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The Lost History of Stars: A Novel By The Author Of Guernica Hardcover – June 6, 2017
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—Garth Stein, author of A Sudden Light and The Art of Racing in the Rain
“Dave Boling has a rare gift for finding humanity in historical fiction. His new novel, The Lost History of Stars, is another gripping tale about living in war’s barbaric shadow, and how moments of decency and heroism and glimpses of the natural world sustain us.”
—Jess Walter, author of Beautiful Ruins
“If history is written by the victors, this may explain why so little is known about the travails of the Boers, Dutch colonists of South Africa, against the British….The novel sheds much-needed light on the deaths of thousands of Boer civilians in these camps. A valuable testament providing glimmers, however scant, of hope for humanity.”
“The author of the award-winning Guernica returns with a compelling story of war, violence, and tragedy . . . Fluctuating from a nostalgic past to a present filled with uncertainty, this story gives a touching and detailed perspective on a cruel war in which children are the innocent victims. This beautifully narrated work will appeal to fans of both historical and general fiction.”
“[Boling’s] informative and illuminating story is heartfelt and deeply affecting in its dramatization of a historic episode too little known here.”
“Centering on the maturation of a relatable protagonist, this well-written work . . . spotlights a military conflict rarely covered in fiction.”
“Dave Boling's unsparing prose portrays the tragedy of innocents caught in the horrors of war.”
“Prepare to be immersed in the story. Boling has based his novel on his grandfather’s experience as a camp guard for the British Army during the war. He portrays the women’s strength in dealing with life-and-death struggles and their loss of freedom while trying to provide a home for their family. This story will remain with you long after you have finished the book.”
—Historical Novels Review
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Lettie is sent to a concentration camp along with her brother and mother after their farm is burned to the ground by the English. Her father, older brother, grandfather, and uncles are all conducting guerilla operations against the English. Conditions in the camp are bleak, and disease is rampant. Lettie is rather stoic about her experience, and tries to find pleasure in small moments. One of her most treasured possessions is her English dictionary, which she reads for comfort and to pass the time.
Lettie’s narrative shifts between the present and the past, providing the reader with vignettes of what her life was like on the farm before the war began. This background information helps define the dynamic between Lettie’s family members, some of whom are also in the camp.
The Lost History of Stars is a powerful novel that resonated with me. It is a story of desperation and it is a story of hope. Lettie is an insightful narrator, but she is still a young girl. The reader might pick up on some aspects of the plot that Lettie fails to realize the significance of. This does not make her an unreliable narrator per se, but rather, this serves as a more genuine account than having a preternaturally smart narrator. I would absolutely recommend The Lost History of Stars.
I received a digital copy of this book from Netgalley/the publisher in exchange for an honest review.
The prose is amazingly articulate, the detail descriptively precise and most of all the completeness of his characterizations are deeply emotional. The visual imagery , from a blade of ‘weeping love grass’, to a two-tailed meteor, and everything else between heaven and earth, is, in itself, worth the read.
Within the first few paragraphs, the reader is immersed into the struggles and suffering of the Venter family during the 1899-1902 Boer War in South Africa. Told from the perspective of eldest daughter, 13 year-old Lettie, the story unfolds of the family’s imprisonment in a British concentration camp for the women and children of the Boer soldiers. Despite the horrid conditions, lack of food, water, heat or hygiene, or the ability to do anything to remedy their situation, the story warmly and tenderly shows how the strength of family, faith and love enables these prisoners-of-war to endure and for some to ultimately survive.
In all, The Lost History of Stars is a work of Grace; the Grace of understanding and forgiveness and the Grace of the author whose writing is so captivating.