Farewell, Anita: Read our review of The Stars Are Fire by Anita Shreve

Farewell, Anita: Read our review of The Stars Are Fire by Anita Shreve

The celebrated American author passed away on March 29. We reviewed her last  novel in 2017:

What would you do if you lost everything in one night? That’s the question Anita Shreve invokes in her masterpiece The Stars are Fire.

The Stars are Fire focuses on heroine Grace Holland, a pregnant mid-20s mother who flees with two toddlers from her home right before it burns to the ground. Set in Maine in 1947 – when destructive fires really did burn through the state – the novel follows Grace as she finds her inner strength and takes charge of her changed life, despite the boundaries of her time.

After comparing herself to her best friend and next-door neighbour, Rosie, and her marriage, Grace feels her own may be lacking, particularly as her husband Gene becomes distant and angry after his mother’s death.

But all the imperfections of their humdrum marriage fade into the background once disaster strikes. Gene leaves the family home to help build a firebreak and is nowhere to be found once the smoke begins to clear.

In The Stars are Fire, Shreve sweeps us into Grace’s journey as she forges on to survival and happiness after such a catastrophic event. It’s a reminder that while courageous, smart women may sometimes seem hard to find on the small screen, there are plenty scattered throughout great books, written to show all their complexities and sensitivities.

Among the small cast of characters in this novel, each is intriguing in their own way. Their interactions are critical to the story as it unfolds and offer a reminder of the power of pure kindness.  The prose is simple yet poignant and Shreve’s words, despite the devastating, depressing setting, make for a warm read. She captures the essence of the 1940s era astutely, in a way that appeals to the modern reader.

The simplicity of this novel is part of its charm, with a chronological storyline and no switching points of view. It’s a powerful story told with beautiful words, and no lack of twists and turns as we see a young woman blossom through tragedy.

Anita ShreveThe Stars are Fire is Shreve’s nineteenth novel, after she shot to prominence when The Pilot’s Wife, picked up by Oprah’s Book Club in 1998. Two years later, The Weight of Water was made into a movie, with a strong line-up including Sean Penn and Elizabeth Hurley. The Daily Telegraph (UK) says Shreve’s ‘sentences contain whole universes.’  She died 29th March 2018.

Purchase a copy or start reading the opening pages.

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    Publisher details

    The Stars are Fire
    Author
    Anita Shreve
    Publisher
    Little Brown
    Released
    02 May, 2017

    Synopsis

    The stunning new novel from the author of THE PILOT'S WIFE, RESCUE and THE LIVES OF STELLA BAIN. 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. 
    Anita Shreve
    About the author

    Anita Shreve

    Anita Shreve is the acclaimed author of seventeen novels, including Rescue, A Change in Altitude, Testimony, Fortune's Rocks, The Weight of Water and The Pilot's Wife, which was a selection of Oprah's Book Club. She lives in Massachusetts.

    Books by Anita Shreve

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