of her family had called home.”  We learn very early on that Maggie is sailing to America on RMS Titanic from Ireland.  Poor Maggie is forced to leave her homeland and her beloved Seamus on the ship destined to sink! But before we go any further, let’s chat with Hazel Gaynor, the author a bit and see what’s inside her brain.

UNCONVENTIONAL LIBRARIAN:  Like many women, I love all things Titanic related! I thought it would be fun to torture ask you questions and pick eat your brain. Thank you for subjecting yourself to us today. Let’s get started.  Do you drink coffee?

HAZEL GAYNOR: Yes! Too much!

UL:  Is there really such a thing as too much coffee? Do you like donuts or cookies? Do you dunk?

HG: I like both, although you have to be quick to get your hands on either in my house – my husband and two children all have a very sweet tooth. I have to admit that I have never dunked a donut – I must rectify this as soon as possible!

UL: OMG for sure! We can’t be besties if you’ve never dunked! Noshing while drinking coffee and reading are my most favorite activities.  Speaking of books,  how did your book get started?

HG: I was a teenager when the wreck of Titanic was discovered by Robert Ballard in 1985 and have been fascinated with the ship and the events of April, 1912, ever since. I have said many times in the years since then that I would write a novel about Titanic one day – it just took a little time! When I started my research for the novel, I came across the record of a survivor from a small parish in County Mayo, Ireland. From there, I discovered the history of a group of Irish emigrants – now known locally as the Addergoole Fourteen – who travelled together on Titanic. I knew immediately that I’d found the inspiration for my novel. I wanted to explore the experience of a third class passenger on Titanic, the aftermath of the disaster and how such an event can have far-reaching repercussions on a survivor’s life. Through my character, Maggie, I hope to allow readers to immerse themselves in an aspect of the Titanic disaster they might not have previously considered.


Fashionable dress c. 1912. courtesy Pinterest
Fashionable dress c. 1912. courtesy Pinterest

UL: What else have you written?

HG: Can we ignore my first attempt at writing a novel, which is now hidden under my bed? Good!  Apart from that, I wrote a successful parenting blog for several years before seriously starting to write novels. In addition to my debut, THE GIRL WHO CAME HOME, my second novel, DAUGHTERS OF THE FLOWERS, is scheduled for publication in early 2015. It is about two sets of sisters and is set around a charity for orphaned flower sellers in Victorian London. The story spans several decades across the late 1800s and early 1900s. I love the era and the atmosphere of street life in late Victorian London and it was a wonderfully haunting period to explore. I am very excited about the book’s publication early next year.

UL: I love the idea of your next book.  If you could have any superpower what would it be?

HG: I would love to have the power to tidy my desk in an instant. It is currently possessed by an evil being known as DISORGANISATION GIRL.

UL: Ooooooo Disorganization Girl, I know her!  She possesses my house too. She needs to go away! What makes you happy?

HG:  My children. Satisfied readers. And writing THE END.

UL: yes, Yes, and YES. Although sometimes it’s difficult to say goodbye to a good book. Wrapping up now, anything else you want to tell us?

HG: I could tell you about the time I was so immersed in my writing that I forget to collect my son from school, but let’s just keep quiet about that for now. (the apology ice cream more than made up for it, by the way!)

UL:  Oh no! Thank goodness for apology ice cream!

Did you know that Hazel has a Pinterest board? Yes, it’s full of FABULOUS images that are inspired by The Girl Who Came Home.  Here’s the link: Check it out, it’s really interesting to see real images from the Titanic.  It’s also very inspiring to see the faces of those who survived.

Because I hate spoilers, I’m not gonna tell ya what happens.  You’ll hafta get it for yourself.  Don’t be an eejit. Get the book. Read it. Love it.

Adult Fiction Books

Crooked Branch by Jeanine Cummins TBC Book Club

Unconventional Librarian

I’m thrilled to host tonight’s book club meeting at Towne Book Center & Cafe because tonight’s meeting will be special; we’ll be visited by Jeanine Cummins, the author of The Crooked Branch (and WINE); woot!

Here’s what they’re saying on Goodreads about it:

rom the national bestselling and highly acclaimed author of The Outside Boy comes the deeply moving story of two mothers—witty, self-deprecating Majella, who is shocked by her entry into motherhood in modern-day New York, and her ancestor, tough and terrified Ginny Doyle, whose battles are more fundamental: she must keep her young family alive during Ireland’s Great Famine.

After the birth of her daughter Emma, the usually resilient Majella finds herself feeling isolated and exhausted. Then, at her childhood home in Queens, Majella discovers the diary of her maternal ancestor Ginny—and is shocked to read a story of murder in her family history.

With the famine upon her, Ginny Doyle fled from Ireland to America, but not all of her family made it. What happened during those harrowing years, and why does Ginny call herself a killer? Is Majella genetically fated to be a bad mother, despite the fierce tenderness she feels for her baby? Determined to uncover the truth of her heritage and her own identity, Majella sets out to explore Ginny’s past—and discovers surprising truths about her family and ultimately, herself.


Me? That’s not quite the way I see it.  I see the book as a story of a new mother struggling with postpartum depression. She stumbles across an old diary about a family in famine-ridden Ireland in 1848. What a fascinating story of the struggles of the family in Ireland! I was tempted to just skip every other chapter and read only about the family in Ireland.  I’m glad I persevered because the end was satisfying. Still some unanswered questions but I’m sure I’ll ask the author tonight when I see her!

Easy to read; enjoyable! I give it 3 paws for showing us that motherhood is not easy and that not all mothers are nice and easy (or likable).

Unconventional Librarian 3 paws

Adult Fiction Books Reviews

The Whipping Club by Deborah Henry – TLC book tour

Wow.  I can honestly say I’m embarrassed for being so late on this review.  I apologize for my delay; life has a way of getting in the way.

That said, let’s talk about The Whipping Club!

I’m not sure where to begin when discussing this story.  The setting is Ireland in the early mid century and a young Catholic girl and a young Jewish boy fall in love and she gets pregnant.  The girl goes away to a vicious Mother Baby home and inadvertently gives her baby up for adoption.  Meanwhile, she and her sweetheart marry and produce a daughter together.  Relatively happily married, the knowledge of the presence of the child born before their marriage starts to impose on their lives.

Interfaith marriages are highly controversial in mid century Ireland, with Jews being likened to Africans of another race (I believed Nurse referred to one as a nig nog).  There is political strife in Northern Ireland, interfaith problems with the grandparents, and now the knowledge that not only does the child given up for adoption live locally, the child survives under incredibly harsh and violent treatment at an orphanage and later a home for boys.

I was sickened and outraged at the violence against children in this book. I kept forgetting that this was not America, and while our history has not been perfect, these kinds of horrors are almost forgotten in the general population.  Because these violent acts against children took place in another country, I was constantly angry, saying to myself “you can’t do that!!!” or “this is America!!”, which of course, changes nothing.

It is no wonder that in this day people from Tom Brokaw’s greatest generation are often so quiet when it comes to discussing certain injustices; they just want to put it all behind them.

Another difficulty I had with the book was the way in which Deborah Henry told the story; at times we were in the present then just as quickly we were flashing back.  I found it confusing at times to keep up.

All in all, Henry has a well written story that, with the right audience, could be a winner!

I give the story 3 paws for ethnic diversity and the in depth study of a Jewish lifestyle.

Unconventional Librarian 3 paws