30 Sep The Stars are Fire by Anita Shreve
Hey sweets, today I’m thrilled to be taking part in another blog tour, this time for amazing Anita Shreve’s THE STARS ARE FIRE. Now I know I don’t need a long introduction when it comes to Anita and her books as I’m pretty sure you’ve all heard of her and her brilliant novels. If you’ve read and loved some of her books, believe me you’re in for a treat. And if you haven’t read anything by her yet, I strongly recommend starting with this one as in my humble opinion is her best yet. Many thanks to lovely Amelia from Little Brown for the chance to be part of the blog tour and my review copy. Enjoy and wish you all a fantastic weekend.
I received this book for free from Publisher in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.
The Stars are Fire by Anita Shreve
Published by Little Brown
Published on 2.5.2017
Genres: historical fiction, women’s fiction
The brilliantly gripping new novel from the New York Times best-selling author of The Pilot’s Wife (an Oprah’s Book Club selection).
Hot breath on Grace’s face. Claire is screaming, and Grace is on her feet. As she lifts her daughter, a wall of fire fills the window. Perhaps a quarter of a mile back, if even that. Where’s Gene? Didn’t he come home?
1947. After a summer-long drought, fires are racing along the coast of Maine, ravaging two hundred thousand acres – the largest fire in the state’s history.
Five months pregnant, Grace Holland is left alone to protect her two toddlers when her husband Gene joins the volunteers fighting to bring the fire under control. Along with her best friend, Rosie, and Rosie’s two young children, the women watch in horror as their houses go up in flames, then walk into the ocean as a last resort. They spend the night frantically trying to save their children. When dawn comes, they have miraculously survived, but their lives are forever changed: homeless, penniless, and left to face an uncertain future in a town that no longer exists.
As Grace awaits news of her husband’s fate, she is thrust into a new world in which she must make a life on her own, beginning with absolutely nothing – she must find work, a home, a way to provide for her children. In the midst of devastating loss, Grace discovers glorious new freedoms – joys and triumphs she could never have expected her narrow life with Gene could contain – and her spirit soars. And then the unthinkable happens, and Grace’s bravery is tested as never before.
I think there’s no reader, especially of women’s fiction and historical fiction that hasn’t heard of Anita Shreve. She’s a well known name and author of many brilliant books. The first book of her’s I’ve read was The Pilot’s Wife and it was kind of love at first sight moment for me. Naturally I was so excited to hear she’s got a new book coming out and I couldn’t wait to read it. While it’s classic Anita Shreve that we know, I think this certainly is her best yet.
The book is based on real life events, a terrible fire that caught Maine in 1947. This dreadful event is the frame for the main story, a story of loss, hope, survival and new beginnings. The story is centered around Grace, a young woman in her early 20s, wife of Gene and mother of two young children under the age of 2. She’s the pillar of the family, running errands, taking care of the house, making sure everyone is pleased and taken care of. However, her marriage is not the happiest. It takes her a lot of time to realize this. Gene is rude, secretive and treats her unkindly. She hardly sees him or makes love to him. For a woman of that age, naturally this is a problem. While her friend, Rosie is having the best marriage with loads of passion, it seems Grace will never get to have it. But she’s not jealous, it’s more like she’s not even aware of what she’s missing until she sees the life her friend, Rosie leads.
But one dreadful event, the fire that rages through Maine, a fire which will burn down her and many other houses, will be the event that will change her life forever. Gene is out to help out with the fire spreading and she’s left alone to take care of her children, saving not only theirs but also the lives of Rosie and her kids. At such a difficult time she discovers her own strength and strong desire for survival. She’s 5 months pregnant, unfortunately loses her kid. However, that doesn’t stop her, she’s got two little children to take care of.
Gene is missing and Grace moves in her deceased mother-in-laws house. And that’s where everything starts really changing. Though she’s got no time to mourn her lost child or house, Grace is certain she wants to move on.
I absolutely enjoyed this book! Many times I was close to tears, especially when the fire was raging and Grace was fighting for her life and the life of her kids. The strong mother’s love was so well described, I even started imagining what I would do if I were in that horrible situation. What I loved the most is how Grace transforms, how she grows from the gullible 23 year old to strong, confident woman making some excellent choices.
The book delivers so many great messages, like the importance of understanding in a marriage, the need to rely on each other in times of a disaster or how one grows in most difficult of times. I love the fact Grace rose literally from her ashes, creating a new and better life than the one she had.
But the thing that I felt missing (and which is the reason I can’t give it 5*) is the fact I wish I saw more of Gene’s reasons for his behavior. I know there are a lot of mean people in the world, however I couldn’t understand why he was treating Grace so badly or why she put up with that. I guess one of the reasons is that back in the 40s divorce was not an acceptable thing. Still, I wish I knew why Gene was so bitter, it would help me get a clearer picture of him as a character.
While there’s some romance, it was gradually built and I absolutely love Ms Shreve’s gentle approach thus showing a nice, American, family woman from the 40s.
Overall, this was truly an enjoyable read. It’s short so I read it in about three hours and I absolutely loved the ending. Speaking of the ending, some things might be rushed by the ending but it all fit in perfectly. If you’re looking for a great women’s fiction/historical fiction to devour over the weekend, no need to look any further. Warm, emotional and carrying many strong messages, The Stars Are Fire is definitely a treat.
About Anita Shreve
Anita Shreve grew up in Dedham, Massachusetts (just outside Boston), the eldest of three daughters. Early literary influences include having read Ethan Frome by Edith Wharton when she was a junior in high school (a short novel she still claims as one of her favorites) and everything Eugene O’Neill ever wrote while she was a senior (to which she attributes a somewhat dark streak in her own work). After graduating from Tufts University, she taught high school for a number of years in and around Boston. In the middle of her last year, she quit (something that, as a parent, she finds appalling now) to start writing. “I had this panicky sensation that it was now or never.”
Returning to the United States, Shreve was a writer and editor for a number of magazines in New York. Later, when she began her family, she turned to freelancing, publishing in the New York Times Magazine, New York magazine and dozens of others. In 1989, she published her first novel, Eden Close. Since then she has written 17 other novels, among them The Weight of Water, The Pilot’s Wife, The Last Time They Met, A Wedding in December, and Body Surfing.
Shreve is married to a man she met when she was 13. She has two children and three stepchildren, and in the last eight years has made tuition payments to seven colleges and universities.