“ Maurice knew he wanted to marry her…
… but there was a problem, he would have to ask. “

You could ask any couple, married or otherwise, when it was that they were struck by a whale. And they could tell you. Not -really- struck by a whale, unless you’re Maurice and Maralyn, but metaphorically. Any couple could tell you the years or months they weathered their fiercest storm, fought their most trying battle, met their most difficult times. Survived their whales. And that’s what I love the most about this book. Sophie Elmhirst has brought together factual materials to create a good, emotive narrative, to tell the story of the couple adrift at sea in the 1970s, what came before and what happened since.

‘It helped, somehow, to have a living creature to look after beyond themselves…’

118 days (not 117, as the media incorrectly states) lost at sea – but were they really lost? Or were they exactly where they needed and wanted to be? This book will provoke countless discussions, musings and debates, can you truly be someone different, somewhere else? Or is it you are with on your journey that makes you who you are? There is so much to think about and take away, and learning history through creative prose is probably one of my favourite ways to absorb it.

There are poignant moments, funny bits, underlying messages and the ultimate irony of a couple trying to escape it all, inadvertently ending up in the spotlight. A new generation needs to read and learn about Maurice and Maralyn’s story to bring it alive all over again and perhaps even learn from the true messaging at the heart of the journey.

About the Book

What begins as an eccentric English love story turns into one of the most dramatic adventures ever recorded…

Maurice and Maralyn couldn’t be more different. He is as cautious and awkward as she is charismatic and forceful. It seems an unlikely romance, but it works.

Bored of 1970s suburban life, Maralyn has an idea: sell the house, build a boat, leave England — and its oil crisis, industrial strikes and inflation — forever. It is hard work, turning dreams into reality, but finally they set sail for New Zealand. Then, halfway there, their beloved boat is struck by a whale. It sinks within an hour, and the pair are cast adrift in the middle of the Pacific Ocean.

On their tiny raft, over the course of days, then months, their love is put to the test. When Maurice begins to withdraw into himself, it falls upon Maralyn to keep them both alive. Their pet turtle helps, as does devising menus for fantasy dinners and dreaming of their next voyage.

Filled with danger, spirit and tenderness, this is a book about human connection and the human condition; about how we survive — not just at sea, but in life.

About The Author

Sophie Elmhirst is a prizewinning writer for the Guardian Long Read and The Economist’s 1843 magazine, and a contributing editor at the Gentlewoman and Harper’s Bazaar. In 2020 she won the British Press Award for Feature Writer of the Year; she has also won a Foreign Press Award and been longlisted for the Orwell Prize. She first came across the story of Maurice and Maralyn Bailey researching a piece on our desire to escape. This is her first book. She lives in London. [Photo Credit; X]

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