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  • Published: 29 March 2024
  • ISBN: 9781784744922
  • Imprint: Chatto & Windus
  • Format: Hardback
  • Pages: 272
  • RRP: $42.99

Maurice and Maralyn

A Whale, a Shipwreck, a Love Story

An extraordinary true tale of love, shipwreck and survival, beautifully told -- Maurice and Maralyn's escape from 1970s England and its oil crisis, strikes and inflation is also a story for our times

**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’

  • Published: 29 March 2024
  • ISBN: 9781784744922
  • Imprint: Chatto & Windus
  • Format: Hardback
  • Pages: 272
  • RRP: $42.99

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.

Praise for Maurice and Maralyn

No one finds the wit, warmth and mischief in a story quite like Sophie Elmhirst. I will read anything she writes

HELEN LEWIS, author of Difficult Women

This is a survival story of relentless power, an epic of human resourcefulness, and of the emotional toll taken at last by suffering’s extremity


An exciting, fast-paced, terrifying adventure story, and at the same time a slow, gentle commentary on love

ALEXANDER MASTERS, author of Stuart: a Life Backwards

Much of human life is contained in this beautiful, moving book about two people cut off from everything but each other

LARISSA MACFARQUHAR, author of Strangers Drowning

This dramatic, profound human story is so beautifully told in calm, thoughtful, perfectly judged prose. I really could not put it down

NINA STIBBE, author of Love, Nina

Extraordinary . . . Elmhirst is a terrific writer


An extraordinary account

Guardian, *Books to Look Out For 2024*

Captivating… [a] tender, truthful adventure story

Simple Things

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

Fiona Sturges, Guardian

A compelling book about a shipwreck, but also as thoughtful a tale about marriage, for better and worse, as you are likely to read

Tim Adams, Observer

The extraordinary 1973 ordeal of Maurice and Maralyn Bailey comes to life in Sophie Elmhirst’s telling... it speeds along like a novel

Daily Telegraph

A gripping story of survival at sea and a haunting account of the yearning to escape . . . It hasn’t left my mind since I finished it


A beautiful, searing book -- a miniature epic of seafaring and survival with an unbreakable, unusual love story at its heart

SAM KNIGHT, author of The Premonitions Bureau

I turned each page with my heart in my mouth

FRANCESCA SEGAL, author of Mothership

An extraordinary survival story… Elmhirst’s reconstruction of their ordeal is riveting, told in illuminating detail

Francesca Angelini, Sunday Times

A quirky, thrilling and moving tale of a love which proved stronger than starvation, dehydration and the mighty Pacific

Peter Carty

A gripping tale of maritime catastrophe but also of marriage

India Knight, Sunday Times

With its period detail and softly poetic prose, the book melds together the sweet conjugal bonds of a quirky pair with the adrenaline kick of Jaws… It is a remarkable portrait of a marriage kept afloat against the odds

Christian House, Financial Times

For those who aren’t usually great with non-fiction, who prefer the grip of a solid story to relentless naked truths, this is for you… Elmhirst is so masterful at spinning what might be a very dry account of 118 days stranded at sea into a beautiful tale of love and endurance

Miriam Sallon, Reader's Digest

What an astonishing story. And what a sublime piece of writing

JULIET NICOLSON, author of A House Full of Daughters

An unlikely love story wrapped in a dramatic adventure


What Elmhirst understands, and convincingly shows, is that Maurice loved Maralyn, and Maralyn loved Maurice – nothing else seems to have really mattered to them

Irish Times

An amazing tale of survival . . . reminds me how incredibly hard it is to find love out there in the world

Tracey Thorn, New Statesman

An epic story of adventure and survival

Daily Express

Superb… Elmhirst is good at evoking an era that feels both familiar and like deep history… you really do hang on to her every word

Maggie Fergusson, Spectator

A beautiful, brilliant book, an exquisitely written piece of non-fiction that reads like a great novel


Never sentimental and perfectly paced, this is the best sort of story: a true one


[A] fascinating biography