Maurice and Maralyn

Maurice and Maralyn

A Whale, a Shipwreck, a Love Story


**A Guardian, Observer & Waterstones Nonfiction Book of 2024**
** A Financial Times BEST SUMMER READ**

'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’


  • Electrifying . . . a tender portrait of two unconventional souls blithely defying the conventions of their era and making a break for freedom
    Fiona Sturges, Guardian

About the author

Sophie Elmhirst

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.
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