Review Blog

Jul 21 2017

The stars are fire by Anita Shreve

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Little Brown, 2017. ISBN 9781408702994
(Age: 16+) Set in Maine, US, in 1947, the story begins with endless rain but with a season change everything turns to summer drought - the parched land and hot wind have people on tenderhooks anxious about the threat of fire. Claire is a young mother of two, trying to work out why the tenderness has gone from her marriage. When the inevitable fires break out, her husband is among the men who leave the town to fight the flames. Whilst he is gone, the fires turn and head towards her home. She and her friend Rosie have to make quick decisions in the crisis. It only Claire's clear thinking that saves their lives and their children, but there is a terrible cost. Her home destroyed, and her husband missing, Claire has to work out how to make a new life for herself and her children. Though there were problems in her marriage, the children miss their father, and Claire is torn between wishing for his safe return and the possibility of a different life where she is in control, can go to work, and find new independence and happiness. For a while it looks like it might be within her grasp. But then everything changes . . .
The characters in the novel have to fend against the challenges of extreme weather - first the rain, then the fires, later cold and snow confine them to one room trying to keep warm. The struggles with the environment mirror the struggles within - the challenge of relationships that turn harsh and unforgiving. A situation that should invoke love and compassion becomes instead a source of torment and misery. It seems like moments of happiness are transient as life continually offers yet another battle.
There is romance in this story but also very real issues of domestic violence, child protection, and finding inner strength. So while the writing style is easy to read and the story soon draws you in, the themes are suited to a more mature reader.
Helen Eddy

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