Star of the Sea
By Joseph O'Connor £6.99
THE BESTSELLING novel in Britain is not a cheesy romance or hard-boiled thriller. It is a historical novel that tells the story of Irish immigrants fleeing the potato famine of 1847 in which millions died.
It gives a devastating picture of the horrors inflicted on the Irish by British landlords, Irish profiteers and laissez-faire capitalism itself. The Star of the Sea is a ship carrying immigrants from Ireland to America. On board is a bankrupt aristocrat, Lord Merridith, his family and his maid Mary Duane.
Along with them are Pious Mulvey, ballad writer, thief and murderer, and left wing American journalist Grant Grantly Dixon. They carry with them secrets that lead to revenge, murder and redemption. Their gripping story is at the centre of the novel, which gives a searing account of class differences.
The book weaves together fact and fiction, polemic and drama. Real characters, including Charles Dickens, rub shoulders with Joseph O'Connor's brilliant cast of characters.
Directed by Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu
THIS IS a story of death and coping with its painful aftermath, and it is one of the most powerful I've seen. As in Amores Perros, made by the same director, three unconnected stories are brought together through a coincidental tragedy. But 21 Grams goes much deeper. The scenes cut between the characters and jump backwards and forwards in time. This gives a sense of fragmentation and confusion but it pulls you towards a conclusion that eventually makes sense of everything.
The film deals with issues like grief and addiction, faith, class, relationships and more (and is a great argument for giving up smoking!). Going to see it is an intense and harrowing experience but it is well worth the effort.
And the performances from Sean Penn, Benicio Del Toro and Naomi Watts are gut-wrenching and profoundly moving.