Maurice and Maralyn

A Whale, a Shipwreck, a Love Story

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Pub Date 29 Feb 2024 | Archive Date 30 Mar 2024

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**A Guardian, Observer & Waterstones Nonfiction Book of 2024**

'One of those very special books that makes you put everything on hold so you can get back to it' RACHEL JOYCE

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 and the pair are cast adrift in the middle of the Pacific Ocean.

On their tiny raft, their love is put to the test. When Maurice begins to withdraw into himself, it falls upon Maralyn to keep them both alive. 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.

'Extraordinary . . . Elmhirst is a terrific writer' ELIZABETH DAY
‘A riveting tale of survival . . . and of the power of love when all appears lost’
‘A mind-blowing story of resilience and love in the face of adversity’
‘The very best kind of true story, and beautifully written’
‘I couldn’t put this book down’
‘I was absolutely hooked from the outset’

**A Guardian, Observer & Waterstones Nonfiction Book of 2024**

'One of those very special books that makes you put everything on hold so you can get back to it' RACHEL JOYCE

What begins as an eccentric...

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ISBN 9781784744922
PRICE £18.99 (GBP)

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Featured Reviews

The first book I read in 2024 might end up being the best — a masterpiece of narrative nonfiction by Sophie Elmhirst. It’s a highly unusual love story between two slightly eccentric individuals who become an unlikely but unbreakable couple. Maurice and Maralyn Bailey escape 1970s English suburbia by building a boat and sailing to New Zealand. But, along the way, the boat is struck by a whale and sinks. The couple are left adrift in a life raft in the middle of the Pacific Ocean and must rely on their bond to survive. It’s the very best kind of true story, and beautifully written. One line in particular stayed with me: “For what else is a marriage, really, if not being stuck on a small raft with someone and trying to survive?” Strongly recommended.

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An amazing tue story, of a young couple - Maurice and Maralyn, who both don’t conform to general life in the late swinging 1960’s! Maurice loves to sail and soon teaches Maralyn to share his love. Once married and living in a bungalow in Derby they soon become somewhat disillusioned with the monotonous life - especially Maralyn who persuades Maurice that they should sell up their home and it contents, pay off their mortgage and invest in a boat in which to sail the world. The dream takes several years to materialise but by mid 1972 they are ready to conquer the world. They leave England heading for Barbados. Maurice naturally takes the role of Captain and is so content that Maralyn has taken to life on the high seas like a duck to water. They meet up with friends and after a short break in the Caribbean set off through the Panama Canal having arranged to meet up with them again in the Galápagos Islands. An unfortunate encounter with a large whale leaves their boat holed and sinking and they are forced to abandon ship with just a dingy and a life raft. Undaunted they are sure they will be rescued by a passing ship but have no idea how long they will drift.

This is a gripping read thanks to the amazing records that they left. I couldn’t put this book down and have to admit that I have read it whilst on a cruise - maybe that makes it all the more poignant!! I would urge anyone interested in a real life saga full of highs and lows to read this story.

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Maurice and Maralyn tells the true story of the couples shipwreck and the months they spent on a raft in the Pacific Ocean.
It’s a mind blowing story of resilience and love in the face of adversity. Their ability to work together, support each other and Maralyn's positive attitude were crucial to ensuring their survival - I can’t believe I didn’t know of their story before!
A highly recommended and compelling read ⛵️🐋

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What an incredible story. I intended just to start it and then couldn’t put it down, I’ve been reading it all day. Absolutely gripping and written with warmth and empathy.

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'Maurice and Maralyn' is an outstanding work of narrative non-fiction that tells the incredible true story of a married English couple's survival against their odds after being shipwrecked in the middle of the Pacific ocean and spending 118 days on a constantly deflating raft in 1973.

Determined to escape the constraints of life in Britain, Maurice and Maralyn set sail for New Zealand on a yacht they have lovingly built themselves. But when their yacht is attacked by a whale, they must take refuge on their lifeboat, gathering whatever supplies they can before the boat sinks. What follows is an extraordinary feat of both physical and mental endurance. Sophie Elmhirst's writing enables us to feel something of the desperation of being cast adrift with limited food and clean water, and no plausible chance of rescue after multiple boats pass them without stopping them. Their survival is tribute to their ingenuity - as they fashion hooks out of safety pins to catch fish and turtles - but also to their love for each other. While Maurice increasingly despairs, Maralyn's quiet faith and determination keeps them both going.

In the 1970s, Maurice and Maralyn became global celebrities and their story was widely shared in newspapers, on TV and in the books they wrote about their adventures, but this meticulously researched account was my first introduction to them. Their time on the raft rightly occupies the central section of the book and is the most compelling part of the story, but Elmhirst also explores their lives before and after their most famous journey. There would be the potential to sentimentalise this tale of quintessential British eccentricity, but Elmhirst avoids this, and there is something particularly bittersweet about the final section which offers a rounded, 'warts and all' depiction of Maurice's later years and allows us to understand the many ways in which he became a difficult person to be around, whilst still enabling us to respect and sympathise with him.

This is not only an amazing story of survival at sea, but also a beautiful exploration of loneliness, love and marriage. Many thanks to NetGalley and the publisher for sending me an ARC to review.

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I have chosen Maurice and Maralyn by Sophie Elmhirst as a LoveReading Star Book and Liz Pick of the Month for book recommendation and sales site

Please see link to website for full review.

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This is a superb read and one that I wouldn't have heard about if it wasn't for Vintage Influencers - and, of course, NetGalley's generosity with providing the galley.

Here, we have a true story - but this is literary non-fiction at its finest as Sophie Elmhirst, the author, tells the story of Maurice and Maralyn as if it is fiction - a love story of sorts.

The two central characters head off across the oceans on a mammoth voyage. This is the 1970s and the English couple have never done anything like this before. Unfortunately, their boat sinks after a very scary encounter with a whale and they are forced to live in a dinghy and life raft. Days and weeks move on. They aren't rescued. They kill sharks and turtles to eat. They collect rain water, which is sparse, and often tainted with the unpleasant taste, and colour, of the rubber canopy. Boats appear but don't seem them - and their flares don't work - not to mention Maurice who becomes really sick and nearly doesn't make it.

The story does, to an extent, end well. But it's extraordinary what happens to this suburban couple, two people in love who take a risk which is, above all, life-changing. Later in the book, the writer skips time - and we see Maurice alone with his sailing days a distant memory. I am just amazed that I had never heard about this story before. It isn't the sort of thing that many people do but it goes to show how stories dissipate and people forget as time moves on.

I loved 'Maurice and Maralyn' and this is a book unlike no other. Elmhirst deserves every success and I hope others feel the same.

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I love reading stories of survival on the sea, and I was thrilled to read 'Maurice and Maralyn' by Sophie Elmhirst. This is a tale of adventure and endurance, storms and sinkings, challenges and companionship. And hope. This true tale takes the reader on a voyage of discovery, on a boat called Auralyn in the 1970s, in the company of the two titular characters Maurice and Maralyn, a devoted couple who long for adventure beyond the horizon. "The sailing was always liberating, but there was a gut difference between sailing along a coast, its towns and hills in sight, and sailing out on the open sea where there was no longer any visible evidence of other people, as if they might never have existed in the first place. Everything beyond themselves had gone."
When their boat is hit by a whale and sinks, Maurice and Maralyn spend the next 117 days adrift on a deflating life raft in the Pacific - "a wilderness so vast that storms gather and deplete unseen" - and this is the story of how they survived. With no radio transmitter, no water, no food, almost no hope. Only each other. Brilliant stuff!

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