Tuesday, 25 February 2014

A Wistful Eye reviewed by Michelle Gent

A Wistful Eye: The Tragedy of a Titanic Shipwright

A professionally produced book, A Wistful Eye is a fascinating and enjoyable story with a lot of research included, as it not only encompasses author Kelly’s family history but also the local, national, and international events of the early twentieth century.

The story follows Kelly’s ancestor through the trials and tribulations of Belfast’s poorer Protestant areas. William Henry Kelly, his wife Belle, and their small family are beset by tragedy and hardship—some of their own making—until one final tragedy changes William Henry’s life forever.

He is a skilled caulker, working on the White Star Line’s fleet at Harland and Wolff’s shipyards where the Titanic was built. Their surviving children have left home and begun their own lives as adults, making their way as best they can in the hard times of pre-war Ireland.

(National Museums Northern Ireland Collection)
More tragedy strikes and William Henry is imprisoned. The story then follows world events through snatches of newspaper clippings. I felt that the author didn’t seem to have much material with regards to William Henry’s imprisonment, because there’s little to write regarding the day-to-day boredom of incarceration, so weaving news reports of a rapidly approaching Great War was a clever way of embedding historical facts in the story.

Titanic clearing Southampton (Smithsonian National
Museum of American History)

I found a few errors—two of the main characters’ names were misspelled (Beasant/Besant; Belle/belle), and the word ‘now’ was overused in places—but if there were more than a few, I didn’t notice because the story was engaging. Another proofread to catch these small slip-ups would help, but this was a thoroughly enjoyable read with some facts about Irish history that I was not aware of.

Michelle Gent, author of the Dusty the Demon Hunter series, has recently released Dusty's latest, Dusty Meets the Seven Shudder Sisters; this and her other titles can be found at Amazon. A publisher at Gingernut Books, Michelle can be found at her blog and Twitter.

This review previously appeared at the Historical Novel Society


  1. I think despite the mixed review this probably draws me in simply because of the subject matter. It's very hard to get everything right and your suggestion of an extra proof read is a good one that a lot of mainstream publishers could abide by these days! I am forever sending corrections to the big houses...

  2. Deirdre O'Mahony25 February 2014 at 15:34

    Looks very interesting, but I think I might wait a bit longer before reading it. I seem to be suffering from Titanic overload at the moment...

  3. The period interests me as I know Belfast well and researched the period for another novel set there. I would be inclined to take a look. I think it so important writers get professional editing before publishing as a book with a great narrative, and this seems to have one, indicates. They need careful thorough edits if self published or main stream published also.